USCIS Travel Document (I-131)

The importance and understanding of a USCIS Travel Document (Form I-131)

What is a Travel Document? (I-131)

Depending on what your immigration status in the USA a form I-131 Travel Document may or may not apply to you. However, for certain immigrants who are in this country under certain status such as DACA or a Temporary Protected Stay (TPS), a travel Document is extremely important if you intend to leave the country and return. The way the law is written right now, people with DACA or TPS are not allowed to reenter the country if they leave. So, let’s pretend you have DACA or TPS and you leave the USA to go on vacation. Upon your entry back into the USA it’s very possible that the Department of Homeland Security does not let you enter the country. That is why you need to apply for a Travel Document before you leave.

Applying for a Travel Document (I-131)

To apply for a travel document, you must fill out application with USCIS on form I-131. The purpose of the document is to acquire USCIS approval so that you can leave and then return into the country. You can only get a travel document for the reasons listed by law. The most common one is for humanitarian reasons such as a sick family member or a special event that USCIS deems worthy. Once your travel permit is granted you can leave the country and then upon entry show them your travel permit and they will let you back into the country. If you leave the country without it, you risk not being allowed to enter the country again.

Using the Travel Document as a Legal Entry

However, the travel document also has another function. People who are here under DACA or TPS and have an immediate relative who can petition for their green card, the travel document can be a game changer. Currently the rules state that if you entered the USA legally you can apply to get your green card while being in the USA. However, in the 5th Circuit (Houston), the law doesn’t recognize DACA or TPS as a legal entry. Therefore, if they want to get a green card they must leave the USA. However, now that we know about the travel document it is possible to apply for one and if granted use it as your legal entry. Let’s pretend someone gets a travel document, leaves to Japan and comes back in. The government will allow them entry because of their travel document and now they have a LEGAL entry into the country and can now apply for their green card in the USA.

Therefore, applying for a travel Document for people who have DACA or TPS can be a game-changer when it comes to getting a green card.

Contact Zavala Texas Law

Feel free to contact us to discuss whether you’re eligible for a travel permit and how it can help you get your green card.

Criminal Convictions and Green Cards aka Legal Permanent Residents

Criminal Convictions and Green Cards aka Legal Permanent Residents

Even if you have a green card aka Legal Permanent Residence, the US government can still deny you the residence in the USA if you have certain criminal convictions. There are two sets of rules that apply when it comes to criminal convictions and legal permanent residents. One is called inadmissibility and the other deportation/removability.


Admissibility only comes into play if a permanent resident left the USA for whatever reason and upon entry back into the USA was stopped by immigration services. At this point the government will determine if you deserve to be admitted into the United States. They will ask you for your immigrant visa and will look at any criminal convictions you have. The reason they will look at your criminal history is to determine if you have been convicted of any crimes that make you inadmissible. If you are found to have a crime that makes you inadmissible, the immigration officer has the discretion to not let you into the country and will place you in court proceedings.

Deportation or Removability

Now let’s pretend the green card holder never left the USA but instead got arrested and convicted here in the USA. Depending on what the crime was he may or may not have immigration consequences. Let’s assume it’s a crime that carries immigration consequences and the green card holder is placed in immigration proceedings. At this point Immigration Judge has the right to remove his green card and deport them from the country.

Relief for Green Card Holders (Cancellation of Removal)

If a green card holder finds themselves inadmissible at an airport or deportable inside the USA, there is still something that maybe done. Depending on the certain facts of the green card holder, they may be eligible for Cancellation of Removal 42A. If the green card holder can prove everything needed by law the judge could grant their application and they would be allowed to remain within the country.

It is very important to consult with an experienced immigration and criminal attorney to see if they are eligible for Cancellation of Removal. This is a very important application that if granted by the judge can only be done once in a lifetime. Therefore, it’s very important you put a very strong case together and make sure that you will be able to win the case in front of the immigration judge.

