contact form

Contact us for a free initial evaluation of your case:
 

 
    

Information

Business Law Information Center
Business law generally refers to the laws that apply to business entities, such as partnerships and corporations. Selecting the appropriate entity to form your business depends on a variety of factors. Each entity has its own advantages and disadvantages that should be examined and evaluated before making the decision to form a business. Tax consequences, management and decision-making are impacted by the type of entity you employ.

Useful Business Law Terms
Sole Proprietorship
In a sole proprietorship, a single individual undertakes all of her business activity without any formal organization. The sole proprietor alone owns the company and is responsible for its assets and liabilities.

Partnership
A partnership is a single business where two or more people share ownership. Each partner shares in contributing to the business (money, property, labor or skill). In return, each partner shares in the profits and losses of the business.
Since partnerships require cooperation and share decision-making, partnership agreements are critical in detailing how business decisions will be made, including the division of profits, resolution of disputes, change in ownership (bring in new partners or buy out current partners) and dissolution of the partnership. Although partnership agreements are not a legal requirement, they are recommended to minimize the risk of future litigation between partners. It is considered extremely risky to operate without a partnership agreement.

General partnership
A type of partnership which assumes that profits, liability and management duties are all divided equally among partners. If distributions are unequal, they must be documented in a partnership agreement.

Limited Partnerships
This type of partnership is more complex than a general partnership. Limited partnerships allow partners to have limited liability as well as limited involvement in management decisions. These limits depend on each partner's investment percentage. Limited partnerships are attractive to investors of short-term projects.

Limited Liability
Partnership In order to limit the liability of its general partners, a general or limited partnership may opt to register as a limited liability partnership. The Secretary of State provides a form for registration as a limited liability partnership.

Joint Venture
Joint ventures act as general partnership for a limited period of time or for a single project. Partners in a joint venture can be recognized as an ongoing partnership if they continue the venture, but they must file as such.

Corporation
A corporation (sometimes referred to as a C corporation) is owned by shareholders. However, the corporation, not the shareholders, is held legally liable for the actions and debts the business incurs. Advantages of a corporation include limited liability, ability to generate capital through the sale of stock, and corporate tax treatment. However, corporations are more complex than other business structures because they tend to have costly administrative fees and complex tax and legal requirements. A Texas corporation is created by filing a Certificate of Formation with the Texas Secretary of State. Directors are persons who manage the business and affairs of a corporation. However, state corporate law provides for shareholders agreements to eliminate directors and allow shareholder management. The Law Office of Aisha Khan-Sajjad can advise you in choosing the best management structure for your corporation.

S Corporation
A for-profit corporation can elect to be taxed as an S corporation by filing an election with the Internal Revenue Service. An S corporation is different from a traditional corporation (C corp) in that profits and losses can pass through to a shareholder's personal tax return. Consequently, the business is not taxed itself. Only the shareholders are taxed. There is an important caveat, however: any shareholder who works for the company must pay him or herself "reasonable compensation." Basically, the shareholder must be paid fair market value, or the IRS might reclassify any additional corporate earnings as "wages."

Limited Liability Company
A Texas limited liability company is created by filing a Certificate of Formation with the Texas Secretary of State.

The limited liability company (LLC) is an entity that has the powers of both a corporation and a partnership. The owners of an LLC are called members. A member can be an individual, partnership, corporation, trust, and any other legal or commercial entity. Generally, the liability of the members is limited to their investment and they may enjoy the pass-through tax treatment afforded to partners in a partnership. A limited liability company can be managed by managers or by its members. The management structure must be stated in the certificate of formation. Management structure is a determination that is made by the LLC and its members.

Useful Links
Texas Secretary of State Business Section http://www.sos.state.tx.us/corp/index.shtml
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts http://www.window.state.tx.us/

Contract Law Information Center

​A contract is a legally binding agreement between parties. Businesses protect themselves through legally binding contracts which define the terms and conditions of their services and procedures. Having a specific contract term can mean the difference between years of litigation or not. Further, whether the parties have a legally binding contract determines whether there is relief available to them. There are several factors to consider to determine whether a binding contract exists. Once a contract has been created, it must be determined if there are any issues concerning the contract's validity. Finally, if there has been a breach of the contract, there is a question of whether damages have occurred.

