Archive for the ‘Immigration Law Firm Staff’ Category

Get To Know Series: Family Immigration Paralegal, Jessica Batzel

November 12th, 2019
posted by at 7:56 pm

How much do you really know about your immigration attorney and paralegal?  

You have talked to them over the phone and through email. You could have even met if you’re in the same city, but most communication is probably related to your immigration case.

Do you know what your attorney or paralegal does in their spare time, where they’re from, or what’s on their bucket list?

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

In continuation of our Get to Know series, we asked our family immigration paralegal, Jessica Batzel, a series of questions to get to know her better.  We want you to know the people that work so diligently on your immigration case.  

What Jess has to say:

Where are you from? 

Zacapu, Michoacan, Mexico

What made you choose Bashyam Shah? 

They seemed really genuine and everyone here is a nerd somehow. 

Where is your favorite vacation spot? 

Any place in the mountains, but I have just recently started traveling so I don’t really have a favorite.

What is the most stressful part of your job, and what is the most rewarding part of your job? 

Dealing with USCIS can be stressful. At times, we receive ridiculous requests for evidence requesting items that were originally submitted, or items that are unnecessary to adjudicate the case.

Family Unity. Easily, the most rewarding part is seeing someone be able to visit their home country after many years in the U.S., and having the freedom of being in the U.S. lawfully without the stress of being deported. 

What is your favorite way to unwind after a long day? 

Watch Anime or spend time with my friends 

What is an unconventional activity you do in your spare time? 

Watch Anime and go to Animazement

What are three things on your bucket list?

  1. Complete a mission trip
  2. Go on a hiking trip with my brothers
  3. Go cave-diving

What are three things everyone should know about immigration?

  1. The majority of people, if not all, immigrate for a better life for themselves or their families.
  2. Immigrants play a huge role in benefiting the U.S. economy.
  3. Filing to become a permanent resident can be a multi-year process, and the best way to ensure that you are taking every advantage to mitigate the wait time is by using a knowledgeable attorney.

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

Currently, I am learning how to re-paint and re-upholster old wooden furniture.

Jess mentioned that everyone in the firm is a nerd. To an extent, that’s true. Jess is one of our top nerds, and that’s why we and our clients love her!

We hope you got to know an important member of our team, Jessica Batzel, a little better.  

Stay tuned for more on the Get to Know series. We will be introducing a different Bashyam Shah team member every month! 

For the latest immigration information, tips, and interesting stories, visit our Facebook page – Bashyam Shah LLP.   

Live long, prosper, and continue to reach beyond borders!

My Favorite Bashyam Shah Holiday Party

November 28th, 2012
posted by at 10:49 pm

By Pam Prather

Ahhhh, office holiday parties.  The stuff of legends – or at least movies, jokes and salacious tales.  We here at Bashyam Shah have run the gamut from EXTREMELY casual get-togethers (a pony keg in the conference room) to the more sophisticated.  Because Murali and I are the ones who’ve attended the most, he recently asked me which party was my favorite.  Humor me while I ponder my response.

The pony keg year was actually really fun. Or it was for me, because I love to play games. I introduced my younger co-employees to a favorite from my tween-hood, Truth or Dare. We learned WAAAAYYYYY too much about each other that night.  We also played Pictionary on the big easels, and a little bit of Charades.  That would’ve been quite enough for me, but the younger ones decided we needed to play Quarters.  ‘Nuf said….. 

Another year I had everyone over to my house for “Dirty Santa”, which you may know by its many other names – Chinese Auction (not appropriate for an immigration firm!), Yankee Swap, Black Santa, Naughty Santa, Thieving Secret Santa, Parcel Pass, Christmas Swamp Thing, Greedfest, or Pollyanna. In south central Pennsylvania it is also called “Kamikaze Gift Exchange” (from Wikipedia, my source for all things factual). What’s not to like about a game where you have an equal chance of getting a pair of size 3X white nylon granny panties or a rubber chicken that makes a loud, screaming cackle???     

