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Permanent residency possible for those with advanced degrees

A U.S. appeals court in New York overturned a lower court's decision to deport a Nigerian citizen enrolled in a Ph.D. program with a prior criminal record. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Board of Immigration Appeals was wrong when it decided that the man's earlier crime of processing bad checks was an aggravated felony. The three-judge panel decided that his earlier crime did not merit deportation for the U.S. permanent resident.

For the last two years, while awaiting the final appellate court's decision, the Nigerian U.S. permanent resident since married his girlfriend, found employment with an information technology corporation and was accepted as a fellow in a Ph.D. program. There are four categories for granting permanent residence to foreign nationals based upon employment including professionals with advanced degrees, outstanding professors and researchers, skilled or professional workers, and religious workers.

Admitted to the U.S. in 1988, the man pleaded guilty to embezzlement for processing fraudulent checks while working at a bank two years later. He was sentenced and served one month in prison. He then went on to achieve a bachelor's degree in computer science.

In 2009, the man was stopped by Latham, New York, police for driving with a suspended license and expired tabs. He was therefore arrested by ICE officials, incarcerated for eight months, and began the process of hearings and immigration appeals. He ultimately won his case because the appellate court panel did not find any intent to deceive or defraud in the man's embezzlement case 12 years ago.

Source: Thomson Reuters, "US appeals court prevents deportation of Nigerian Phd candidate," Basil Katz, May 1, 2012

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