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Many people who come into the U.S. on the Exchange Visitor Program have a great experience and decide they’d like to pursue further opportunities here.

In fact, if you’ve built great friendships and see additional excellent educational and work options available in the USA, you are wise to confirm what your options are.

Yes, I’d Like to Foster Global Understanding but That Doesn’t Mean I Have to Leave, Right?

If you’re already here on a J-1 visa, you know that the purpose of the program is to “foster global understanding through educational and cultural exchanges.”

You also probably know that after the standard period of time is up, you’re expected to head back home to share the exciting things you’ve learned and thus spread some positive goodwill about how wonderful the U.S. is.

But if you’re convinced that staying in the U.S. as a student is a great choice for you, you understandably want to know what to do.

If You’re Going to Stay Longer You Need to Carefully Monitor the Dates

Keep in mind that you need to carefully monitor the dates you’re authorized to stay in the U.S. You may not stay beyond the time listed on your Form DS-2019 – plus a period of 30 days to give some time to do a bit of domestic travel and get ready to leave.

Most importantly, look closely at the white I-94 card that is typically stapled in your passport. (Note: in the near future, these will become electronic records and you won’t have a white card.

But one way or the other be aware you need to be very aware of this important deadline!) The U.S. government is very strict about making sure visitors actually depart on the departure date listed on the I-94.

If you don’t leave when you’re supposed to – and you haven’t extended or changed your status as we describe below – then some undesirable things will happen: you will be “out of status,” your visa could be voided, and you probably will find it difficult to apply for another visa in the future.

Many J-1 Visa Holders Have to Return Home for Two Years

The U.S. government set up this exchange program with the requirement that most participants return to their home country for two years after the program is finished. If this applies to you (look on your J-1 visa and also at the “Exchange Visitor Skills list” amongst other places) then you will need to seek a waiver.

This waiver is difficult to secure and – among other things – you must show “exceptional hardship” and persecution for certain reasons if you returned home.

If You Aren’t Subject to the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement, You Can Apply to Be a Student

After confirming it isn’t mandatory for you to return home, you can move ahead with securing an F-1 visa. Here are some key steps to take:

Apply for a full-time program that is definitely certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)
Receive an I-20 form from the school or university.
Change to F-1 status either by applying for and receiving an F-1 entry visa from a U.S. consulate outside the U.S. and or through changing your status with the USCIS. This first option requires filling out Form DS-160 online and the second option requires filing I-539 with USCIS.
You May Have Some Great Options Awaiting You at a Stellar U.S. University

Overall, there’s a good chance you may be able to stay in the U.S. after your J-1 stay is up as long as you meet the government’s criteria and carefully follow the rules.

The steps are complex and keep in mind that the explanation above has been greatly simplified and doesn’t account for any of your unique circumstances.

I suspect you’d be disappointed if the answer to this question was clear-cut and easy. Like so much in immigration law, the answer “depends.” Here are some basic guidelines for this question – but keep in mind that this is only a starting point.

What’s good is that since the passage of Child Citizenship Act (CCA) in 2000, the rules have actually been simplified. The current rule is that if your child was born abroad to at least one U.S. citizen parent, she will automatically receive U.S. citizenship when all of the following requirements are met:

Your child is under 18 years old;
Your child is either admitted to the U.S. as a permanent resident or receives this status through the process of “adjustment of status”;
Your child is permanently residing in the U.S. with you, the U.S. citizen.
However, if you and your child reside outside the U.S., then your child will not automatically receive citizenship. You will have to formally submit an application for naturalization for your child and also meet other requirements. In particular:

The U.S. citizen parent must have lived within the U.S. for at least five years (this can be cumulative – broken up by trips abroad – and doesn’t have to be a continuous five years);
The U.S. citizen parent must have lived at least two of those five years in the U.S. before the U.S. citizen parent’s fourteenth birthday;
Your child must be under the age of 18;
Your child will need to be in the U.S. to complete the naturalizatio process and recite the oath of allegiance (unless the child is very young, and then the oath can be waived).
Overall, these rules have changed frequently and note that the law at the time of your child’s birth will be what applies to her regarding citizenship. So be sure to research what the current rules are or consult with an attorney whenever your child is born.

The time has come for the next stage in the growth of our firm. It will take a fair amount of hunting and gathering but we’re confident we will find a great associate to join our team.

What is definitely helpful is that immigration lawyers tend to be a nice, interesting, hard-working group of people. Since we don’t have to sue one another, this also helps keep the level of cordiality high and we help one another out as we battle the USCIS and the State Department instead.

We are aiming to bring our new attorney on board starting in August. Please spread the word and here are all the details on how to apply:


Passage Immigration Law LLC, formerly Widman Immigration Law Firm LLC, focuses on assisting families with immigrant visas, adjustment of status, citizenship, fiance visas, and waivers. We are located in the Pearl District of Portland and are a six minute walk from the Portland USCIS office.

We are seeking to hire a full time associate attorney with 3+ years of immigration law experience to start on 08/01/2017.