For some reason, the games thing died off for a few years after that.  I don’t know why, but people groaned and rolled their eyes when I would enquire “what should we play THIS year”??!   Apparently there was some line (of which I was unaware) that we had crossed over.  Crossed over, stomped on past, and continued on crossing for so long that we went around a corner and came up to it again.

There was another time when we rented a limousine to take us to a nice dinner, and then haul us from bar to dance club to bar.  The problem was, we liked the limo ride more than we liked the bars, so we ended up telling the driver to just drive around the Beltline (the 20-or-so mile highway that loops around Raleigh) while we acted like idiots, and – yes – stood up with our heads through the sunroof.

(Okay, here’s an aside. Why is it called a BELT LINE? That is a contradiction in terms. You can’t be a belt and a line at the same time!!  I’m from Northern Virginia where we have the Beltway around D.C. That makes much more sense.  Of course it’s not really a “way” around the city because it’s always at a standstill, but that’s another story).

Many times we’ve simply had dinner out at a nice restaurant. Everyone likes to eat good food and enjoy great wine, but those years just aren’t quite as memorable as, for example, the time we rented the upstairs loft of a dive bar called Slims in downtown Raleigh.  We catered in Indian food (delish!), and shot pool at the one ripped-up table.  It was wonderful until we realized that ALL the cigarette smoke from this lively watering hole wafted up into the loft and hung thickly around our faces like a beekeeper’s helmet net. That was the year I learned how difficult it is to get the smell of smoke out of a leather jacket.

I don’t know, it’s hard to pick a favorite holiday party out of the last 13. I suppose they’re all favorites in a way.  They start to blend together, and I’m left with simply fond memories of camaraderie and laughter so hard I almost wet myself.  It doesn’t really matter what we do, it’s just being together away from the office and celebrating our successes that makes each get-together special. So, I’ll tell Murali that my favorite party of all time is the one coming up!!

A warm, happy holiday wish to all of you.  Thanks for your interest in and support of our law firm.  Now get out there and be festive!

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.

Making Your Mark During The Season of Giving

December 16th, 2010
posted by at 4:52 pm

Bashyam Shah has shown 15 years of deep devotion to the law, but the people within the firm have passions that extend far beyond that.  We bring as much enthusiasm to our outside interests as we do to our work. 

Whether it’s volunteering to help at the American Bar Association’s Citizenship Day, traveling to Africa to donate soccer balls to school children in need, carving out time for our families or presiding over a professional organization, we feel that we have a sense of fulfillment and balance through our engagement in the community around us.

In 2008, Dana Dorroh, a friend of the firm’s managing partner, Murali Bashyam, introduced him to the Tammy Lynn Center for Developmental Disabilities asked him to pay the center a visit. After that visit, something a close friend once said to him resonates  — “ we as a society should wrap our arms around those who cannot help themselves.”  

That’s why he continues to support the Center today. During this gift-giving season, join Murali in supporting the Tammy Lynn Center’s vital work and the children, adults and families they help every day by making a tax-deductible donation today.

Click on the logo to donate today!

In the midst of the Holiday hustle and bustle, many people forget about some of the most important values and traditions associated with the Holiday season and Christmas – Giving being the most prominent of these.

There are many things that you can do to liven up somebody else’s Holiday season and help spread a little bit of Christmas cheer. One of the most thoughtful things you can do over the Holiday season is to donate to a charity.

Whether you are giving a cash donation, dropping your spare change into a bucket at your local grocery store or even if you are volunteering your time at the local rescue mission, giving is a wonderful thing to do – especially during the Holiday season. It is important to remember that there are many others out there that are less fortunate than you.

If you have only just a little bit to give, that’s ok. You will make the Holiday that much better for someone.

Bashyam Shah 15th Anniversary Memory #7: LYDIA

December 8th, 2010
posted by at 2:25 am

By Lydia Salett, Bashyam Shah Accountant

I’ve been working as a bookkeeper with Bashyam Shah for almost 3 years.  The first time I walked into the building, and saw the grand piano in the lobby, I was sold on the job before my interview appointment even began. 

