Author Archive

Get to Know Series: Business Immigration Attorney Mingyi Zhou

August 6th, 2019
posted by at 2:19 pm

How much do you really know about your immigration attorney?  

Sure, you’ve talked to him or her on the phone or email, even met if you’re in the same city, but most of your communication is probably related to your case. But do you know what your attorney does in his/her their spare time, what they like, where they’re from and other interesting facts about them?

In fact, it’s likely your attorney knows more about you than you do about them!

We decided to change that and create a new Get to Know blog series.  We asked our team members to answer a series of personal questions, so you get to know them better.  We want you to know that attorneys are not boring and have personalities!  And who knows, the next time you speak with your attorney, maybe you can both talk about your favorite foods or movies.

For the first entry in our Get to Know series, get to know a little bit more about attorney Mingyi Zhou.  She’s the newest member of our team of immigration attorneys, and she focuses on business immigration law.  

She’s also brave, for volunteering to be the first Bashyam Shah team member to be the guinea pig for our new blog series.  Get to know Mingyi!

Where are you from?

Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province, China

I don’t know why, but somehow my city is famous for the dish “Yangzhou Fried Rice”, which you can find on the menu in every Chinese restaurant worldwide.

What made you choose Bashyam Shah and how long have you been here?

I have been here for 4.5 months now. It has not been that long, but I do like the atmosphere in the office. It’s professional in work, and fun for life. 

What’s your favorite vacation spot?

 Anywhere with beach and nice restaurants.

 Favorite series?

Friends. I would switch places with joey for a day if I could!!

Favorite food?

Cajun fries / seafood

What three apps do you need on your phone?

We Chat (so I can talk to my friends and families in China)

Bank app (so I know how much I can spend)

Gmail (obvious)

What are three things everyone should know about immigration?

The immigration policies may change time to time, do not panic.

Have a good habit of record keeping, any documents related to immigration, whether you think it is important or not, try to save a scanned copy in a device.

You pay for the professional services, so trust your attorney.

What are you learning now/ do you have any hobbies?

Try to take some surfing lessons in the summer.

Dog or cat?

Dog

How do you prefer to start your day?

Have a nice brunch (crab benedict would be perfect) before going to office.

Early bird or night owl?

Definitely night owl

What is something that’s very popular in China that people never do in the U.S.?

Card games like mahjong

If you could have a photo of only one thing in the world what would it be?

Cliff jumping photo

If you could be any mythological creature what would it be and why?

Kirin, because it’s mysterious and in a way brings people good fortune.

If you could start any business what would it be and what would be the name?

I will have my bubble tea shop, so I can drink for free. I might name it “Bubble bubble”.

Who is your favorite YouTube’r and why?

 Her name is Madlyn Bailey, she really can sing!

Red pill makes you fluent in every spoken language. Blue pill makes you a master of every musical instrument in the world.  Which one do you take?

Red for sure, not interested in musical instrument.

What is the most rewarding part about your job?

You can actually learn and improve from every case you have done. It’s a rewarding process.

What would you invent if you invent anything?

Anything that can keep you fit without exercising.

What is your favorite meal to cook?

Celery and chicken with some pepper & salt, pan fried (“secret” lazy meal recipe)

If you could have any artist paint your self-portrait who would it be and why?

I am not an artistic type, so anyone can draw my portrait.

We hope you got to know Mingyi a little better.  Stay tuned for more Get to Know blogs on other Bashyam Shah team members. We will be introducing someone different every month!


For the latest immigration information, tips and interesting stories, visit our Facebook page – Bashyam Shah LLP.   To speak with Mingyi, call her at 919-833-0840 (ext.33)

Do You Know How to Deal with a Social Security No-Match Letter?

March 16th, 2011
posted by at 4:28 pm

A friend of mine, who happens to be a Human Resource (HR) professional, asked me to speak at an HR roundtable last week. The attendees were all seasoned HR professionals who worked for large multinational companies. I figured they knew most of the ‘basics’ of corporate immigration law and the cross-border movement of employees, so I decided to focus solely on recent ‘hot topics’ in PERM labor certifications, H-1B visas, L-1 visas for intra-company transfers, TN NAFTA visas, F-1 students and I-9 issues.