Useful Contract Law Terms
Offer
The first step to a contract is an offer. An offer is a written or spoken statement by a party of his or her intention to be held to a commitment upon the acceptance of the offer. There should be enough information contained in the statement that, if needed, a court would be able to enforce the contract or determine the damages.
Acceptance
The second requirement for a contract is acceptance of the offer. In order for an acceptance of an offer to be valid, the acceptance must be made while the offer is still open.

Consideration
Consideration is a legal concept that means something of value given in exchange for a performance or a promise to perform. Consideration can be a promise to do something there is no legal obligation to do, or a promise to not do something there is a legal right to do. Promises to exchange money, goods, or services are forms of consideration. All parties in an agreement must give consideration in order to create a contract; it is consideration that distinguishes contracts from gifts.

Useful Links
Business Organizations Code
http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/?link=BO
Information on the Business Organizations Code
http://www.sos.state.tx.us/corp/boc.shtml

Criminal Law Information Center
Pre-trial
- Bail
- Presentation
- Indictment
- Information
Trial
- Motion to Suppress
- Voir Dire
- Mistrial
- Punishment phase
- Conviction
Punishments & Probation
- Community Supervision
- Probation ('straight probation')
- Deferred Adjudication
Appeals
- Appeals
- Direct Appeal
- Appellate Courts
- Court of Criminal Appeals
Potentially Clearing Your Record
- Expunction
- Petition for Non-Disclosure
- Sealing Juvenile Records
Crimes and Punishment in Texas State Court
- First Degree Felonies
- Second Degree Felonies
- Third Degree Felonies
- State Jail Felonies
- Class A Misdemeanors
- Class B Misdemeanors
- Class C Misdemeanors

Bail
Most accused persons have a right to bail and most counties set bail amounts with a standardized schedule. However, bail may be denied in two instances: for capital murder and for repeat offenders in certain circumstances. A hearing is required to deny bail and the judge may impose conditions on a defendant released on bail, such as not being able to go within a certain proximity of the victim or to submit to elecenteronic monitoring.

Presentation
After someone has been arrested on a criminal charge, he or she must be presented to a judicial officer within 48 hours of the arrest. The judicial officer will inform the person of the charges against him, his Miranda rights, and make an initial bail determination.

Indictment
An indictment is the formal charging instrument used by most Texas courts to inform the defendant of the for felony crime he is accused of. An indictment must be voted on a by a grand jury. The grand jury consists of twelve (12) persons. To get an indictment, the prosecutor must persuade nine (9) out of the twelve (12) grand jurors that probable cause exists that the defendant is guilty. This is known as a true-bill. When the prosecutor fails to get nine votes, a 'no-bill' occurs. If the indictment is no-billed, the prosecutor can still try again. In Texas, an accused person has no right to participate in a grand jury, nor does he have the right to know that a grand jury is considering his case.

Information
An information is the formal charging instrument used by most Texas courts to inform the defendant of the misdemeanor crime he is accused of. An information does not go to a grand jury. Rather, an information must be signed by a prosecutor and supported by a sworn complaint.

Motion to Suppress
A motion to suppress may be filed before trial as a way to keep out evidence that was obtained by law enforcement in violation of a defendant's constitutional rights.

Voir Dire
Voir dire is the process of selecting a jury. A panel of people will be questioned by both sides about their background, beliefs, and biases. Each side may make an unlimited number of challenges for cause (such as bias) and a limited number preemptory (unexplained) challenges. A certain number of prospective jurors may simply struck from consideration. However, they may not be struck on the basis of race.

Jury charge
Once all the trial testimony is finished, the judge will prepare a jury charge which contains law and instructions to help the jury decide the verdict.

Mistrial
A mistrial means that the trial concluded without a decision for guilt or innocence. The judge can declare a mistrial in the event the jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict or if if one side has violated the Rules of Evidence. For example, a defendant's past criminal convictions generally cannot be mentioned during trial. If the prosecutor improperly brings up the criminal conviction, the judge may declare a mistrial. After a mistrial, the state can usually try the defendant again.

Punishment Phase
Texas has a bifurcated trial system. After the trial on guilt or innocence is conducted and if the defendant is found guilty, the next phase is punishment. The judge is the default choice to decide the sentence. However, a defendant has a right to have a jury decide the sentence. The punishment phase is just like a trial, but information that would not be allowed into evidence during the guilt-innocence phase is allowed during the punishment phase. For example, the state may prove up the defendant's prior criminal record, put on witnesses to testify about the defendant's character, or try to prove that the defendant committed other bad acts.