Why, you ask? Well, in addition to my normal every day routine of bookkeeping I have the privilege of working with individuals who also appreciate music and the arts as much as I do.  Over the years my co-workers at Bashyam Shah  have seen my growth as a jazz musician and celebrated my successes along the way.  I appreciate that.

Working at Bashyam Shah has allowed me the opportunity to meet some wonderfully unique clients and work along side with some very talented and knowledgeable individuals.  I am glad to be apart of this firm and wish its continued success.

Bashyam Shah 15th Anniversary Memory #6: TINA

December 7th, 2010
posted by at 3:42 pm

By, Tina Huber, Senior Immigration Paralegal

I have been at Bashyam Shah for over 4 years. When I first started with the firm my specialty was the immigration of foreign registered nurses to the United States. This was a special immigration niche that I had past experience with and is still my favorite kind of case to work on. I work on various employment-based immigration cases now, but when reflecting on the work that I do I have found the immigration process for foreign nurses the most unforgettable.

I deal with hardworking and underpaid healthcare professionals who live exhausting lives in third world countries and somehow, are lucky to find a U.S. hospital or medical institution that will sponsor them.  

Unlike other skilled workers, nurses don’t go through the labor certification process and can essentially come into the U.S. with a green card (after many hoops and hurdles are cleared).  However, the process they go through to get the green card takes MANY, MANY years. 

Once the I-140 is approved, I have the dual task of bearing good news and bad news to the beneficiary. The good news is that their petition has been approved and the National Visa Center will begin processing their immigrant visa case once their priority date is current, handling everything until it is time for their visa interview in their home country.  The bad news is that their priority date may be 5 – 8 YEARS from becoming current.  How do you put that in plain words for someone who wants to book their ticket to the U.S. before I have even finished congratulating them?  It is heart wrenching to explain that most likely their young children will probably get to finish high school, not start elementary school, in the U.S., and that they must carry on with their lives “just getting by” for a few years more, unless Congress sees fit to remedy the U.S. nurse shortage soon. Which is not likely.

I love to think that just being a part of the U.S. immigration process makes life better for them in their home countries; that they tell their friends that they have an approved immigration petition and that one day soon they will be working in America. I hope that that is enough for them while they endure the long, arduous wait and I hope I am there when they get to cross the finish line.

Bashyam Shah 15th Anniversary Memory #5: DIANA

December 6th, 2010
posted by at 8:00 am

By Diana Barrezueta, Bashyam Shah Immigration Paralegal

I have been with Bashyam Shah for a little over a year. In the short time I have been with the firm, I have come to call Bashyam Shah my “home away from home.” I have been fortunate enough to do what I love but also love where I work. 

Bashyam Shah is an enjoyable place to work; mainly due to its people.  The people that I work with are approachable, knowledgeable, personable, and most of all down to earth.  They really understand the concept of team work.  There is no petty differences or competition that divides us.  Instead, we work side by side even forsaking personal time if necessary for the best interest of the clients.  Of course, the people that I work with also know how to have fun.  That is what sets our team apart;  professionalism, and commitment we do.  That is the beauty of this team I am privileged to be part of.

Congratulations Bashyam Shah on 15 years of excellence!

Bashyam Shah 15th Anniversary Memory #4: ESTHER

November 29th, 2010
posted by at 8:00 am
By, Esther Oh, Senior Immigration Paralegal

Congratulations on 15 years!  I started with Bashyam Shah in 2007 and it has been non-stop in the immigration world.  Looking back, I have many fond memories that include the H-1B Cap being reached in 1 day, the priority date fiasco in 2007 and many other immigration milestones, but what I think about most and most fond of, is the staff of Bashyam Shah

I get to be a part of team that is committed to our clients and to each other and each of them bring forth knowledge, compassion, readiness, optimism and many more admirable talents that all builds on one another.  I love that when I have a question or need advice on a case; I can reach out to my colleagues and receive the best suggestions and solutions.  I love that we all pitch in to help each other when there are deadlines and even when there are no deadlines.  I love that we are open to one another’s ideas, thoughts and plans and that our common goal is to bring the best work forward to our clients, to the firm and to each other. 