After close to an hour and a half of discussing the latest trends in these areas, I was curious to see what questions these HR professionals were going to ask at the end of the presentation. Interestingly, most of the questions were related to I-9 issues and enforcement. For an HR professional, this was the real hot topic of the moment!

Why would HR professionals be concerned about I-9 issues?

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has sent thousands of ‘random’ I-9 audit notices to companies over the last few years. Even companies who go to great lengths to ensure proper compliance with I-9 laws are concerned with these ICE audits.

Specifically, HR professionals are worried about what to do with Social Security (SS) ‘no match’ letters. Does a SS no-match letter put an employer on ‘constructive notice’ that a worker is not authorized to work? If it does, then an employer can be held civilly or criminally liable for employing a worker who is not authorized to work.

As with many areas of law, this one falls within a ‘grey area’, one where there is no great and easy answer. However, given the concern expressed by many HR professionals and employers regarding the SS ‘no match’ letter issue, we have decided to give you our thoughts on the topic in a Webinar to be presented on Wednesday April 13, 2011.

Topic: Social Security No-Match Letters and I-9 Compliance

Date: Wed., April 13, 2011 from 10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.

Visit our website for upcoming event details and registration.

Here We Go Again on Immigration Reform?

February 15th, 2011
posted by at 1:56 pm

A few weeks ago, we posted an article on our Facebook page that said Senators Chuck Schumer and Lindsay Graham are testing ‘political will’ on a possible push for comprehensive immigration reform.   Of course, we were immediately skeptical.  If immigration reform didn’t happen when Democrats had a supermajority in Congress, can it really happen during an election cycle over the next two years?

Summing up the argument on both sides of the debate, Ray Suarez writes the following in an article in the Huffington Post:

The symbolic argument is strong and holds tremendous appeal for millions of Americans. It goes something like, “What part of ‘illegal’ don’t you understand?” People who did not follow the law, gain proper documents, and enter the American job market with the permission of the immigration authorities, goes the argument, should get no consideration at all from the system. Those people are right. The eleven million or so illegal residents in the country have no legal claim to long term legal residence in the United States.

But hold on a minute… the other side quickly pipes in, “What part of collapsing industries don’t you understand?” Immigrant labor is the pillar upon which many industries leans. Immigrant labor creates profits that spin out into real estate markets, department stores, auto dealerships, and keep the country’s food the cheapest in the developed world. In the near term, it’s interesting to speculate on whether sending the 11 million home would reduce the unemployment rate among native-born citizens, or explode it. The effects would no longer be confined to the Northeast, Border Southwest and the West Coast. Wait until you see the Census figures from all kinds of places that never thought of themselves as Latino kind of places.

It would be in the best interests of both political parties, and our country, to put differences aside and pass a fair immigration reform bill that balances enforcement with our country’s immigration needs.  But in an election cycle, political will is likely to be absent on this issue, and as Mr. Suarez correctly points out – it’s complicated.

Take a Survey and Rate Our Website!

February 13th, 2011
posted by at 4:13 pm

Rate Bashyam Shah 's Website

Our website has been a premier source of the latest immigration news, procedures and information for well-over a decade.  In an effort to help you, we are redesigning our site to help you access this immigration information in a more efficient manner.   As the redesign process moves forward, we want to hear from you! Please take the time to complete this simple survey.  You can tell us what you like or dislike about our current website, and provide suggestions on how we can make our website better. It’s through your input that we can best help our clients and other interested parties stay abreast of the latest immigration news, visa options and immigration procedures.

Don’t miss this Webinar on Recent Trends in the TN Visa Process

February 13th, 2011
posted by at 3:35 pm

Although TN processing has become more complicated and unpredictable in recent years, it still remains the best avenue for Canadians and Mexican nationals to work in the United States. Recently , the Canadian Expat Network (CEN) asked me to write an article exploring the latest trends in the TN NAFTA visa process.  This is important to members of CEN who use the TN visa process as Canadian nationals to enter and work in the United States.   Some have experienced increased scrutiny and inconsistent TN adjudications at the port-of-entry. Because there are so many questions surrounding the TN NAFTA visa process, I decided to educate the public on the trends and procedures associated with the TN application process by hosting a live webinar.  I will walk attendees through the latest trends in the TN process, and answer your questions in real time. Title: Webinar: NAFTA TN Visa Basics Date: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 Time: 12:30 PM – 1:00 PM EDT CLICK HERE to Register! If you are thinking about applying for a TN visa, you should register for this free webinar or speak with an experienced immigration attorney first.  They can help make sure that you qualify for TN status, and help you prepare the application to ensure the best chance of success.