Conviction
A conviction generally means a finding of guilt.

Community Supervision
In community supervision, a defendant is allowed by the judge to stay in the community and be supervised by the court rather than being punished through incarceration in a jail or prison. The supervision term can be up to two years for misdemeanor and up to ten years for a felony. The judge may impose certain conditions on the community supervision, such as drug testing, an employment requirement, and/or participation in community service. A person cannot pick up another offense while on community supervision. Violation of the community supervision terms may result in revocation of probation and incarceration.

There are three major differences between deferred adjudication and regular community supervision:
1) A regular community supervision usually results in a conviction and thus can never be sealed or expunged
2) Regular community supervision is usually a punishment option if a person elects to have a jury trial
3) If regular community supervision is revoked, the maximum punishment is usually not the statutory maximum. The maximum jail or prison term will already be set at the time of the plea.
 
Probation
In Texas, probation is called community supervision. There are two types of community supervision in our state deferred adjudication and regular community supervision. Probation results in a final conviction that can never be expunged.

Deferred Adjudication
Deferred adjudication is usually offered to first time offenders. It is typically a better deal than regular community supervision because if a person finishes the term successfully, the person does not have a conviction in the criminal law context. If a person on deferred adjudication does not comply with the conditions of his community supervision, the judge can revoke community supervision and sentence the person to any term in the statutory range of punishment, but after a hearing. A deferred sentence will still be on your criminal history after you complete the probation period. However, a successfully completed deferred adjudication often can be sealed from public view with a non-disclosure. To erase the criminal record and be able to deny the arrest, you must file a petition for Non- Disclosure. Some deferred sentences are ineligible for Non-Disclosure and can never be sealed, such as crimes involving family violence. Additionally, some offenses require a waiting period before the petition for non- disclosure can be filed.

Appeals
There are strict deadlines for filing a direct appeal. You must give formal notice to the trial court of your intent to appeal within thirty days (30) of receiving your sentence. A motion for new trial expands the deadline to ninety days. A motion for new trial must be filed within thirty days of the sentence. While your appeal is pending, you are eligible for an appeal bond if your sentence was less than ten years and not for an aggravated felony

Appellate Courts
There are fourteen (14) courts of appeals in Texas. An appeal from a trial court will go to one of them depending on your region. Houston has two courts of appeals. If you lose at the Court of Appeals, you may appeal to the highest court in the state the Court of Criminal Appeals. If you lose at the Court of Criminal Appeals and your case contains a federal question, you may appeal the United States Supreme Court.

Court of Criminal Appeals
If you lose at the Court of Appeals, you may appeal to the highest court in the state the Court of Criminal Appeals. Such an appeal is known as a petition for discretionary review. Direct Appeal A direct appeal is requesting the Court of Appeals to overturn your sentence because of a legal error made by the judge during your trial. Objections to the error must be preserved in the trial record in order to raise them upon direct appeal.

Expunction
Texas law allows you the opportunity to clear an adult criminal record and deny the arrest and prosecution, under certain circumstances. You can have arrest and/or prosecution records expunged in the following circumstances: if you were arrested, but charges were dismissed; if you were tried and found not-guilty; if the court dismissed the charges against you; you were pardoned; if you appeal your conviction and are acquitted by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals; if you have been the victim of identity theft. Final convictions and straight probation cannot be erased from a criminal record. If your record is expunged, you may deny that you were arrested or prosecuted on employment, mortgage, college and other applications to private entities. If granted an expunction, criminal justice agencies will cease to release your criminal record. However, there are a few exceptions stated in the law. Law enforcement agencies will have access to the information as will certain other government entities. If you are ineligible for an expunction, the only other two to clear your record are winning a pardon from the governor or president or filing a writ of Habeas Corpus.

Petition for Non-Disclosure
The only way (other than an expunction) to clear an adult criminal record in Texas is called a petition for Non-Disclosure. This is only available to those who have successfully completed deferred adjudication probation. Felonies and misdemeanors have different time periods that need to elapse before a petition for non-disclosure can be filed. A person who completes deferred adjudication probation and wins a petition for non-disclosure can have the offense record sealed. This means that criminal justice agencies will not be allowed to disclose information about the offense. Furthermore, he/she may deny the arrest (except in a future criminal prosecution) or the existence of an expunction order. The law still allows for certain government agencies to obtain information about the offense. Non-disclosure orders do not apply in a few other limited instances, such as an application to be a school nurse, teacher, lawyer or in adoption applications.

