Category Archives: Greenhandshake Blog

Tips On How To Buy A House In The U.S.A. When You Are An Immigrant

Many immigrants dream to buy a house in the US. Currently, the US is home to over 42 million foreign-born immigrants. As per an analysis in the year 2015, about 40 percent of this population of immigrants own a house in the US.

Although the formal process to buy a house as an immigrant is more or less same as for a native-born citizen. Getting a loan is a more difficult part for an immigrant. The house-buying process has some structural discriminations against the immigrants.

The financial profile of an immigrant is different than the one for a regular home buyer. Therefore, loan services treat them as high-risk clients. Despite that, specialized financial institutions and the US government can help immigrants in buying a house.

Here are some guidelines and tips on how you can own a house in America when you are an immigrant.

 

Identify Your Budget

Majority of immigrants prefer to pay for a house either in cash or through a mortgage. In case, an immigrant prefers financing, the budget may depend on:

+ The amount an immigrant is willing to spend

+ The amount a lending institution agrees to give as a loan

 

Many immigrants prefer to buy a house below their actual buying potential. A mortgage as the money loan to buy a house in the US includes the principal amount, interest, applied taxes, and insurance. Lenders often consider the following factors before deciding on a loan amount

+ Gross Income – The income an immigrant earns including income taxes, bonus income, social security benefits, part-time earnings, alimony, self-employment earnings, disability, and child support.

+ Front-End Ratio – The percentage of the gross income an immigrant can contribute towards the mortgage every month.

+ The debt-to-income ratio or Back-End Ratio – The percentage of the income required to pay off other debts, like loans, credit card payments, and child support.

+ Credit Rating – A number given by credit companies to you to decide the risk of lending you money. Immigrants who do not have a credit history have a low credit score by the American lenders and therefore would not be issued a mortgage.

+ Down Payment – The amount an immigrant can pay in cash for the house.

 

Understand Your Rights as an Immigrant

The Fair Housing Act or FHA is the law according to which housing providers cannot refuse to rent and sell a house on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability of a person. According to the law, a person also cannot refuse to make a mortgage loan or discriminate on the same. If you experience any discrimination with the rental or sale of a housing, you can call the nearest Housing and Urban Development (HUD) office.

 

Shop for a Loan

As an immigrant, you can do a fixed-rate or adjusted-rate mortgage. A traditional fixed-rate mortgage is valid for 15 or 30 years term and interest does not change with the changing market rate. An adjusted-rate mortgage has the interest rate fixed for an initial term. Later the interest rate may fluctuate with the market.

You can obtain a mortgage from numerous places like banks, offline mortgage brokers, and online mortgage brokers. The mortgage provider may request some documents like bills, rental history, and written verifications to check your credit history. You can own a house even if you are an undocumented immigrant. In that case, you can buy in cash or obtain an ITIN mortgage. An ITIN is the individual tax identification number issued by the IRS to the immigrants who are not eligible for a Social Security Number.

 

Shop for a Home

You can check online websites like Realtor.com for a list of available houses in America. Identify the type of house you would like to buy and take notes about available options. You can negotiate on an offer for a house in the US. The negotiation process may take some time until both the buyer and the seller mutually agree on a price.

You can hire a home inspector to help you analyze the house for any potential issues. You can shop for a homeowner’s insurance to help you pay for any damage to the property in case of a mishappening like a fire. Lastly, remember to ask as many questions as you have before signing the papers and closing the deal.

Marly Tran/ Social Media Assistant

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Proven Strategies to Save Money as an International Student

Studying abroad can be costly.  Aside from paying the pricey tuition and miscellaneous fees in a university, the cost of living can even be steeper.  Hence, international students should learn to be money smart to survive university life.  Following are tips to save money which one can actually apply throughout their life to become financially savvy. 

Live Off-Campus

Housing is the next most costly expenditure of an international student.  While living inside the campus may be convenient, living outside the campus can save a lot of money. You should consider renting a house or an apartment that is near the school.  One that is within walking distance is ideal to save on transportation expense. Or you can opt to get a bike to be mobile without paying for expensive public transport.

