Sunday, November 30, 2014

President's Action on Immigration - No procedure yet - don't get ripped off

US Citizenship and Immigration Services has issued this notice:

"Important notice: These initiatives have not yet been implemented, and USCIS is not accepting any requests or applications at this time. Beware of anyone who offers to help you submit an application or a request for any of these actions before they are available. You could become a victim of an immigration scam. Subscribe to this page to get updates when new information is posted."
Immigrants need to understand there are other people in their own community waiting to take advantage of undocumented immigrants desperate to gain legal status in the US. The Philadelphia area has many questionable and illegal immigration offices, advisors and attorneys offering bogus services to unknowing immigrants. Local organizations are specifically working to protect the community from "Notarios."
The Friends of Farmworkers  ( working with AILA set up this website to inform our community and help stop immigration fraud. Their website "Stop Notario Fraud!" states:
"Notarios are not lawyers. They also are not valid accredited representatives approved by the U.S. government. Often, they use the term “notario publico” to advertise their services in the Hispanic community. That title is not recognized in the United States as it is in some Latin American countries.

While many legitimate community and religious organizations provide immigration-related services, non-lawyers who advertise as legal “consultants” or “notarios publicos” are not authorized or qualified to help with immigration law-related matters.

These notarios often take advantage of people from their own ethnic community. Some attempt to provide legal service, but are not competent. Still others will take your money without ever intending to file your documents or help you in any way.

¿Quiénes son los “notarios”?
Los notarios no son abogados ni representantes acreditados válidos autorizados por el gobierno de los Estados Unidos. A menudo utilizan el término “notario público” para publicitar sus servicios en la comunidad hispana, Este título no está reconocido en los Estados Unidos como lo está en los países de América Latina.

Mientras que muchas organizaciones religiosas y comunitarias legítimas prestan servicios relacionados con la inmigración, las personas que no son abogados y que se publicitan como “consultores legales” o “notarios públicos” no están autorizadas ni calificadas para ayudar en asuntos relacionados con las leyes de inmigración.

Estos notarios muchas veces se aprovechan de personas de su propia comunidad étnica. Algunos intentan brindar servicios legales, pero no son competentes. Aún así, otros tomarán su dinero sin siquiera intentar presentar sus documentos ni ayudarlo de alguna manera. ¡No permita que lo perjudiquen a usted ni a su familia!

Załatwiacze nie są adwokatami. Nie są również uznanymi akredytowanymi zastępcami prawnymi z uprawnieniami od rządu federalnego USA. Używają oni często określenia “notariusz publiczny”, dla reklamy swych usług w środowisku latynoskim. Tytuł taki nie jest uznawany w USA na równi z uznaniem w niektórych krajach Ameryki Łaci ńskiej.

Mimo, że usługi w sprawach imigracyjnych bywają świadczone przez uznane instytucje religijne i socjalne, nie-adwokaci reklamujący się jako “konsultanci” w sprawach prawnych, czy też “załatwiacze” nie posiadają upoważnie ń do udzielania porad w kwestiach prawnych.

Osoby takie często wyzyskują innych w swoim środowisku narodowościowym. Niektóre z nich faktycznie starają się służyć poradą prawną, lecz tego nie potrafią. Inni jeszcze przyjmują od klienta pieniądze, nie zamierzając nigdy nawet składać odnośnych papierów w jego imieniu, czy służyć inną pomocą. Nie daj skrzywdzić siebie ani swoich bliskich!"

This may be a life changing event for many. But the process to gain the benefit has not been established yet. It is important to continue to be patient and cautious when seeking help to apply for this new benefit. This may be the start of sweeping immigration changes in the US. Undocumented immigrants need to find reputable counsel to make sure they get the services they need. We will continue watching how this unfolds.