Sealing Juvenile Records
In Texas, a juvenile is ten (10) to sixteen (16) years old. An adult is seventeen and older. Expunction and non- disclosure are the two main mechanisms to clear an offense that occurred as an adult. Juvenile records are sealed. When a juvenile record is sealed, all of the records are destroyed except the court file which is kept by the court clerk. Any mention of the record in computer or paper indices is removed. The judge shall immediately seal a record when a juvenile is found not guilty after a trial. When a juvenile's records have been sealed, he is allowed to deny the arrest, even in a subsequent criminal proceeding.

Crimes and Punishment in Texas State Court
  • First Degree Felonies
  • Second Degree Felonies
  • Third Degree Felonies
  • State Jail Felonies
  • Class A Misdemeanors
  • Class B Misdemeanors
  • Class C Misdemeanors

 

First Degree Felonies
- Confinement for life or from five to ninety-nine years and a possible fine not to exceed $10,000
- Possibility of community supervision
Examples:
Aggravated assault of public servant
Aggravated kidnapping
Aggravated robbery
Aggravated sexual assault
Attempted capital murder
Arson of habitation
Burglary of a habitation with intent to commit or commission of a felony
Causing serious bodily injury to child, senior citizen, or disabled person
Escape from custody (if serious bodily injury occurs) Murder
Solicitation of capital murder
Trafficking of persons under the age of fourteen

Second Degree Felonies
- Two to twenty years in prison and possible fine not exceed $10,000 - Possibility of community supervision
Examples:
Aggravated assault
Arson
Bigamy
Bribery
Evading arrest (and death of another occurs)
Improper relationship between educator and student
Indecent contact with a child
Intoxication manslaughter
Manslaughter
Online solicitation of a minor under fourteen
Possession of fifty to 2000 pounds of marijuana
Robbery
Sexual assault
Stalking-second offense
Trafficking of persons

Third Degree Felonies
- Two to ten years in prison and possible fine not to exceed $10,000
- Possibility of community supervision
Examples:
Aggravated perjury
Bail jumping of a felony arrest
Deadly conduct with a firearm
Escape from felony custody
Indecent exposure to a child
Intoxication assault
Possession of a firearm by a felon
Retaliation
Stalking
DWI (third offense)
Tampering with evidence
Violation of protective order (third offense)

State Jail Felonies
- 180 days to two years in a state jail and possible fine not to exceed $10,000
- Possibility of community supervision - Possibility of punishment as Class A misdemeanor
Examples:
Burglary of a building
Coercing a minor to join a gang by threatening violence
Credit card abuse
Criminally negligent homicide
Criminal nonsupport
Cruelty to animals
DWI with child passenger
Evading arrest in a vehicle
False alarm or report
Forgery of a check
Fraudulent use or possession of identifying information
Improper photography or visual recording
Interference of child custody
Possession of less than one gram of a controlled substance
Theft of something valued between $1500 and $20,000
Unauthorized use of a vehicle

Class A Misdemeanors
- Up to one year in the county jail and/or a fine not to exceed $4000.
- Up to two years of community supervision or three years with an extension
Examples:
Assault with bodily injury
Bail jumping of misdemeanor offense
Burglary of coin operated machine
Burglary of a vehicle
Cruelty to animals
DWI (2nd offense)
Escape from misdemeanor custody
Evading arrest on foot
Interference with 911 call
Obscenity
Perjury
Possession of two to four ounces of marijuana
Promoting gambling
Public lewdness
Resisting arrest
Stealing check
Unlawfully carrying a weapon
Violation of protective order

Class B Misdemeanors
- Up to 180 days in the county jail and/or fine not to exceed $2000
- Up to two years of community supervision or three years with an extension
Examples:
Criminal Trespass
DWI
False report to police officer
Fraudulent degree
Harassment
Indecent exposure
Possession of 2 ounces or less of marijuana
Prostitution
Riot
Silent Calls to 911
Terroristic threat