You may also team up with a co-student, a friend or a classmate to further split the cost of the rent of the apartment or house.

Most countries also offer a homestay program, whereby a student lives and stays at the house of a local resident or host family for a specified time.  This also provides an opportunity for a student an immersion experience of the life and culture of the host country.

Buy second-hand books

Textbooks are another major expense of a student.  Instead of buying brand new books, you should consider buying used books which are a lot cheaper. You can check online or go to bookstores usually adjacent to the campus.

You can also opt to ask their friends through which you just might get these books for free. 

Finally, most course textbooks are available in the library, which you can simply borrow for a time.  While it may not be entirely advisable, you may also opt to have the book photocopied so that you don’t have to borrow it again and again.  

Take advantage of student discounts

Most countries offer student discounts from meals and drinks, text books, travel or transportation to cinema tickets.  International students should learn which items or services may have student discounts to make the most of it and pay less for almost everything.  One’s student ID should always be on hand to avail of such discounts.

Aside from student discounts, you should be on a look out for on-campus events, which often give out freebies, such as food, school materials or even clothes.

Apply for scholarship

Getting a scholarship is an apparent way to save money from tuition fees.  You can even receive stipends and allowances.  While most scholarships are given for academic achievers, there are also special programs that are prearranged for certain studies.  You could check these programs to see if you can qualify. 

Get a part-time job

It is a lot easier to save money if you have a source of income instead of solely relying on your allowance.  There are plenty of jobs that are available for students to earn extra money on the side. This can be within the campus (e.g. student assistants, lab assistants, etc.  or outside the campus (e.g. waiter, nanny, etc.)  Aside for earning, a part time job can also provide you a great working experience.

Be active at school

Information is power.  The best way to learn about where to find cheap goods, discounts, job opportunities, school events, and even cheap apartments is from your network.  Hence, it is prudent to be active at school by joining organizations.  You can also befriend seniors, or other people who have been where you are now.

Studying can be costly, but learning the tricks of the trade can be make things a lot easier for a student.  More than just saving money, doing these tips can make your university learning experience more fruitful and rewarding.

Steven Wang

Social Media Assistant

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USCIS Extends Suspension of Premium Processing for ALL H-1B Cap, Transfers, and Amendments

The suspension of the premium processing for cap-subject H-1Bs last September 10, 2018 has been extended until February 19, 2019 by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This included the acceptance of premium processing for all H-1B transfers, amendments and extensions “with change” within the said dates.  Only H-1B extensions “without change” filed with the Nebraska Service Centre may be filed for premium processing.

Who are affected?

International students with a “cap-gap” status

The suspension will affect international students with a “cap-gap” status whose H-1B application has not been approved by October 1st.  Apparently, since the processing for their consequent filing for H-1B status is suspended. Holders of the F1 visa or international students attending an academic program or an English Language Program in any US educational institutions should take note of the 180-day limit on unlawful presence which culminates by February 4, 2019. Students who remained under cap gap status until after October 1 may be declared “unlawfully present” since their period of stay authorized by the Department of Homeland Security may be considered expired because unlawful Presence can be calculated retroactively from August 9, 2018.  This may result for them to be inadmissible for three years.

 

Workers under H-1B transfers

The suspension will also affect workers under H-1B transfers. Under the current conditions, processing time for H-1B transfers can take longer than six months.  Thus, such worker may potentially receive a notice of initiation for removal proceedings against you (NTA) in case of disapproval after I-94 expiration. As such, it is still advisable for H-1B worker applying for transfer to wait for its approval before actually switching to their new work.

 

H-1B petitions for a Non-immigrant Worker (Form I-129)

The extended suspension of premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions also expands to certain H-1B petitions, which will apparently affect employers seeking to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. While H-1B premium processing is suspended, the USCIS will subsequently decline any request for Premium Processing Service (Form I-907) for Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker (Form I-129).  Thus, non-immigrant workers seeking for petition for service or training should postpone their plans for the moment.

 

H-1B petitions filed after Sept. 10, 2018

The expanded temporary suspension applies to all H-1B petitions filed at the Vermont and California Service Centres. This means all applications for premium processing of pending H-1B petitions filed after Sept. 10, 2018 are suspended and subsequent applications will be rejected.

