RapidChat: Yvonne Kupfermann on assisting immigrants in finding the right path

Canadian-born Yvonne Kupfermann has always had a personal connection to immigration — with two Hungarian parents and a brother who immigrated to the US from Hungary just a few years ago. Through her roles as an immigration attorney at Varnum and a board member for Justice for Our Neighbors, Kupfermann helps aspiring residents who may not otherwise be able to afford or access critical legal assistance.
Rapid Growth: When did you begin your involvement with Justice for Our Neighbors?

Yvonne Kupfermann: One of my mentors at Varnum is on the national board of Justice for our Neighbors and I had attended a few Justice for Our Neighbors events and lunches over the last two years. My mentor put me in touch with the Executive Director of the Michigan chapter a few months ago and I expressed an interest in wanting to get more involved with the organization because I really believe in their mission and am so inspired by the work they do in our community. From there, I was appointed to the board and have been involved with them ever since. It has been a great experience!

RG: How would those in need find out about their provided services?

YK: I think one of the neatest things Justice for Our Neighbors does is host clinics for clients in need of immigration services. Attorneys and volunteer legal professionals consult with clients one-on-one during these clinics and inform clients of potential services they could provide. Justice for Our Neighbors also hosts numerous events in the community (and spanning as far as Traverse City), including information sessions (know your rights, updates on immigration processing). 

RG: What encouraged you to focus your practice primarily on immigration matters?

YK: I've always had a personal connection to immigration. My parents are Hungarian and immigrated to Canada, I was born in Canada, speak fluent Hungarian, and later immigrated to the US, and my brother immigrated from Hungary to the US just a few years ago. Watching my family go through their respective immigration processes solidified that I wanted to help others navigate the process — especially as the process has become increasingly complex and unpredictable. It has been extremely rewarding to get to form personal connections with our clients and to assist them in finding the right path.   

RG: What are some of the most popular cases you come across?

YK: Our firm handles a wide variety of immigration cases, but we handle a lot of employment-based nonimmigrant visas (H-1Bs, L-1s, TNs, Js, etc.) and both employment-based and family-based permanent residence cases. Our firm is really well equipped to handle anything that comes through the door.

RG: What are family-based permanent residence petitions?

YK: These are petitions for individuals who are family members of US citizens and lawful permanent residents. It gives individuals with specific family relationships the ability to become lawful permanent residents (what many people think of as "green cards"). These relationships include unmarried sons and daughters, 21 years of age and older, of US citizens and lawful permanent residents, spouses and children (unmarried and under 21) of lawful permanent residents, married sons and daughters of US citizens and brothers and sisters of US citizens (if the US citizen is 21 or older).

RG: What are some common misunderstandings regarding visa processing?

YK: There are a lot of misunderstandings about the processing timeline and really just how to navigate the process more broadly. Our primary role in helping immigration clients is coming up with creative solutions that allow clients to process as efficiently and seamlessly as possible. This often involves talking through different options, confirming that a client meets certain requirements, and assembling all of the documents needed for a successful process. We want our clients to walk away feeling like we made their lives significantly easier through our preparation and assistance. 

RG: What costs are typically incurred throughout this process?

YK: Fees for both immigrant and nonimmigrant visas have quite a broad range. There are new fees being implemented by USCIS, but currently filing fees for applications (that is, not including attorney's fees, any additional evaluation or translation services, preparation of requests for evidence, or premium processing fees) range from $500 to $5000*. It can be an expensive process! 

RG: How much has the US Immigration process changed over the years?

YK: I think the biggest changes we have seen over the past couple of years have been primarily related to how applications are processed – that is, the timeline for processing and how certain applications are interpreted based on new policy guidance. We have not seen much movement legislatively, so it has become increasingly important to stay up to date on any new policy memos issued or related guidance.  

*Editors note: Fees at Justice For Our Neighbors (unlike those at Varnum) are income-based.

Jenna K. Morton is the RapidChat correspondent for Rapid Growth Media.
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