Bashyam Shah 15th Anniversary Memory #1: Why Immigration Law?

November 17th, 2010
posted by at 2:53 pm

Murali Bashyam's First Bashyam Shah Business Card

We’ve often been asked by clients and other attorneys why we chose to focus on Immigration and Nationality Law.  I’ve always responded with the same five words – because we help good people.

As a law firm, however, we didn’t always have that clarity.

Juggling several legal practice areas

When we started the firm 15 years ago, we were handling corporate, family, criminal and Federal litigation cases.  We also handled a few immigration cases, mostly because I was of Indian origin.  People I knew in the Indian community would ask me questions, and I would then do some research and provide them with a legal solution.

Over the following two years, we continued to handle these different areas of law.  It was just myself and partner, Robert Spiro, at the time, so we had a lot on our plate!  In addition, more people started asking us to handle their immigration cases, and we started focusing more of our time in this area of the law.

Focusing on Immigration

Although we enjoyed the different areas of law we practiced, the immigrants we were helping started making an impression on us.  We were good at immigration law, and the people we helped were grateful for the positive impact we had on their lives.

After just two years in practice, we decided to focus on just one area of law.  But what would that area of law be?  There were compelling reasons for all of them. We wanted to pick one and be great at it.

Sunday Best

One Sunday afternoon 13 years ago, my law partner and I put a whiteboard up in our old conference room. We wrote each area of law that we were considering down along with a ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ next to each, and started brainstorming.

Thinking back on that Sunday, it really was a defining moment for our law firm.  Generally speaking, solo practitioners and small firms tend to be ‘general practice’ firms that handled multiple areas of law.  From an economic standpoint, it’s almost always necessary for small firms to branch out like that.  However, we decided to take the risk and cut our practice back to one area of law. And after much debate that Sunday afternoon, we chose Immigration law.

Why Immigration law?

Compared to other areas of law, we didn’t consider Immigration law to be that financially lucrative.  Also, Immigration law is one of the most complicated areas of law a lawyer can practice.  The laws are constantly changing, and it’s not easy dealing with a Government bureaucracy on a daily basis.  There are a lot of inefficiencies in the system that can lead to extreme frustration.

What made it worthwhile, however, was interacting with our immigration clients.  These were good people, and we felt that we were making a real positive impact on their lives.

Whether it was helping them with a work visa, or helping them unite with a family member, it was helping them that mattered most.  We knew that these clients would contribute to the United States in a very positive way, and that made dealing with the ‘cons’ of Immigration law easy to ignore.

Reflecting on our decision

Our law firm continues to focus solely on Immigration law.  We have helped thousands of immigrants realize their dream of living or working in America.   And as we celebrate our firm’s 15th anniversary this December, I can’t help but reflect on that important decision we made in our conference room on a sunny Sunday 13 years ago.

What I Did with the First Dollar I Earned

August 27th, 2010
posted by at 6:36 pm

Most business owners save the first dollar they make.  It’s usually taped or framed somewhere on their business premises.  You’ve probably seen it before.  

I didn’t do that. 

When I started this immigration law firm 15 years ago, I took the very first check I received from a client and bought Meera, our family’s German Shepherd. 

My sister and I were both living with my parents in Raleigh at the time.  I had just graduated from law school, and was starting a law practice.  I had no money, just law school debt.   So living with the folks made sense.

We had always had a dog growing up.  Our first was a black lab named Tina.  My sister and I were little and living in Canada at the time.  Someone had abandoned Tina by the side of a highway.  She was only a small, scared puppy, and I’m sure that experience resulted in her lifelong fear of cars.  My dad saw her and brought her home in a box.  We kept her, and I named her after my sister’s best friend.

After we moved from Canada to the U.S., we got Ranger, an English Setter.  My homeroom teacher at the time said she had these puppies, and if nobody took them they would be put to sleep.  That scare tactic worked.  I took the puppy pictures to my parents that night and sold them on Ranger.   He turned out to be a wonderful dog.