 

Who are exempted?

Cap-exempt petitions

Cap-exempt petitions filed exclusively at the California Service Center are still eligible to file for premium processing.  This includes petitions from employers like higher educational institutions and its non-profit affiliates as well as non- profit and government research organizations

 

Petitions for H-1B extensions without change

 

These refers to petitions for continuation of formerly approved employment without change filed exclusively at the Nebraska Service Center.

 

Other nonimmigrant classifications filed on Form I-129

Premium processing of Form I-129 H-1B petitions with appropriately filed Form I-907 before Sept. 11, 2018, will be continued.

 

Rationale for Suspension

According to the USCIS, the temporary suspension of Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions was placed in order to reduce the general H-1B processing times.

  • To provide USCIS ample time to process long-pending petitions. The agency has accumulated a large backlog due to high volume of received petitions and premium processing requests.
  • To allow agency to prioritize and provide faster response to petitions with time-sensitive start dates
  • To give precedence to resolution of H-1B extension of status cases in the verge of the 240-day expiration.

Son Nguyen – CEO/ Founder of Greenhandshake

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USCIS Updates Policy Guidance for Certain Requests for Evidence and Notices of Intent to Deny

WASHINGTON – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today posted a policy memorandum (PDF, 113 KB) (PM) that provides guidance to USCIS adjudicators regarding their discretion to deny an application, petition, or request without first issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) when required initial evidence was not submitted or the evidence of record fails to establish eligibility. 

This updated guidance is effective September 11, 2018 and applies to all applications, petitions, and requests, except for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) adjudications, received after that date. Due to preliminary injunctions issued by courts in California and New York, this new PM does not change the RFE and NOID policies and practices that apply to the adjudication of DACA requests.

“For too long, our immigration system has been bogged down with frivolous or meritless claims that slow down processing for everyone, including legitimate petitioners. Through this long overdue policy change, USCIS is restoring full discretion to our immigration officers to deny incomplete and ineligible applications and petitions submitted for immigration benefits,” said USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna. “Doing so will discourage frivolous filings and skeletal applications used to game the system, ensure our resources are not wasted, and ultimately improve our agency’s ability to efficiently and fairly adjudicate requests for immigration benefits in full accordance with our laws.”  

The 2013 PM addressed policies for the issuance of RFEs and NOIDs when the evidence submitted at the time of filing did not establish eligibility. In practice, the 2013 PM limited denials without RFEs or NOIDs to statutory denials by providing that RFEs should be issued unless there was “no possibility” of approval. This “no possibility” policy limited the application of an adjudicator’s discretion.

The policy implemented in this guidance restores to the adjudicator full discretion to deny applications, petitions, and requests without first issuing an RFE or a NOID, when appropriate. This policy is intended to discourage frivolous or substantially incomplete filings used as “placeholder” filings and encourage applicants, petitioners, and requestors to be diligent in collecting and submitting required evidence.  

USCIS will continue issuing statutory denials when appropriate without first issuing an RFE or NOID when the applicant, petitioner, or requestor has no legal basis for the benefit/request sought, or submits a request for a benefit or relief under a program that has been terminated. 
If all required initial evidence is not submitted with the benefit request, USCIS, in its discretion, may deny the benefit request for failure to establish eligibility based on lack of required initial evidence. Examples of filings that may be denied without sending an RFE or NOID include, but are not limited to:     

  • Waiver applications submitted with  little to no supporting evidence; or
  • Cases where the regulations, the statute, or form instructions require the submission of an official document or other form of evidence establishing eligibility at the time of filing and there is no such submission. For example, an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864), if required, was not submitted with an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485).

This PM updates Chapters 10.5(a) and 10.5(b) of the USCIS Adjudicator’s Field Manual and contains an “additional considerations” section. The policy in this “additional considerations” section is not new, and is nearly identical to the policy contained in the superseded 2013 PM. 

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow us on Twitter (@uscis), Instagram (/uscis), YouTube (/uscis), and Facebook (/uscis).