Importance of Contracts for a Small Business Owner

 The importance of a contract for a small business owner

In any ordinary course of business, contracts are what keeps the business together. A contract is formal agreement between parties agreeing to certain terms. A contract can present itself in many forms ranging from employment offers, purchase orders, settlements, etc.

Why do I have to use contracts?

You may ask yourself “why do I need a formal contract? Why not just an agreement between two friends?” In a perfect world, an oral agreement would be sufficient. However, what if one of the parties goes back on their word and claims that’s not what was originally negotiated. Therefore, having a contract on paper can protect you.

Let’s take an easy example, let’s say Bob wants to buy five shipping containers from Gary at 5$ each and to be delivered in 3 days. Let’s Pretend the Bob and Gary are lifelong buddies and they don’t form a written contract and they just orally agree and shake on it. So now let’s fast-forward a week and the shipping containers still haven’t arrived for Bob, the buyer. Bob is going to be mad because he lost business because the product was never delivered as it was agreed upon by Gary. Now Bob calls Gary and says, “hey buddy I thought we had an agreement you were going to send me the shipping containers in 3 days.” Gary says, “we didn’t say 3 days we said 30 days, so I’ll send it to you within 30 days.” They only had a handshake and no formal contract with the terms written down, therefore it would be very difficult for Bob to sue Gary for breach of contract.

Breach of Contract

The benefit of having a contract is if there’s ever a dispute you can just look at the contract and see what the terms are. The party that has violated the contract can be liable for breach of contract. Breach of contract is a simple claim where the person who feels the other person violated the terms of the contract, can sue the other party. In the example above had Bob and Gary signed a contract with delivery in 3 days, Bob could sue Gary for breach of contract.

That is why we recommend all small businesses no matter how small the purchase is to get it in writing so that you could protect yourself and your business. I have dealt with previous people in the past who the moment I say let’s sign a contract they either get scared or suddenly they don’t want to go through on the contract. They may respond with “oh why don’t we just agree upon it without a contract.” This should raise a flag to you because a contract is there to protect both parties. In law school they called it a meeting of the minds which essentially means two parties are coming together to meet, agree on something and sign on it. If someone does not want to be bound by a contract they may not be someone you want to do business with and you should proceed with caution.

Contact a Small Business Attorney to help you with your current situation. We can walk you through and make sure you are doing what is best for your company.


Advantages and disadvantages of forming an LLC, limited liability company, in Texas

Advantages and Disadvantages of an LLC

Whenever someone’s decides to form a business, one of the very critical decisions will be what business entity to form. There are many entities ranging from a Corporation, S Corp, LLC, general partnership, limited partnership and others. However, being a business owner and knowing which business entity to form could be a very confusing question. This blog is going to tell you the advantages and disadvantages of an LLC here in Texas.


Advantages of an LLC


Liability protection

One of the biggest perks of having an LLC is that you are protected from liability if something were to happen. Only the LLC is liable for debts and liabilities. When you form an LLC, the LLC essentially becomes its own person therefor if somebody wants to sue you, they must sue the company instead. So, let’s assume an LLC accumulates debt and the creditor wants to sue you. They cannot sue the business owner, only the LLC itself. This protects your personal assets from being at risk.

Flow through taxation

With tax laws changing very often one of the perks of having an LLC is you deal with what’s called pass through taxation. What this means is that the LLC itself will not be taxed, it’ll essentially flow right through the business to the individuals who will be taxed at their normal personal income level. Let’s pretend I own and am the only employee of company ABC LLC. ABC LLC, makes $100 a year but because of pass through taxation the company won’t get taxed on those hundred dollars. Instead it will flow through to me, its only employee, and I will be taxed on those 100$ at my personal income level. This is beneficial to the business owner because the owner only must pay taxes on the profit he makes from the business. If he pays employee salaries, the employees pay their own tax, not the business.


Disadvantages of an LLC


Self-Employment Taxes

When you are an LLC, because of the flow through taxation, the individual is responsible for paying the self-employment taxes. Regularly when one works for a corporation, the business withholds your Medicare and social security tax from your paycheck. With an LLC, none is withheld which usually leaves you having to pay the self-employment taxes at the end of the year. It is very important to plan for this so that you don’t get stuck with a large tax bill at the end of the year you didn’t expect.