Many years later, I guess it was the nostalgia of being back home that made me decide to buy another one.   When we lived in Canada before moving to the U.S., there was a German Shepherd that lived across the street from us.  A police dog no less!  It saved our lives once.  It killed a wild wolf half-breed that was coming after my sister and me as we walked around the block.

My dad also grew up with one in India.  I’ve seen the old black and white pictures – my dad, who was very small as a child, with this big, beautiful, majestic, guardian German Shepherd.  I felt every family should have one.  We knew the breed well, and I wanted one that we could call our own.

My sister and I saw an ad in the paper and drove to Sanford, North Carolina to look at a litter of German Shepherd puppies.   When we got there, I can still remember getting out of the car and seeing between 5-7 cute little puppies romping around in the owner’s front yard, which had soft, dark green grass.

We made our rounds, as most people do, going from puppy to puppy to see which one ‘feels right.’  After all, it’s a big decision.  If the dog remains healthy, it will likely be with you for the next 15 years, so you want make sure to buy the one with the right personality. 

By the way, when you are 25 years old, which is what I was at the time, 15 years seemed like an eternity.  When you’re 40, which is what I am now, 15 years might as well be 15 days.

Of all the puppies, Meera was the most aloof.  She didn’t play like the rest of them.  She didn’t even come when we called her. 

Meera was doing her own thing. 

What also set Meera apart from the rest of the litter was her ear.  One was bent at the top.  I asked the owner if that was normal.  He said, yes, it was normal for some Shepherd puppies to have bent ears, and that it would straighten up as she got older.  I believed him. That damn ear didn’t straighten out for years , even making the vets wonder whether it ever would. It did give Meera character though.

My sister and I chose this ‘loner’ puppy and brought her home.  Our mother immediately put her in a little basket.  Meera was that small at the time.  Small and fluffy.  She turned into a rambunctious puppy, not the quiet, aloof one we first saw just a few hours earlier.  And like most puppies, she was mischievous.

As the months passed, Meera’s teething began.  She was always chasing everyone around the house, biting at our ankles.  Those teeth were razor sharp, and her jaws were getting stronger.  But Meera didn’t know any better.  She didn’t know that her biting actually hurt us! 

Ever the disciplinarian, I started locking her in the bathroom when she bit me.  After some whining, she figured out that she didn’t like the closet, and the only reason she was in there was her behavior.  Meera learned, and as the smart dog that she was, she stopped coming after me.  The same cannot be said for the rest of the family! 

In hindsight, we have fond memories of those times.  But in reality, the teething period was painful!

Time went by, as it always does, and Meera grew into an adult German Shepherd.  The teething stopped, and she turned into a wonderful and loving dog.  I will never forget how she would always come to me and press herself against my leg.  So many of my suits had German Shepherd hair all over them, but I didn’t care.  It was the ultimate sign of affection.

After a few years, I moved into a small condo in downtown Raleigh.  I couldn’t keep Meera there, so I left her with my parents.  My dad and mom loved her, and I felt she would be a good companion and guardian to them.  That turned out to be right.  Meera took care of them, and my parents also took care of her.

That little loner puppy with the bent ear was special. 

In her life, she harassed enough postmen, chased enough rabbits, and barked enough at night to piss off neighbors.  Oh, and she hated thunderstorms and lightning.  It’s funny to watch such a big, strong dog turn into a coward at times!  And, as I found out last week, she had gained an affinity for ice cream as she got older.

If Tina saw our child years, and Ranger saw our early teen years, Meera witnessed our early adult years. 

She watched me become very busy as a professional, as my law practice grew from one person to ten.  She experienced my sister getting married and move to Dallas.  She lived through my sister’s first child.   Meera met my girlfriend, Cheryl, who later became my wife.  I could go on.  She was there for all the major events of the last 15 years.  She saw my entire family grow older.  We saw her grow older as well, until her body eventually gave out.

We put Meera to sleep on Saturday August 14th, one day after I turned 40. 

It was time, but even after a couple of weeks it’s hard not to think of what an important part of my life Meera was.

