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Filipina celebrates immigration victory USCIS forgives questionable visa

Lolita Herrera is all smiles after her lawyer (left), Atty. Paul Choi helped her get her green card despite some questionable issues on her application.

LOLITA HERRERA is one lucky lady.  After waiting over eighteen years, she nervously opened an envelope marked Confidential from the USCIS only to see her own smiling face looking back at her from a newly minted lawful permanent resident card.  Pangs of nervousness and fear turned to elation and unbelievable joy and relief.

“I thought because of the way I entered the U.S. many years ago that I would never receive my greencard.  Opening the mail to see my permanent resident card was one of the best experiences of my life. I am still in shock.”

Ms. Herrera, who now goes by the name of Lolita Ellis, came to the U.S. from Sta. Cruz, Manila, as a tourist in 1993, but like so many other young Filipinas she had a terrible time securing a visitor visa at the U.S. Embassy.  She met an acquaintance who promised he could help her get a visa to the U.S.  Relying on his promises, Lolita secured  the treasured tourist visa only to discover that it was issued in another name.  The passport bore her true photo, but her name on the passport and the new visa inside was now different.

Lolita entered the U.S. in 1993 with her new name and proceeded to start a new life here.  When she went to see immigration attorneys and told them about her visa issues and her new identity, every lawyer told her she would never see the day when she would be a legal resident.

In  2003,  Lolita met her husband, a bright, intelligent and considerate gentleman who was born in the U.S. and worked as a teacher.  The two fell in love and wed in 2004. Her husband eagerly wished to petition his new bride to have her be a resident but when faced with the issues about Lolita’s entry into the U.S. Every attorney the couple saw warned them that their case was doomed to failure.  Attorneys said, “assumed name, no greencard.”

In late 2010, Lolita was referred to attorney Paul Choi in Encino, California, a young immigration attorney who had a reputation for being creative and successful.  She learned that Philip Abramowitz, whom many friends had told her about, worked with Paul Choi as his administrator.  She went to visit the firm thinking that they would tell her the same thing all other attorneys have said: “no  way you can win.”  However, this time things were different.

Paul Choi she soon discovered was young, fresh and eager to win.  He told her that he had great success in similar cases with clients who had entered with different names and that he could help her as well. He told her that he could not give her a guarantee but based upon her strong marriage and ties to the U.S., and her husband’s past battles with cancer, he could prepare a very strong case to have her greencard approved.  Lolita had some reservations but decided upon her husband’s prompting to take a chance on Mr. Choi.

Within just a few months, the couple received an interview notice from the USCIS and during the ensuring interview the examiner questioned Lolita about her entry.  The officer immediately caught the problem and Lolita’s heart sank.  Paul Choi calmed her down and said to the officer, “we will file a waiver to erase any issue about her entry,” and the officer agreed.

Paul Choi and his staff worked diligently with Lolita and her husband and crafted a very compelling application to waive or forgive Lolita’s past problem.  The finished application contained dozens of pages, affidavits, photos, financial documents and legal arguments.  Choi warned the couple that these applications can take months or even a year or more to be adjudicated by the USCIS.

Anxiously waiting for word from the USCIS or her attorney, Lolita sheepishly opened the mail each day hoping to find word from the USCIS.  When she finally saw a letter on the familiar government stationery her heart stopped. This was the moment of truth, she wondered.  Opening the envelope to find her new greencard brought tears of joy to her eyes and a new lifetime of happiness.

Lolita told the Balita “I had given up hope of ever getting my permanent residence. That is until I met Paul Choi.  He and Phil Abramowitz were very nice to me and Paul assured me that he would work hard to help me. I did not believe him at first but in my heart I had faith in him.  This is the best gift I could have. I can now visit my family in the Philippines that I have not seen in almost twenty years. I can never forget Paul for the new life he has given me.”

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