Law Office of Michael Tonder, P.C.

3040 S Alabama Ave.
Monroeville, AL 36460

P.O. Box 337
Excel, AL 36439‎


Michael Tonder

Veteran’s Day

Veteran’s Day is Monday. In honor of the day, go out and watch a parade, visit a veteran, or just enjoy the day with your family and recognize the sacrifice others have made. In Mobile, Alabama there is usually a Veteran’s Day Parade downtown. Try to catch it if you can.

B-2 Visa

What is a B-2 visa?

A B-2 visa is a mechanism for someone to visit the United States for purposes such as tourism, vacations, visit relatives and/or friends, medical treatment, etc. A B-2 is not for employment. To obtain a B-2 an application must be completed with the State Department. An interview might be required at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where the applicant lives. The consulate is looking for information that establishes that the applicant will not stay in the U.S. past their authorized stay. The consulate will consider such issues as

1. Does the applicant have strong ties to their country of residence? If so, it helps show that the applicant is likely to return home.
2. Are the applicant’s reasons for traveling to the U.S. legitimate activities relating to business or pleasure?
3. Does the applicant intends to enter the United States for a set period of time? The more specific, the better.
4. Are the applicant’s plans specific and realistic?
5. Does the applicant have adequate funds to avoid unlawful employment while in the U.S. Can the applicant afford their stay?
6. Is the period of time in the U.S. consistent with purpose of stay?

K1 Visa

K1 Visa.

What is a K1 Visa?  A K1 Visa is used to get a foreign fiancée to the U.S. in order to get married.   The procedure to obtain a K1 Visa is as follows:

First, the U.S. citizen petitions for the foreign fiancée via form I-129f.   The U.S. citizen will have to prove that he or she has met their foreign fiancée in person within the last two years.

Once USCIS approves the petition, it will send the petition to the U.S. Consulate where the foreign fiancée will apply for a nonimmigrant visa.  The U.S. Embassy or Consulate will notify the foreign fiancée to get a medical examination and also attend an interview.  The foreign fiancée will have to fill out many forms to submit to the Consulate.

If the application is approved, the foreign fiancée will be issued a visa to travel to the United States.  Once the foreign fiancée arrives in the United States they will be inspected and if granted admission, have 90 days to marry their U.S. Citizen fiancée.

Once married, an application to adjust status to a Legal Permanent Residence (LPR or Green Card holder) can be filed.

As with most immigration issues, the K1 Visa process can be very tricky.  If your fiancée is a citizen of another country and not currently in the U.S., please speak with an immigration attorney to insure the visa petition goes as smoothly as possible.

Social Security is reviewing my case years later

Social Security is reviewing my case years later.

If you are found disabled, the chances are pretty high that Social Security will review your case sometime down the road.  Social Security will usually write to inform you that they are reviewing your claim.  They will gather your medical records and probably send you out for an examination just like they did when you first applied.   Eventually Social Security will make a decision whether or not you are still disabled.

If Social Security decides you are still disabled, they will write you a letter stating so.  There is nothing else to do.  But remember, Social Security might review your case again in a few years.

If Social Security decides that your disability has improved to the point where you can work, there are deadlines that you must be aware of if you plan to appeal.  You have sixty days (60) to appeal the decision, but if you want your benefits to continue during the appeal process you must appeal within ten days (10) of the notice.  Remember that if you continue your benefits during the appeal and you ultimately lose, Social Security can request that you pay back the money you received during the appeal.

If you appeal the decision, you can request an informal hearing.  This hearing usually takes place at the local Social Security Office.  It is very informal.  The Decision Officer will ask you a series of questions and will allow you to tell them any information that is pertinent to the case.  These hearings usually last around thirty minutes (30).

The Decision Officer will make a decision and send you a copy of it.  You will continue receiving your benefits if you are found disabled. If you are found not to be disabled, you will have to appeal the decision for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.  Once again, you must appeal the decision within sixty days (60).

If you are receiving Social Security Disability Benefits or Supplemental Security Income and have received a letter from Social Security that they are going to review your case, you should contact an attorney to help you.

Lost your disability case? Now what?

So, you lost your Social Security Disability claim.  Now what?

Many people choose to attend their Social Security Disability hearing without representation.  Some win. Some lose.  What are your options if an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) issues an Unfavorable Decision (“UFD”)?

First off, you should consider your appeal options.  You can appeal a UFD to the Appeals Council.  You only have sixty days from the date of the UFD to appeal.  If you miss the deadline to appeal you must show good cause why your appeal is late.  The Appeals Council has the authority to reverse the ALJ’s decision, remand it for a new hearing, or keep it the same.  If you do not appeal the UFD, it become final and it is extremely difficult to change the decision later.

You can also decide to file a new claim for benefits.  This is usually not recommended because you are essentially giving up all of your past due benefits, which can be a substantial amount of money and insurance.  However, sometimes this is the best option for the claimant.  Your situation will determine whether you should file a new claim.