Filing with the Secretary of State

This isn’t a disadvantage but is required to form an LLC. You must register the business entity with the Secretary of State and make sure all your filings and documents are in order and valid.


If you are considering opening a business in Texas, feel free to reach out to Zavala Texas Law to speak with one of our small business attorneys. They can help you get started and make sure you run your business effective and within the rules.

Factors to consider before applying with Immigration

Applying for a Green Card or Visa

If you’re trying to obtain a non-immigrant Visa or legal permanent resident status AKA green card, there are two major things you should consider before applying for your visa.


The first step to come to United States is to see if you are eligible for an immigrant or non-immigrant visa. There are multiple visas one can apply for ranging from tourism all the way to employment-based. Each type of visa has eligibility standards and if you don’t qualify they will deny your application. Let’s take a very common B2 Visa, this also known as a tourism Visa. Let’s pretend foreign national wants to apply for a B2 tourist visa. However, at his interview, he claims that he wants to go to USA so that he can work and make money. This would be a violation of the visa guidelines because you are not allowed to work on a tourist visa. Therefore, if he intends to work, he will not be eligible for a tourist visa because he has an ulterior motive. On the employment side there are other visas such as an E2 investor visa which requires a foreign national to open and operate a business in the United States. You must prove your eligibility through business plans and documents. It’s important to determine your eligibility for the intended visa you are applying for. Consult with us at Zavala Texas Law, to help you determine your eligibility.


When the United States reviews your current visa or green card application, they will also decide whether you are inadmissible.  The term inadmissible means based on the rules of the Immigration and Nationality Act, you are a person who the USA cannot admit into the country. In my experience most all inadmissibility ground usually come from criminal backgrounds, prior illegal entries, being associated with a criminal organization.

A common example would be if you entered the country illegally or if you overstayed a visa. Both of those examples could find you inadmissible. Depending on the inadmissibility reason, you may be eligible for a discretionary waiver. A waiver is essentially a pardon by immigration. Therefore, if you get your waiver approved cancels out your inadmissibility and you are now admissible into the country.

If you have more questions regarding obtaining a Visa or green card, please feel free to contact us we are here at your disposal.

USCIS: I-797C Explained

What is an I-797C Receipt?

Anytime you file applications with USCIS they will send you what’s called an I-797C receipt. This is a confirmation that USCIS received your application and it is currently being processed . I-797C  receipt is called that because on the upper right hand corner it says I-797C. No matter what application you submitted you will receive an I-797C receipt once USCIS receives your application.

Receiving a receipt does not mean that your application has been approved nor has been denied, all it means is that USCIS has received it and it’s currently processing. Each I-797C document will give you current case updates or will notify you if you were approved or denied.

On the  I-797C receipt it is customary to have a receipt number so that you can track your case with USCIS. When you hire an experienced immigration lawyer, they will receive the majority of the paperwork USCIS sends you. They will keep you informed on your case status and let you know of anything that is needed.

Travel Considerations for Immigrants

Travel considerations for immigrants

If you are here on an immigrant visa or green card, there are a few things you should consider before traveling out of the United States. If you plan on entering the USA again you will be inspected by Department of Homeland Security upon your entrance. They will check if you have a valid immigrant visa and if you have a criminal record that would make you inadmissible.

Valid Immigrant Visa

Make sure you have a valid immigrant visa that will not expire while you are out of the country. When you enter the country, DHS will look to make sure you have a valid visa that allows you to be in the country and hasn’t expired.

If you have an immigrant visa that will it be expiring soon please consult with an immigration lawyer to make sure there will be no complications upon your arrival back into the country.

Criminal Background

If you have been convicted of a crime or have pending criminal charges, it is very important you consult with an immigration lawyer before you travel outside the country. The reason why is because when you try to enter USA they will look at your criminal background. If you have a criminal record they may not let you back in the country. There are many crimes that can make you inadmissible and ultimately will result in your denial into the country.