It was nice that my sister, Vidhya, and my nephew, Rohan, were in town and could be there.  It was also nice that the vets came to our house.  Meera died peacefully where she belonged – at home.   I’m sure that Meera appreciated that very much. And I’m sure my dad is hurting the most – he had a special bond with that dog.   We all did, in different ways. And as much of a struggle with sadness it has been over the past few few weeks, it’s also changed my view on life, how truly precious every moment is and how every dollar spent can change the course your life forever.

The happiness that Meera brought to all of our lives was invaluable. She reminded me of those little moments in between the important events and all of the people and pets that are there to share each day with us make up a life.

Meera, Thank you for being a silent teacher and a friend. I hope you’re still chasing rabbits somewhere and having fun.  Rest In Peace my dear friend.

Why 2K?

August 10th, 2010
posted by at 6:27 pm

 

The United States Senate, in a largely bi-partisan vote, passed a bill on August 5, 2010 which, among other things, would impose an additional $2000 filing fee for companies that file H-1B applications on behalf of foreign professional workers.  This filing fee is in addition to the normal H-1B filing fee of $2320 or $1570, depending on the size of the company’s workforce. 

If you run a company and hire H-1B professional workers, is it time to panic? Not yet.

The Senate bill is not law.  It still has to be reconciled with the House bill (HR 6080), which passed on August 10, 2010.   The House bill also contains the H-1B fee increase and will be voted on by the Senate after the August recess.   The key question is why the Senate and House are proposing this fee increase on employers in a weak economy?

Illegal immigration is a hot topic right now.  In fact, it has been for years.  You cannot turn on the television without hearing a sound-bite on immigration from politicians who really do not understand the topic.  For example, Senator Chuck Schumer (D), a sponsor of the Senate bill, says the following:

“There is a part of H-1B that is abused, and it is by companies that are not American companies or even companies that are making something. Rather, they are companies that take foreign folks, bring them here, and then they stay here for a few years, learn their expertise, and go back. We think we should increase the fees when they do that,” the Senator said.

In summary, Sen. Schumer is basically saying:

  • There is abuse in the H-1B program, but none by American companies or companies that ‘make something.’
  • Companies hire foreign workers and the workers learn their ‘expertise’ in the U.S.
  • Foreign workers in the H-1B program stay a few years and then go back to their home countries.

Other than acknowledging that there is some abuse in the H-1B program, every other point or assumption made by Sen. Schumer is completely false. 

  • Only an ‘American’ company can hire an H1B worker! The H1B program is strictly for American employers to hire foreign workers on a temporary basis. And even though a company may not ‘make something’, it does not mean they are irrelevant or insignificant.
  • Foreign workers do not come to the US to learn their expertise. They must have it before they can be issued H1B status!  In fact, they must be offered a professional position – one that requires at least a Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent).  And they must prove, with an evaluation by a US credentials agency, that they have the equivalent of a US Bachelor’s degree specifically related to the position offered.  Most of these workers have many years of professional experience as well before they come to the U.S.
  • The H1B program is designed to be temporary. Foreign workers are supposed to go home after six years! If we wanted them to stay, we wouldn’t make the Permanent Residency process so difficult and time-consuming.

Foreign workers come to the U.S., earn money and contribute to our economy through consumption and taxation.  Many apply for permanent residency so they can live in the U.S. , but many also  return home for family reasons (or because the U.S. residency process takes far too long).  Studies have established that many of the immigrant workers who remain in the U.S. are entrepreneurs who start businesses and employ U.S. workers.  Sen. Schumer fails to acknowledge the contributions foreign professional workers make to the United States economy and culture.

We believe that most people in the U.S. are pro-immigrant.  In fact, polls have proven as much.  But they are for legal immigration and understandably against illegal immigration.   By increasing H-1B filing fees on U.S. employers, the Senate goal is to raise more revenue to hire 1500 additional border patrol agents to patrol our southern border.  In essence, our government wants to penalize companies that hire legal foreign workers under the H-1B program to help prevent illegal immigration.  Why should illegal immigration negatively impact a U.S. company that legally hires a foreign professional worker?  It should not. These two issues are –  and should be – separate.   