Learn more about my firm Medvesky Law Office, LLC at

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

School Loans are still hard (if not impossible) to discharge in Bankruptcy

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at
With all the talk in Congress about student loan debt and the idea of trying to lift the debt off the struggling former students, very little has been do to actually make it happen. Young people who come in to talk about bankruptcy are usually servicing a big chunk of school debt. While the bankruptcy code allows debtors to discharge school debt if it is causing a hardship, I haven't seen a case where the debt has reached that standard.

Parents need to keep in mind when they take out the school loans, they must meet the same standard to discharge the debt. This can become a real issue as the parents approach retirement age and their children default or fail to pay the loans the parents took or co-signed for. Parents and students need to be mindful of the loans they take.

Recently in Forbes (on-line) was an article that offered points to consider when taking school loans: "The 3 Biggest Mistakes People Make With Student Loans" It is short and gives some practical advice on school loans.

The 3 biggest mistakes, it states, are:

"Going To College "To Find Yourself"
Using That Student Loan Refund Check For Extracurricular Activities
Not Working To Minimize Student Loan Debt"

I know many parents feel compelled to pay for college as well. I always suggest to my clients that they let their children take the loans, if necessary and then, help pay them if the student successfully makes it through school. I've seen many times when kids who don't have any skin in the game goof off on their parents' money. This way, if the student blows school, it is on them to pay for their mistake.

But the bottom-line here is bad decisions about school loans can haunt a family for decades. Congress has publicly spoken about the issue but nothing has really changed.

Learn more about my firm Medvesky Law Office, LLC at

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Planning to maximize your Social Security Benefits

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at
Like many people, as I age, I think more and more about what my life is going to look like after retirement. One of the main components of retirement, I  think, is social security. I know too many people rely too heavily on this benefit but we should understand it no matter what.

I've listened to senior family members discuss Medicare, Part A and Part B coverage, the "doughnut hole" and prescription prices. But I never heard anyone talk about when to start benefits in general. I have been looking into social security myself. I know the decisions I make will impact me the rest of my retirement. I'm not close to retirement but I feel I may be starting a little late myself.  Here are a couple articles I found recently I thought might be helpful to people finding this blog:

"How Social Security works" -
"How much do you understand your Social Security Benefits"
"How Social Security raise impacts retirees" -

At some point I will seek advice from a financial professional. I know people hesitate to do this. I hesitate myself even though I know how important professional advice is and want people to come to me for related advice. I think people feel like it is an unnecessary cost, maybe a little embarrassed about how they have handled their money over their life, they can handle it themselves, they don't have enough money to warrant professional planning, etc. I have some of these feelings.

But I can tell you one thing for sure; through my practice, I know failing to plan for retirement is a harder problem to fix after you retire than it is approaching retirement. So if you haven't started thinking about, the articles listed above might be a good place to start. After your research, consider talking to a financial professional. If you don't know one, talk to friends, co-workers or other professionals you do know to refer you to someone you can trust. You can include attorney in this planning because this will lead into your estate planning as well.

NOTE: I apologize for a gap in my postings. I had major computer issues over the last week or so and all my attention has been focused on work-arounds to work and getting my computer fixed. I hope to be back on regular schedule this week. Also, I'm having issues uploading photos to this blog as well.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

New Survey of College-Educated Immigrants

The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians: IMPRINT, a national partner with the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, received funding from the Knight Foundation to conduct a pioneering survey of college-educated immigrants.

Philadelphia is one of just 6 metropolitan areas chosen to participate in the New Survey of College-Educated Immigrants. The survey is now open. The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians would truly appreciate help in sharing the below survey links far and wide.

They are looking for a broad response from college-educated immigrants of every background -- new arrivals and longtime residents, working professionals and those in "survival jobs," men and women of every race and ethnicity.

The survey deadline is December 1.  Results of this study will be publicly announced in March 2015, and posted on the IMPRINT website (

The study focuses on residents of six metropolitan areas: Boston, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia, Seattle, and San Jose, CA.

For more information-

Friday, November 7, 2014

Bankruptcy and the Affordable Care Act ... any connection?