Lastly and importantly, I love that when I have a craving for Mexican or Chinese food for lunch, that someone will eat it with me.

Bashyam Shah Anniversary Memory #3: Immigration Attorney, Murali Bashyam Shares 15 Years Worth of Lessons

November 24th, 2010
posted by at 8:00 am

By, Murali Bashyam

I’d always wanted to be my own boss.  So when a very senior Raleigh attorney encouraged me 15 years ago to ‘go on my own’, I almost jumped at the chance…almost.

I was cautious.  I was the first to know how much I didn’t know.  How could a recent law graduate practice law without law firm experience, I wondered?  I needed more information.  My next step was to talk to others and get it. 

I called a number of senior attorneys I knew and asked them for their opinion.  They were all encouraging.  Many of them said, “if anyone can do it, you can. We will help you.”  I was very fortunate to have these mentors take me under their wing.  In my first year of practice, it made a world of difference to have experienced attorneys answer my call, take my questions, and help me when I needed it.

Thinking back on it now, what I did then was incredibly risky!  However, I was lucky to have a good support system in place to help me along the way.  Today, we have grown from that one-person law practice to one of the larger boutique immigration firms in North Carolina. 

I’ve learned many lessons along the way. 

Here are five important ones:

Lesson #1 – Start Slowly! 

If you’re going to start your own law practice, you are automatically going to think about expenses.  How are you going to pay the bills?  That will become your number one focus.

It shouldn’t be.

Yes, you need to pay the bills, but you also want to provide excellent service to your clients.  You want to start slowly, and learn your area of practice well.  Take fewer cases and develop relationships with those clients.  If you do good work, people will talk.  Your patience will pay dividends in the future.

As I mentioned earlier, I was lucky to have good mentors.  However, I was also proactive.  I reached out to other attorneys to get advice on cases.  I found them to be extremely helpful.  Remember, every seasoned attorney was once inexperienced, and they tend not to forget.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Lesson #2 – Keep Your Overhead Low

When I started firm, I bought a used desk for $50 and rented a small office with no windows.  It was nothing fancy.  That was back in 1995.

Today, our technological advances make it possible to practice law without a formal office.  In fact, I know attorneys who work from home or rent a small office-sharing suite and they do just fine.  Unlike many years ago, I am not convinced that clients are as impressed by the décor of the office or the quality of your suit.  Some clients will be, but most of them are focused on one thing – results. 

If you are going to invest in an office, office furniture, equipment and other things, make sure to be frugal.  You want to worry less about meeting your monthly overhead and worry more about doing good work and developing good relationships with your clients.  I guarantee that it will pay off over time.

Lesson #3 – Be Wary of Debt

When you start a law practice, or any business for that matter, there’s a very good likelihood that you will take on some initial debt.  Where else are you going to get that start-up capital as a young attorney except from family, credit cards or banks?  When you borrow this start-up capital, keep it as low as possible.  More importantly, work hard to pay it off as soon as possible.

I’ve always been very conservative when running my law practice.  Even though we have used Lines of Credit to operate at times, we have mostly stayed away from it.  Once you have debt, it is automatic human behavior to be beholden to it.  (Or given recent events in our country, perhaps it isn’t!)  As a business-person, you want flexibility.  Businesses should be nimble, be able to move in one direction or the next quickly, and often debt is the shackle that prevents that from happening. 

Keep that in mind.

If you need to use debt to operate your business, make sure to use it wisely and pay it off quickly!

Lesson #4 – Don’t be Afraid of Making Mistakes

When I was about to open my law practice, I asked a friend of mine, a Managing Partner of a large law firm, two simple questions:

“Do you think I know enough?” and “What if I make a mistake?”

My friend responded quickly, “you’ll never know enough and you’re always going to make some mistakes.”  He added, “it’s how you deal with those mistakes that matters.”