Class C Misdemeanors
- Fine not to exceed $500
Examples:
Assault by threat
Disorderly conduct
Gambling
Issuance of bad check
Leaving child in a vehicle
Minor in possession of alcohol
Possession of alcoholic beverage in motor vehicle
Public intoxication
Use of Laser pointers

Useful Links
http://www.constitution.legis.state.tx.us/

Family Law Information Center
Family cases comprise of the following types of cases: divorce, custody, modifications of orders, such as child support, custody and visitation arrangements. In Texas, it takes a minimum of 60 days to get a divorce, however, this period can be prolonged due to other matters intertwined in the divorce process. These matters may involve custody and conservatorship, marital property, spousal support, or just bitterness preventing the parties from negotiating a compromise.

Useful Family Law Terms
Alimony (Spousal Maintenance)
Although actually awarded in only a small percentage of Texas divorces, the court has the right to order one spouse to pay the other post-divorce maintenance if certain criteria are met.

Child Support
Parents in Texas must support their child until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs first. The parents may stop providing support if the child gets married or dies. The Texas Family Code has child support guidelines which recommend that the non-custodial parent pay a certain percentage of his or her net resources in child support. The court calculates the appropriate amount of support from each parent by looking at statutory guidelines

Conservatorship
In Texas, the terminology for �custody� is �conservatorship.� Conservatorship can be joint or sole. The determination is based on the best interest of the child. The court will do its best to ensure that parents share in the rights and duties of raising their child together. However, if there is a history of family violence or abuse in the home, then the court may award the abusive parent visitation only if it finds that the child would not be endangered or if there are orders for the protection of the child. The parents may make an agreement for child custody outside of court, but it�s subject to the court�s approval.

Community Property
Community property is all property (including income) other than separate property which has been acquired by either spouse during the marriage.
Community or Separate
In Texas, all property owned at the time a divorce is filed is presumed to be community property. Often the parties are in dispute on whether the nature of the property is community or separate because separate property is not part of the marital estate and cannot be divided by the court.

Divorce
Texas is a no-fault divorce state which means that it is not necessary to show that either party was at fault in order to obtain a divorce. It is only necessary to show that there is marital discord and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation. However, many fault issues (adultery, cruelty, etc.) are frequently relevant factors in divorce cases because they can have an impact on how the community property is divided, or how custody is decided.

Division of Property
Texas is a community property state. This means that at the time of divorce, the judge will divide the marital property equally between the two spouses, considering the rights of the spouses and any children of the marriage. The spouses may have separate property, which is not subject to division at divorce, but remains the property of the spouse who owns it. Generally, each spouse is entitled to fifty percent of all community property upon divorce. However, courts can award a disproportionate share of property to a spouse due to the other spouses fault in the breakup of the marriage. We will help you determine if fault is a factor in your divorce.

Modification
Under Texas law, there are limited circumstances in which a parent can modify a child custody or visitation order. Such a change will be made by the court if it is in the best interests of the child, and: the circumstances of the child or parent have materially and substantially changed since the original child custody order or agreement, the child is at least 12 years old and has told the court in chambers that the child wants a change, or the custodial parent has voluntarily given the child's care and custody to another person.

Marital Estate
The Marital Estate is all property owned by the spouses including separate property and community property. Separate Property A spouse's separate property consists of property owned by that spouse prior to the marriage. It also includes gifts or inheritance acquired after the marriage, proceeds from a will and can also include awards received for person injury claims (with certain exceptions).

Standard Possession Order (Visitation Schedule)
The Standard Possession Order is a detailed statute that sets forth the visitation schedule if the parents do not otherwise agree. Most divorces involving children name one parent as the primary Joint Managing Conservator and grant the other parent (also a Joint Managing Conservator) "Standard Possession Order" visitation. The visitation schedule is detailed in Texas Family Code Section 153.312.

Temporary Orders
Temporary orders lay down the ground rules until the divorce is final. Temporary orders are issued by a court, after either a hearing or an agreement by the parties. They are also often referred to as "band aid" orders and can be very effective in testing the waters to see how well the parties cooperate. Temporary orders commonly address issues such as child support, custody and visitation of the children, exclusive use of the marital residence, exclusive use of vehicles, alimony, and interim attorney�s fees.