Our only hope is that any bill that will eventually be signed by President Obama does not contain this H-1B fee increase on employers.  Penalizing law-abiding employers in a down economy is not good for our country.  As Mohandas Pai, Director of Human Resources for Infosys, said in reaction to the Senate bill, “it sends a very negative message from America that highly skilled people are not welcome, the markets are closing up.”  Instead of a being what is the backbone of this great country, immigration now seems to be unnecessarily negative and divisive issue. 

Let’s hope for real, positive change in our immigration policies, not just talk of it.

Remember, No Man is a Failure Who Has Friends

June 6th, 2010
posted by at 8:32 pm

The title of this post is line from the popular 1940’s movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.  That line, along with my strong belief that people have the capacity to use and share wisdom through friendships and relationships, inspired me to form a non-profit with my friends last year.

Appropriately called Friends Unite, the mission of our 501(c)(3) non-profit organization is to provide the support necessary for people and communities to help themselves. Our goal is to provide support for the advancement of education, health services and other basic necessities, such as food, water and shelter to people and communities around the world.  Of course, in doing so, we hope to form partnerships and friendships that will last a lifetime.

I’ve always felt that what makes our immigration law firm so special is that we believe in good relationships.  Not just with our clients, but with each other as well.   As a result, many of us have been together for quite a while.  For example, our Senior Counsel has been with our law firm for close to 5 years.  Our Senior Paralegals have been with us for over 4 years.  And our Client Relations Manager, who is also the Vice President of Friends Unite, celebrates her 10th anniversary with the firm this year!

I consider all of them my friends.

Through Friends Unite, we have already created great relationships with people and organizations around the world.   One such relationship is with Abraham Lueth, founder of the Southern Sudan Fellowship (SSF).  This organization built a school for children in Southern Sudan, and is about to break ground on an all-girls High School in a city called Akot.

Southern Sudan was involved in a brutal civil war for over two decades.  During the war, close to two million Sudanese were killed and roughly four million were forced to leave their homes.  Many who suffered during the war were children.  For those of you who want to learn more about the war, and its terrible impact on families and children in Southern Sudan, there is an excellent book I am reading titled ‘What is the What’ by Dave Eggers.  The book tells the story of Valentino Achak Deng, one of the Lost Boys from the Sudanese civil war.   Mr. Deng also gives back to the children of Southern Sudan through his Valentino Achak Deng Foundation.

Some of our other partners include WSAID, Brahmi, and the Africa Economic Foundation.  The projects weare working on with them include an educational project on the Visceral Leishmanaisis Disease, a solar power project for a school in India, and a food security and microfinance project in a village called Kilisa in Kenya.  We are excited about the relationships we are forming with our partners, as well as the work we are and will be doing together.

Feel free to visit the website of Friends Unite to learn more about our mission, vision, projects and partners.   If you want to get involved with Friends Unite, please contact us.  We welcome your participation and look forward to getting to know you.

To follow Friends Unite, visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

Trail of Dreams, Stops in Raleigh

April 21st, 2010
posted by at 2:11 pm

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet with a group of inspirational immigrant students who made a stop in North Carolina on their 1,500 mile trip from Miami, FL to Washington, D.C. by foot as part of the “Trail of Dreams” initiative to demand just and smart immigration reform.  The event was sponsored by UnitingNC (www.unitingnc.org), an organization with a mission to foster rational dialogue between immigrants and others in the community.

North Carolina, like other southern states, has seen a significant increase in deportations, workplace raids, and barriers to higher education for immigrant students. Furthermore, Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which authorizes the Federal Government to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies to perform immigration law enforcement functions, has created fear amongst aliens who lack a valid immigration status.  This often causes illegal aliens to fail to report crimes to local law enforcement for fear of deportation.

These students spoke openly and candidly to me, public safety representatives and others interested community members about the challenges that these students and the 12 million undocumented aliens in the United States face each day and the hope that they have for the future.  These students, some of whom are undocumented, are no different than any of us.  They are good, hard-working, and kind people.  The only difference is a status based on law.  In the history of our great country, there have been bad laws related to women’s voting rights and segregation, to name a few, and those laws have been changed.  Gaby, one of the students, pointed out that we need to do the same thing with our immigration laws.

During their visit they showed an inspirational video that I feel is certainly worth sharing:

For more information and biographies on the Dream Walkers visit: www.trail2010.org