Image courtesy of Ambro at
I have found through my career the primary reasons people are forced to file bankruptcy are medical bills, an ugly divorce, and prolonged periods of unemployment. Most of the time, I find it is a combination of these things. That doesn't mean I haven't found other reasons pushing people into bankruptcy but I have found them to be common reasons.

An assistant professor of Health Policy,  Department of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University wrote an article about the potential impact of the expansion of Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act on the rate of Bankruptcy filings - "Deaths and bankruptcies: What awaits states that don't expand Medicaid?" I'm not sure how much practical information will come from this discussion but it has caught my interest.

The researchers "... hypothesized that Medicaid coverage might allow some families to avoid bankruptcy. After all, one of the chief benefits of health insurance is that---when you really need health care---you don't have to pay for it. Perhaps, we thought, families given Medicaid coverage are less likely to get stuck with a big hospital bill, and so are less likely to end up in bankruptcy."

In the article, the author stated, "To test that hypothesis, we dug up data on the Medicaid expansions of the 1990s and early 2000s. We found that, in the years after states expanded Medicaid, fewer families declared bankruptcy. Every ten-percentage-point increase in Medicaid eligibility---typical of 1990s-era Medicaid expansions---led to an eight-percent reduction in bankruptcy rates."

Again, I agree one cause of bankruptcy can be a serious medical issue and high medical bills. It is unclear if the researchers drilled down into the dockets to see the types of debts listed in the schedules. I don't know if the researchers uncovered evidence the expansion actually reduced the number of bankruptcies with medical debt being discharged. I can see some correlation but I suspect the dramatic reduction was due to multiple factors.

The article seems to ignore the fact that the 1990's ushered in one of the longest periods of expansion in the US since WWII. The unemployment rate declined from a high of 7.5% to under 5% by the end of the decade. The second half of the decade saw growth of the GDP averaging over 4%. And I found one report that stated over 22 million jobs were created in the 1990's. The bottom-line is the economy really started to move in that decade after a sluggish start. It make sense that bankruptcy rates dropped through the 1990's for many reasons.

But my experience is explaining the cause of bankruptcy isn't this simple.  Most of the time debtors are good people who believe they will be able to get themselves out of the hole they are in and sometimes they do. Most of the time, they throw good money after bad. While I think real, affordable medical care could help many with less means, I don't believe people should look to the expansion of Medicaid to bail them out of their financial hole. If you even think you might be in over your head, talk to a bankruptcy attorney. The only thing you have to lose is your debt.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

USCIS Bulletin - Reminder for Temporary Protected Status Applicants and Re-registrants

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sent this bulletin at 11/05/2014 01:28 PM EST
You must submit biometrics if you are applying or re-registering for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and are over 14 years old. Biometrics include a photograph, signature, and/or fingerprints. USCIS will schedule an appointment for you to go to an Application Support Center (ASC) to have your biometrics electronically captured about four to eight weeks after you file
Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status.

USCIS will mail you a notice with the date, time, and location of your ASC appointment. You must wait to receive this appointment notice before going to the ASC for biometrics processing.
Biometrics are required for identity verification, background checks and the production of an Employment Authorization Document, if you are requesting one. If you do not go to your scheduled ASC appointment, you will delay the processing of your application and you could lose your TPS.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Market Watch - "... zombie foreclosures ..." up in New Jersey and "Philadelphia (5,405)"

Image courtesy of franky242 at
"Zombie foreclosures rise in 16 states and 60 metro areas"
Market Watch
Even as the economy seems to be getting better, people are still leaving their homes before the foreclosure is complete. I know most clients are just trying to do the right thing and also trying to avoid additional embarrassment by leaving their homes before the sheriff shows up. But leaving your home could be a missed opportunity to help get you back on your feet. If you stay in the house and keep it in reasonable shape, you are helping the mortgage company to some degree and saving money for yourself.

Also, it helps limit new debt. As long as you "own" the house, you remain responsible for assessments, home owners' association fees and possibly other liabilities. Don't make a bad situation worse. It pays to plan your exit from your home during these trying financial times.

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