Useful Links
Texas Attorney General Child Support Division https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cs/index.shtml
Texas Family Code Chapter 153 http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/FA/htm/FA.153.htm


Immigration Law Information Center

​​Immigration law and policy has largely circulated around family-reunification and attracting qualified workers to the United States as well as protecting refugees. Federal immigration law serves as the gatekeeper for entry across U.S. borders, and determines who may enter, how long they may stay, and when they must leave. The Department of Homeland Security, through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), provides immigration benefits to people who are entitled to stay in the U.S. on a temporary or permanent basis. These benefits include: granting of U.S. citizenship to those who are eligible to naturalize; authorizing individuals to reside in the U.S. on a permanent basis; and providing aliens with the eligibility to work in the United States.

Useful Immigration Concepts

The Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) governs current immigration policy and provides for an annual worldwide limit of 675,000 permanent immigrants, with certain exceptions for close family members. Congress and the President determine a separate number for refugees...

Family Reunification

Family Based Immigration The family-based immigration category allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (to petition for certain family members to be admitted to the United States. There are 480,000 family-based visas available every year. Family-based immigrants are admitted to the U.S. either as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or through the family preference system. There is no numerical limit on visas available for immediate relatives, but petitioners must meet certain age and financial requirements. Immediate relatives are spouses of U.S. citizens, unmarried minor children of U.S. citizens (under 21 years old), and parents of U.S. citizens (petitioner must be at least 21 years old to petition for a parent). In order to be admitted through the family preference system, a U.S. citizen or LPR sponsor must petition for an individual relative (and establish the legitimacy of the relationship), meet minimum income requirements, and sign an affidavit of support stating that they will be financially responsible for their family member(s) upon arrival in the United States.

Employment-Based Immigration

Temporary Visas The United States provides various ways for immigrants with valuable skills to come to the United States on either a permanent or a temporary basis. There are more than 20 types of visas for temporary nonimmigrant workers. These include a variety of H visas for both highly-skilled and lesser-skilled employment, O visas for workers of extraordinary ability, L visas for intracompany transfers, and P visas for athletes, entertainers and skilled performers.

Permanent Immigration

Permanent employment-based immigration is set at a rate of 140,000 visas per year, and these are divided into 5 preferences offered to persons of extraordinary ability, members of the professions holding advanced degrees, or persons of exceptional abilities, certain skilled and unskilled workers, special immigrants, including religious workers, and investors.

Country-specific numerical limits

To maintain the fairness in availability of immigration to the United States, the INA limits the number of immigrants to the United States from any one country, in addition to limitations on the various preference categories. Currently, no group of permanent immigrants (family- based and employment-based) from a single country can exceed 7% of the total amount of people immigrating to the United States in a single year.

Refugees & Asylees

There are several categories of legal admission available to people who are fleeing persecution or are unable to return to their homeland due to life-threatening or extraordinary conditions. Refugees are admitted to the United States based upon an inability to return to their home countries because of a �well-founded fear of persecution� due to their race, membership in a social group, political opinion, religion, or national origin. Each year the President, in consultation with Congress, determines the numerical ceiling for refugee admissions. The total limit is broken down into  limits for each region of the world as well.

Useful Immigration Terms
Asylum
Persons already in the United States who were persecuted or fear persecution upon their return may apply for asylum within the United States or at a port of entry at the time they seek admission. They must petition within one year of arriving in the U.S. There is no limit on the number of individuals who may be granted asylum in a given year nor are there specific categories for determining who may seek asylum.
- ​Refugees and asylees are eligible to become Lawful Permanent Residents one year after admission to the United States as a refugee or one year after receiving asylum.

Citizenship
In order to qualify for U.S. citizenship through naturalization, an individual must have had Lawful Permanent Resident status (a green card) for at least 5 years (or 3 years if he or she obtained the green card through a U.S.-citizen spouse or through the Violence Against Women Act, VAWA). There are other exceptions for members of the U.S. military who serve in a time of war or declared hostilities. Applicants for U.S. citizenship must be at least 18 years old, demonstrate continuous residency, demonstrate �good moral character,� pass English and U.S. history and civics exams, and pay an application fee, among other requirements.

Citizenship & Naturalization
If you are not a citizen by birth, you can apply for citizenship after a number of years of being a Legal Permanent Resident. There are a number of benefits to US citizenship. However, there can be roadblocks in naturalization process if certain requirements are not met. This includes the physical presence, good moral character, and the education requirements. Certain exceptions may apply depending on your age or a disability or impairment.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that children who were brought to the U.S. illegally at a young age are eligible for this process if they meet certain requirements. They may request consideration of deferred action which delays deportation (up to 2 years) and provides work authorization in the U.S.