Provide direct representation to clients in family-based cases;

Provide direct representation to clients in removal proceedings;

Work closely with the firm’s legal assistants;

Perform standard administrative and reporting tasks for case management;


Law degree and admission to bar of any state in the U.S. (with at least a concrete plan to take the Oregon state bar as needed);

At least three years of experience practicing immigration law within a family or removal context;

Superb interpersonal skills and track record of getting along well with colleagues and clients;

Excellent written and communication skills;

Fluency in Spanish is a big plus but not required;


Salary will be commission-based for work completed and fees received from clients;

Monthly stipend for health and dental insurance;

401K with company match;

Flexibility in regards to working from home and taking time off;

Window office in Pearl West building;

TO APPLY: Please send cover letter, resume and references to with the subject “Associate Attorney Application”. In your cover letter please note what would be your earliest start date.

After interviewing a throng of excellent immigration lawyer candidates, we are thrilled that Erin Wasley agreed to join Passage Immigration Law, formerly Widman Immigration law.

Erin is remarkable in many ways. She is super smart and not only graduated magna cum laude (which is latin for “don’t mess with me, I’ll melt you like magma”) but was invited into the elite “Phi Betta Kappa” club at her university (which is even harder to get than the magma-melting certification). Read about more of these details here.

Besides being an accomplished scholar and excellent lawyer, what we love most about Erin is simply how kind and reliable she is. While some attorneys have a well-deserved reputation for being unpleasant, Erin goes out of her way to be helpful and friendly and she always follows through. She also appears unfazed when crazy things happen, which occurs from time to time in the legal world. After all, it has been said that handling immigration cases for clients is like juggling flaming chainsaws. Erin has already started juggling these at our firm like the pro she is.

Welcome Erin!

For quite some time, we have wanted to choose a name for our law firm that gets the focus off our founding attorney (though he is a good guy) and puts it squarely upon our clients and their hopes and concerns.

Finding a good name, however, is rather tricky and it took us a long time to come across our new choice. We are very happy with the final result and would like to introduce you to: Passage Immigration Law.

We opted for “Passage Immigration” because it focuses upon the big changes that happen when a person moves from one country to another. Not only do immigrants have to deal with changing their physical location, they also have to navigate a confusing legal bureaucracy. At our law firm we want you to pass smoothly from another country into the U.S., but we also want you to pass from confusion into clarity. We want this passage to be from your current state of uncertainty and frustration into a state of confidence, enlightenment, and happiness pure and simple!

As we worked through our name options, our friends and family got tired of having us constantly ask them for input. But they knew if we chose a weak, ridiculous, or simply lame name, our whole law firm might go down in flames. So they dutifully answered our questions over email, text and in person, and helped us avoid potential disasters like Voyage, Roost, Perch, Skyjet, or Move Immigration Law…

We are excited to share this change with you and we wouldn’t be where we are today without your support. Please definitely get in touch if we can assist you or your family members with anything. Feel free to set up a consult here or give us a call.

Passage Immigration Law is slowly but surely expanding our ability to help our neighbors. We recently opened up a satellite office just across the river in the great State of Washington. We opted to open our new office in the lovely hamlet of Vancouver Washington since it will save many clients the time they otherwise would have had to spend fighting traffic on the bridge and highway 5.

With locations now in two different states some people might be wondering if that means we are restricted to practicing law in just those states. Actually, we are able to give legal advice and represent clients in any state in the US and around the world. (This is because US immigration law is a “federal” or national practice area rather than an area of Law based on state rules. Thus the same federal immigration rules are in place in every single state). We have in fact already been helping clients all over the place for many years now and look forward to continuing to do so.

We also understand however that it’s very hard to beat in-person meetings with the great people we get to work with. Therefore we plan to continue opening up satellite offices throughout Oregon, Washington, and eventually into California, where Erick and Ahmed grew up. In fact, we would love to have an international presence eventually too. Having an office in Budapest, Hungary would allow us to easily assist Erick’s wife’s fellow citizens with their temporary and permanent immigration challenges. Budapest is indeed one of the world’s greatest cities too – very exciting!… 😉

But first things first. We look forward to working more and more with the fine residents of Vancouver Canada. Give us a call and we will set up a time to meet you there. (Those of you in Vancouver Canada, however, will simply need to call us for help for now…. 😉

We are a lucky immigration law firm because we had an exceptional new employee join us last month. His name is Ahmed Mousa and he packs an impressive resume. He grew up in Southern California and in between skateboarding and playing water polo he got great grades and an undergraduate degree from UC Santa Barbara.

He spent a year studying abroad in Egypt and mastered Arabic during that time. Ahmed then earned his masters degree at the Middlebury Institute in Monterey, California, with a focus upon international relations and terrorism.

After graduating from grad school, Ahmed continued his adventurous ways and took a job with a US immigration law firm based in Djibouti. He handled the immigrant visa petitions and interview prep process for applicants from both Yemen and Djibouti.

We have put Ahmed’s considerable skills to good use in our firm and he is serving as our client relations and operations manager.

You are definitely going to enjoy getting to know Ahmed. You’ll immediately be impressed by his energy, optimism, and positive attitude. Say hello to him online on Facebook or Instagram.