If you represented yourself before an ALJ and received a UFD, you should make an appointment to speak with an experienced disability attorney to discuss your options.

English Requirement

Recently, I spoke to a group of immigrants regarding obtaining citizenship.  The question that kept being asked dealt with the English proficiency requirement.  The audience was concerned about elderly immigrants who never received any type of education.  The audience wondered how such a person would ever pass the English Proficiency Exam and obtain citizenship.

If all the other requirements are met for citizenship, the person applying for citizenship must then pass an English Proficiency Test and Civic Test.  These test prevent many from applying for citizenship.  They think they are too old or uneducated to learn English.  Many of these people are not aware that if someone has been a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) for 20 years and is 50 years (20/50) or has been an LPR for 15 years and is 55 years old (15/55) then the English proficiency requirement can be waived.

Although the English proficiency requirement can be waived, the Civics test will still have to be taken.  There is a Medical Disability Exception to the civics exam.  Your doctor will need to fill out a form explaining how your medical disability prevents you from taking the civics exam.  If the person applying for citizenship is 65 years old or older and has been a LPR for at least 20 years (65/20) special consideration will be given for the civics test.

If you are a Legal Permanent Resident and wish to obtain citizenship, please contact an immigration attorney to review the requirements for citizenship.

Something to do in Mobile, Alabama

If you enjoy good music, you might want to check out the Mobile Symphony Orchestra.  MSO is presenting the Preservation Hall Jazz Band (PHJB).  If you have ever been to New Orleans you probably know about the PHJB.  If you don’t know about PHJB, now would be a good time to get to know them.  They are performing Saturday, May 11, 2013 – Sunday, May 12, 2013.  Please visit MSO’s website for more information.

Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude

I’ve had a handful of people ask me questions about renewing their green cards.  After reviewing everything I asked the person “have you ever thought about becoming an American citizen?”  I was surprised to hear that many did not know they could become a citizen.

The requirements for a green card holder to become a citizen are listed here.  The last requirement, good moral character, has tripped up many applying for citizenship.

The definition of good moral character is broad and the catch-all “Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude” (CIMT) has caught many immigrants off guard when applying for citizenship.  As stated in the regulations, a CIMT can bar citizenship.

To determine whether a CIMT has been committed, the state criminal statute where the crime was committed has to be examined.   Different states might have different requirements for a crime, although they are named the same. A thorough review of the statute is required.

Because the issue of CIMT can cause so much trouble, it is best to sit down with an attorney and discuss your legal history.  Write down every arrest, conviction, or any run in with the authorities you have had, when it happened, where it happened, and the outcome.  This will allow the attorney to research and determine whether you have a chance of gaining citizenship.

Good luck!

Your Doctor’s Opinion

How important is your doctor’s opinion when you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits or SSI?  It is very important.

A treating source is usually in the best position to give an opinion regarding your limitations, such as your ability to lift, carry, sit, stand, walk, pay attention, concentrate, use your hands, climb, squat, stoop, crawl, etc.   Social Security does not care if your doctor thinks you are “disabled”, they only care about the limitations placed on you by your doctor.

Social Security drafted regulations that state the weight to be given to a treating source’s opinion.  It is called the “treating source rule”. Usually, Social Security will adopt your doctor’s opinion if the medical records support the opinion.  Social Security will give little weight to the opinion if the medical records do not support it.

For example, Social Security will likely not pay much attention to your doctor’s opinion if your doctor opines that you could only lift and carry five pounds but your medical records rarely mention any problems that would equate to such limitations. There has to be documentation to support the opinion.

A treating source opinion that is supported by the medical evidence often is the difference between a case be awarded or being denied.

Feel free to contact me if you have a disability claim pending and have questions about your claim.

The Disability Hearing

You applied for disability benefits and were turned down.  You appealed the denial and have waited at least a year for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.  The big day is right around the corner and you start to wonder, “What do I do?  What goes on in a disability hearing?”

First off, a hearing is a non-adversarial proceeding.  What does that mean?  It means there is not another “side” at the hearing trying to prevent you from getting benefits.  The hearing is inquisitional, which means it is basically a fact-finding proceeding. The Judge will introduce himself and ask you some basic questions regarding your work history and medical conditions.  Many Judges will give you the floor and let you tell them anything that relates to your disability.  Other Judges exert much more control over what you can say.  The Judge will then ask some questions to a Vocational Expert and allow you to cross-examine the Vocational Expert.   The hearing will last anywhere from twenty minutes to one hour.

You might ask yourself whether you need an attorney to represent you at your hearing.  Many people do not use an attorney and some of those people win their case.  You might be one of those people whose case is so strong that there is nothing to do except show up for the hearing.  Unfortunately, most cases are not that strong and need an experienced attorney to review the medical records and help you put your best foot forward at the hearing