DREAM Act

EB-5 Immigrant Investor 

Diversity Visa Lottery
The Diversity Visa lottery was created by the Immigration Act of 1990 as a dedicated channel for immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Each year 55,000 visas are allocated randomly to nationals from countries that have sent less than 50,000 immigrants to the United States in the previous 5 years. Eligibility requires that an immigrant have a high-school education (or its equivalent) or at least two years of working experience in a profession which requires at least two years of training or experience (within the past five year period). A computer-generated random lottery drawing chooses selectees for diversity visas. The visas are distributed among six geographic regions with a greater number of visas going to regions with lower rates of immigration, and with no visas going to nationals of countries sending more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. over the last five years. According to the last Visa Bulletin in fiscal year 2014, the majority of Diversity Visas will go to aspiring immigrants from African countries.

Employment Authorization Document (EAD Card)
Immigrant workers must obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) before applying for work in the U.S. This document proves their eligibility to work in the United States.

Employment Based Immigration
Foreign nationals immigrate to the U.S. by the thousands for work-related purposes. There are five types of visas available depending on the workers' abilities and skills, most of which require employment authorization and employer sponsorship.

Family Based Immigration
Any U.S. citizen or permanent resident who desires to have their family immigrate to join them in the States must sponsor them. This allows family members to join them while their visa is pending. Any family members who are not immediate relatives, such as fianc�s, also apply for certain family visas.

Humanitarian Relief
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is granted to people who are in the United States but cannot return to their home country because of �natural disaster,� �extraordinary temporary conditions,� or �ongoing armed conflict.� TPS is granted to a country for six, 12, or 18 months and can be extended beyond that if unsafe conditions in the country persist.

Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) provides protection from deportation for individuals whose home countries are unstable, therefore making return dangerous. Unlike TPS, which is authorized by statute, DED is at the discretion of the executive branch.

Certain individuals may be allowed to enter the U.S. through parole, even though he or she may not meet the definition of a refugee and may not be eligible to immigrate through other channels. Parolees may be admitted temporarily for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.

Green Card (LPR)
Immigrant Visas
International Adoptions
LPR
Non-Immigrant Visas Types of Visas
- Temporary Work Visas
Removal of Conditions on Residence (I-751)
Removal Proceedings
Self-Petitions
Waivers
- Extreme Hardship
- Stateside Waiver Processing
- VAWA

Useful Links

Visa Bulletin

Asylum
Asylum must be applied for within one year of arrival to the U.S.



Wills & Probate Information Center
​There are specific legal requirements to executing a valid will​. ​In the absence of a will or a valid will, ​Texas intestacy statute will be followed to distribute your estate. If your loved one had a Last Will and Testament at the time of death, the probate process is the court-supervised process to authenticate that Will and review it for its validity. Through the probate process, the decedents assets will be located and valued; the decedent's final bills will be paid, such as estate taxes and/or inheritance taxes (if any); and any remaining assets will be distributed to the decedent's heirs. The process requires an application to probate the will and seek letters of testamentary, preparing proof of death and oath documents and setting and attending a hearing to probate the will. The probate process is straight-forward, so long as the Will is uncontested.

Useful Wills & Probate Terms
Decedent
An individual who has died. A decedent's estate is the real and personal property that an individual owns at the time of his or her death.

Testator
A testator is a person who makes a valid will. A testator must be of sound mind when making a will. To ensure that a testator is of sound mind, states require that the signing of a will be witnessed by multiple persons. A testator also should be making the will without duress and free of coercion from other persons. If the testator is not acting of her own free will in consenting to the terms of the will, a court may later void all or part of it.

Intestate
A person who dies without having made a will is said to have died intestate. The person may have failed to write a will or his will may be in valid.

Executor of Estate
An executor is entrusted with responsibility for winding up the decedent�s estate while protecting his property until all debts and taxes have been paid, and distributing all remaining property and assets to rightful heirs. The law does not require an executor to be a legal or financial expert, but it does require that he honor his fiduciary duty, the highest degree of honesty, impartiality, and diligence. The duties of an executor include: locate and manage assets and distribute to heirs; file the will (if any) in the local probate court and handle day-to-day issues such as giving notification of the death, setting up an estate bank account and utilizing estate funds to pay continuing expenses, debts, taxes, file the final income tax return (for large estates) and overall supervise the distribution of property and assets in the estate. The executor is also charged with making certain decisions for the benefit of the decedent�s estate, such as deciding whether to sell real estate or securities owned by the deceased person.