The criminal consequences vary depending whether you have a green card or an immigrant visa.

Pending USCIS application

If you are currently in the process of getting an immigrant visa or getting your green card, you should speak with an immigration attorney before you leave the country. The reason why is you don’t want to cause any delays in your green card or visa if you leave the country. They may also schedule interviews while you are out of the country. There are some instances where if you leave the country during your application they will deem it abandoned. Therefore you may have to ask for a travel document to let you leave the country and come back in.

Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing? Whats a boy to do?

Obtaining Legal Permanent Residence for your Spouse aka Green Card

Everyone knows that being married to a United Citizen can carry with it immigration benefits. What benefits exactly though? When an immigrant marries a citizen, they are now eligible to become a green card holder aka legal permanent resident. There are two ways to apply to become a resident. One is through adjustment of status and the other is consular processing.

First Step in obtaining Legal Residence

Before you can receive a green card, your United States Citizen spouse must first petition for you. You will need to do the I-130 application process and make sure that gets approved. You will be required to fill out various documents and to supply evidence/proof of certain information. Once USCIS approves this petition you can now move onto the next step through either adjustment of status or consular processing.

Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing?

After you have your I-130 Petition approved you have two ways to get your green card. The option you chose will depend on whether the immigrant is currently in the country or not. If they are in the country legally or entered legally and have overstayed, they are eligible to apply through adjustment of status. That means they will be allowed to apply and remain in the USA while their application is being processed. However, if they leave the country during the process they may run into some problems. Always consult with an experienced immigration attorney to help you.

Let’s assume that your spouse is still in their foreign country. In that case they can still acquire their green card but will have to do it with the United States Consulate in their home country. They will have to do the application process with the Department of State abroad. The process is similar, applications and evidence will need to be submitted. Usually an interview is required before they approve it.

Approval Date

So once you get approved its just a matter of logistics now. If you were approved via consular processing, now all you need to do is come to the USA and show Customs Border Patrol at the international airport your approval. If you applied via adjustment of status, you now just need to wait on your residency card to be mailed to you.

Exceptions to the rule

Above I mentioned the straight forward process of obtaining a green card through marriage to a citizen. Not every situation can be this straight forward though. Some of the things to consider are going to be criminal record, prior immigration problems and prior marriages. If you have history it would be best to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to discuss your options and to see what the best options are for your current situation.

Voluntary Departure Explained

What is Voluntary Departure with the Immigration Court?

When a person aka respondent is in removal proceedings, it is the job of the immigration lawyer to identify possible relief for the respondent. Relief is the term given to the options the person has to remain in the country if any at all. Once you identify relief and fight the case to the immigration court, it is still possible that the judge finds the person deportable. Along with deportation the judge also places a 10 year ban on the person from entering the USA again. That means that the person is ineligible to enter the USA legally for another 10 years. If you enter illegally within those 10 years, you now face the permanent lifetime ban.

Voluntary Departure is a way of being deported but NOT having that 10 year ban added as a penalty. It’s essentially a deportation without the harsh 10 year punishment.

Why is Voluntary Departure important?

Let us assume that an order of deportation is placed on you and you cannot come back into the USA for 10 years. If you are currently or eventually marry a US citizen you cannot apply for a green card until those 10 years expire. This can be a huge setback for many families and future plans.

However, remember that if the judge grants you voluntary departure, you do not have that 10 year ban. Therefore your spouse can petition for you immediately after you leave the USA. This can save time, effort and save families.

Who is eligible for Voluntary Departure?

I always tell my clients that voluntary departure is discretionary. The judge has sole discretion on whether to grant voluntary departure or not. Often the judge will consider various aspects when considering voluntary departure. The judge will consider the person’s criminal record, personal history and family ties. Some criminal convictions can make you ineligible to apply for voluntary departure. Consult with us if you have criminal convictions in your past.

When is Voluntary Departure worth it?