Given that my friend had practiced law for over 30 years, this was a strong message.  He said that even after 30 years of being a prominent attorney, he still didn’t know enough about the law.  He knows more, but he’s still constantly learning new things.  That’s how complicated laws, and the practice of law, can be. 

So if you don’t know something, it’s okay.  You’re not alone.   Learn it and move on because the education process never ends.  And if you make a mistake, don’t worry.  We are human and we all make them.   Just learn from those mistakes and more important, learn how to deal with them properly as it relates to yourself, your practice and your clients.

Lesson #5 – Hire Wisely  

There’s a saying that people can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep.  It’s not only true in personal situations, but it’s true in a business environment as well.   Clients can tell a lot about you and your law practice by the people you hire, and who you hire can make a major difference in the success or failure of your law firm.

I’ve always looked for a few simple qualities when hiring people. First, does the person generally have a positive outlook on things?  Are they a positive person?  You don’t want to hire negative people.  One negative person can bring down the collective ‘mood’ of an office full of positive people!  That will negatively impact teamwork and productivity. 

Also, look for people who are smart, dedicated and have demonstrated an ability to be team players.  The latter is extremely important.   When everyone contributes and works together, you are generally going to have an office that is extremely efficient and effective.  I’ve always felt that every position in an office is equally important, so make sure to hire wisely in all of them.

Bonus Lesson – Have Fun!

These five lessons are important, but as I was writing this article, I remembered a sixth and most important lesson –have fun!

When you start and run a law practice, you’re most likely going to be working 7 days a week, especially in the beginning.  The hard work never ends.  It takes an incredible amount of effort, dedication, commitment and time to operate a business and do it well.   Make sure to take time to enjoy what you do, and especially the people you do it with.

When I think back over 15 years of law practice, some of my most vivid memories are the fun times our office enjoyed together.  Whether it’s our office Christmas parties, or office outings, or happy hours after work, we have done a lot of fun things together and have enjoyed each other’s company on a number of occasions.  This makes for great memories, great camaraderie, and will result in great teamwork.

If you decide to start a law practice, good luck!  Hopefully, at the end of the day, you can sing what Frank Sinatra so famously sang in his day:

Regrets, I’ve had a few

But then again, too few to mention

I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption

I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway

And more, much more than this, I did it my way

Bashyam Shah 15th Anniversary Memory #2: PAM – Remembering 9/11

November 19th, 2010
posted by at 8:00 am

By Pam Prather, Senior Paralegal & Client Relations Manager

I’ve been part of Bashyam Shah for 10 years now.  It’s impossible to write about all the memories I have of these people and our firm, because this has been such an integral part of my life.  There are a few times that stand out, though, like 9/11/2001.  I think everyone will remember where they were when those seminal events unfolded.  It was at the beginning of my work day, and  I was standing in Murali’s office, talking with him, when Rob Spiro ran down the hall with the news that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

Do you remember what you were doing at that same moment?

We first thought it was probably an accident, or at least an isolated event. It wasn’t until the second plane hit about 15 minutes later that it started to sink in what was happening.  It was so shocking – so outside our experience – that we didn’t know what to do.  We couldn’t work, but we didn’t want to go home.  We were terrified and appalled, but we could not turn away from the tv and radio.   As news of the Pentagon hit was breaking, Rob and I rushed to the phones to call family and friends we had in the DC area.  The day passed in somewhat of a fog.  We all gathered in the break room to listen to updates together.  We simply could not concentrate on work, but it didn’t matter because no one was calling.  I suppose business phones everywhere were eerily silent.  We sat, watched tv, tried to come to terms with the dawning of a new – and dangerous – era.  We threw darts for a little while, just to have something to do with our hands as those tragic images came across the airwaves.  Someone ran across the street to get some sandwiches. And the day finally passed.

Of course most of my memories of Bashyam Shah are funny, touching, proud, exciting, silly, warm, nostalgic – anything but sad.  I’m so lucky to have a decade of good memories here to help balance out the one tragic.  So, this firm and these people – like 9/11 – are indelibly etched on my mind because they are part of my history.  And, good or bad, happy or sad, our history makes us who we are.