Self-Proved Wills
Proving a will can be problematic. It is necessary to locate one of the witnesses to testify in probate court to prove a will. If the witness resides in another country or state, his testimony must be secured deposition. If neither of the witnesses to the will can be located or are dead, it is necessary to prove the will by signature. To eliminate these types of problems, Texas allows for proof of a will by a self-proving affidavit, a sworn statement notarized by a notary public. The self-proving affidavit can be inserted at the bottom of the will to be signed by testator and witnesses.

Fiduciary duty
The duty to act with scrupulous good faith and honesty on behalf of someone else. It is the highest degree of honesty, impartiality, and diligence.

Texas Last Will and Testament
A will is a legal document that instructs how you want your property to be distributed when you die. In addition to allocating your property and assets in your will, you can also designate a legal guardian for your minor children, designate the executor of your will, name the trustee of any trusts you create, and even give instruction on your funeral arrangements. Without a valid will, Texas intestacy laws will operate and divide your property and assets according to a predetermined formula that you may not agree with. Also, if you do not appoint a guardian for your minor children, your children will be appointed a guardian by a Texas probate court judge.

Texas Durable Power of Attorney
Executing a Durable Power of Attorney allows you to appoint an agent to manage your affairs in the event that you are unable to. This allows your agent to manage your taxes, investments and bills. The agent will have the same authority to act as yourself, unless you place limits on his or her authority. If you become incapacitated and do not have a statutory durable power of attorney in place, a court-ordered guardianship may be necessary. You can avoid a costly guardianship proceeding by creating a power of attorney on your behalf.

Texas Medical Power of Attorney
A Medical Power of Attorney is a document that allows you to designate an agent, someone you trust, to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapable of making medical decisions for yourself. The Medical Power of Attorney becomes effective when your physician certifies that you lack the competency to make decisions on your behalf. Your agent is under a duty to follow the instructions that you specify in the power of attorney (or Directive to Physicians, Family or Surrogates). Unless you place limitations on your agent's decision-making authority, your agent has the same authority to make healthcare decisions as you would have if you were able.

HIPAA Authorization
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), is a Federal law that limits who your health information can be shared with. The federal government has strict penalties for violators, so medical providers are hesitant to share medical information with anyone but the patient. A HIPAA authorization allows you to authorize an individual your trust to be given access to your medical and health information.

Texas Medical Directive to Physicians
A directive to physicians, also known as a living will, is a document that allows you to communicate your wishes regarding your medical treatment in the event that you are unable to communicate, due to an illness or injury. You can specify the types of life-sustaining treatment (e.g. respirators, feeding tubes etc.) that you would like to receive if you develop a terminal or irreversible medical condition. In the alternative, you may instruct your physicians not to use artificial methods to extend your life in the event you are diagnosed with a terminal or irreversible condition, if you choose.

Out-of-Hospital Do-Not-Resuscitate Order
An Out-of-Hospital Do-Not-Resuscitate Order, allows you to refuse life-sustaining treatments (i.e. CPR or defibrillation) in non-hospital settings, such as physicians' offices, clinics and hospital emergency rooms. Guardianship If you have minor children and you and your spouse die before the children become adults, then a judge in probate court will decide who will get custody of your children and who will manage their inheritance until they reach the age of 18. Through your Last Will & Testament, you can designate a Guardian for your children in the event you and your spouse have both passed and or become incapacitated. You may also voice who you would not like to be given guardianship of your minor children.

Probate
Probate is the court-supervised process of reviewing the validity of a Will, after which the decedent's assets are located and valued; final bills paid; and remaining assets distributed to decedent's heirs. The process requires an application to probate the will and seek letters of testamentary, preparing proof of death and oath documents and setting and attending a hearing to probate the will.

Trusts
Trusts can serve many uses and can be utilized for many special purposes, including tax planning wills, but even the simplest of wills and the most modest estates may contain trusts.

Useful Links
http://www.constitution.legis.state.tx.us/