It depends. An experienced immigration lawyer will be able to identify what the best solution is. I have had situations where a client has potential relief in the USA but in all honesty fighting for voluntary departure gave them the best chance at obtaining what they wanted.

Let me show you an example with our fictional immigrant, groundskeeper “Willy”.

Lets pretend Willy came to the USA illegally from Scotland. He got a job at Springfield elementary and was working for a few years. Along the way, Willy falls in love with Ms. Vanhouten. They get married and enjoy being together. Unfortunately Willy gets picked up by ICE agents and is now in deportation proceedings. Ms. Vanhouten, who is a citizen,wants to help Willy get his green card. Unfortunately she cannot just petition a green card for Willy because he entered illegally. During immigration court, Willy’s lawyer tells him that if he gets deported he will have a 10 year ban and his wife cannot help him for another 10 years. Willy’s lawyer also tells him that if he requests voluntary departure and the judge grants it, then he can start his green card process the moment he is back in his country of Scotland.

Since Willy’s lawyer is a good experienced immigration attorney at Zavala Texas Law, they fight for voluntary departure and the judge grants it. Thus, Willy is sent back to Scotland but the moment he arrives, he and his wife can now start the green card process and in about 1 years time, Willy can be back in the USA with a green card.

Contact us if you have any questions.

When someone you know is in immigration proceedings having an experienced immigration lawyer can make a big difference. They will walk you through the process and establish what your best options are. If you are seeking an experienced immigration lawyer in Houston, please feel free to contact us.

Crime Involving Moral Turpitude

What the heck is a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT)?

If you practice Immigration law you probably run into the issue of CIMT aka crimes involving moral turpitude. But what is a crime involving moral turpitude? Who decides and how does it affect immigration? All these are good questions that your immigration lawyer should tell you. Being convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude could have big time immigration implications.

What is a Crime involving Moral Turpitude?

Unfortunately there is not a simple answer to this. The immigration laws don’t directly define but have vaguely defined it as a depraved or immoral act, or a violation of the basic duties owed to fellow man, or recently as a “reprehensible act”. CIMT involves intent to commit fraud, commit theft with intent to permanently deprive the owner, or inflict great bodily harm, as well as some reckless or malicious offenses and some offenses with lewd intent. With that definition a whole bundle of crimes can be constituted as crimes involving moral turpitude.

Who does a Crime involving Moral turpitude affect?

CIMT only affect people who are immigrants and here with a visa or green card. US citizens do not have to worry about CIMT affecting their immigration. However if you are a green card holder or another form of visa, a CIMT can greatly affect your immigration status and admissibility in the country.

How does a Crime involving Moral Turpitude affect someone?

Depending if you are here on a visa or a green card, the CIMT will affect you differently. If you are here on a immigration visa, a CIMT could make you deportable and denied readmission into the country in the future. If you are a green card holder, a CIMT could make you inadmissible when you try to re-enter the county. Example, lets say you have a green card and are convicted of a CIMT. Next time you leave the USA on vacation and try to come back in at a airport, USCIS will stop you and deem you are ineligible to enter the USA. You will then be placed in removal proceedings without bond. Thats why its important to consult with an immigration lawyer before you travel internationally if you have a criminal record.

Also if you have been convicted of a CIMT and did more than 180 days of jail time, you are ineligible for an immigration bond and have to fight your case inside of immigration detention.

So is my immigration life over if I get a Crime involving Moral Turpitude?

Depends… You may be eligible for a 212(h) waiver. This is to essentially pardon your CIMT and make you admissible into the country again. Not everyone qualifies for the 212(h) waiver. To qualify you must be a spouse, parent, son or daughter of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who will face extreme hardship if the applicant is removed. There are other exceptions to this lifke if your conviction was over 15 years ago.

So what should I do if I have or am facing a CIMT?

Contact an experienced and trustworthy immigration and criminal lawyer. Let them explain it to you and give you the guidance you need. Knowing how to navigate a potential CIMT or even dealing with once after conviction, it will have consequences. Give us a call here at Zavala Texas Law to figure out how we can help you.