Immigration lawyer talks ‘Leaving the Nest’

Attorney provides information and support for international students after graduation


Collegian File Photo

By Irina Costache, Assistant News Editor

The University of Massachusetts International Programs Office collaborated with Curran, Berger & Kludt Immigration Law Firm to discuss the topic of immigration options for students in a presentation titled “Life After UMass.”

The firm, based in Northampton, regularly works with the UMass system, said Kenneth Reade, director of international student and scholars services. At the beginning of the presentation, he stated that “they are local, but they are very national, and even international in scope and reputation.”

The discussion covered information on employment-based visas, green cards and permanent residency and was intended to be informative for students.

“What we want to do is we want to explain how the immigration system works after you leave, and also try to give you a point of contact.” said attorney Dan Berger to the audience.

He moved on to discuss the current status of the immigration process in the United States, specifically how it has changed after the 2016 presidential election.

“It is a more difficult time for immigration – obviously immigration is more political. The current administration is not very supportive of immigrants in general. But it is important to understand that the laws have not changed. Only Congress can change the laws in our system,” Berger said.

He further stressed that with this stricter administration, clients and lawyers need to ensure that they are very prepared and thinking ahead – “you need to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t.’”

Berger also spoke about the process of obtaining visa sponsorship from an employer, explaining that bigger businesses usually have set policies, while smaller business might require more inquiry. He encouraged the audience to develop and use personal relationships to persuade smaller companies to sponsor them, and also welcomed anyone to contact their office for assistance with this step.

Next, he outlined the typical path of an international student, showing the procession from an F-1 Student visa to an Optional Practical Training, to an H-1B Professional Worker Visa, to a Green Card.

“The H-1B is a visa for any job that requires a degree in a specific field,” Berger explained. “So, the H-1B is a good fit for graduates.”

The visa is employer sponsored and ensures a series of promises, such as a full salary, paid leave and equal treatment. It has a yearly quota of 85,00 available every Oct. 1 to be awarded and about a 40 percent success rate. Berger explained, however, that individuals could apply multiple times during different years.

Berger also went over other options for visas, including the L-1 visa, E-Visa and O-Visa.

The L-1 visa, called the Intra-Company Transfer Visa, is commonly given to workers of big companies who work abroad and then are transferred back to the U.S. This isn’t the only way to obtain it, however, said Berger – “There’s a variety of clever ways to use the L-1 visa.”

He also spoke of the E-Visa, detailing that it is given to an individual born in a country that the U.S. has a treaty with when they work for a company owned by the same country. Berger explained that “the whole idea behind these treaties is that they’re trying to encourage business between the U.S. and that country.”

Next, Berger presented the O-1 visa. He explained that this visa is a way for immigrants to “market themselves” and show that they have done something special in their field. “It’s really fun. We’ve done them for jugglers, for cooks, for physicists, Olympic athletes, you name it,” he said.

Finally, Berger touched on the subject of green cards, emphasizing the importance of the decision to pursue one – “A green card is permanent residence. So, if you decide to stay in the U.S., then it makes sense to look for these opportunities…if you’re not sure what you want to do, take your time.”

On the subject of affordability and pricing, paralegal Julia Teele said that Berger often “encourages students especially to get in touch with us,” and that the firm values its relationship with the school.

She explained that, while on TV lawyers are seen charging per hour, their firm’s services are usually feed based on the services that is being filed, and that there are definitely ways for individuals to seek advice and information.

Irina Costache can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @irinaacostache.