Still Waiting For Your Iraqi Contractor SIV? You May Have A Legal Action For Visa Processing Delays

The attorney-authors of this blog are hearing more and more concerns about Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants from Iraq who experience excessive delays in the U.S. government’s processing of their SIV cases. Some SIV applicants have been waiting more than three or four years for the final approval step, stuck in the black hole known as “administrative processing.”

SIV applicants who have been waiting an unacceptably long time for visa processing should know about their potential litigation rights against the U.S. government. In U.S. law, there is a type of legal complaint called a mandamus that can be filed in court against U.S. government agencies when they take too long to do their job, e.g. taking too long to process a visa application.

For SIVs, a few years ago, the U.S. government changed its background check process. Since that change, SIVs have experienced additional delays throughout the entire application process: for instance, many SIV applicants from Iraq have had their visa interviews at the Embassy, have been told the SIVs are approved, but have then been subjected to additional “administrative processing,” which typically refers to more background checks. At this point, for many such SIV applicants, their world seems to come to a standstill, and they hear nothing. The attorney-authors know of cases that have been stuck in this “administrative processing” for more than four years, with no signs of movement.

The attorney-authors believe SIV applicants with such long-pending cases may have good grounds for mandamus litigation against the government.  Sometimes, mandamus actions can be pursued in court by a group of SIV applicants (plaintiffs), with each SIV applicant saving legal fees and costs by sharing such expenses with other plaintiffs in the group.

If you are an SIV applicant who has been stuck in “administrative processing” for three years or more, and are interested in learning more about  potential mandamus rights, please feel free to contact the attorney-authors at atty@vkvlaw.com or call 202-340-1215.  There is no fee for initial communications with us.

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Contractor-Client Receives Favorable Legal Decision for Negligent Estimate Claim Versus U.S. Army

One of the attorney-authors’ clients, a Kuwait-based contractor, recently received a favorable legal decision from the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (“Board”). The decision is posted here.

The Board’s decision denied a summary judgment motion by the United States Government (USG) which had sought to dismiss our client’s legal claim for negligent estimates. The decision allowed our client’s negligent estimate claim and our client’s own (pending) motion for summary judgment to proceed.

For contractors generally, the decision has expanded the types of contracts the Board recognizes to be subject to a negligent estimate claim. If you are a contractor to the USG and believe the USG’s estimates in your contract were unreasonable and financially harmed you, you should be aware of your legal rights. A contractor-rights attorney could review your particular situation and contract to see if a viable legal claim is available.

More information about our client’s case and decision is below.

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Did a Big Law Firm’s Fee Quote Stop You From Pursuing Your Rights? Seek a Smaller Firm and Creative Fee Options

Have you had a big legal dispute brewing, contacted a large law firm, and been scared off by their estimate of legal fees?  If so, you are certainly not alone.  You should not, however, let one unaffordable quote scare you off from pursuing your matter.

Instead, consider doing two things: (1) contact a different law firm, in particular a smaller law firm (also known as a “boutique” law firm) that focuses on your area of need – government contracting or otherwise- and get another quote; and (2) be creative, and ask about different types of fee arrangements.  For example, if the quoted fee that was too high was for hourly-billed legal fees, then ask a different firm whether different options are available, such as a lower hourly fee, a contingency fee, a flat fee, or a hybrid fee (mix of contingency and reduced- hourly or flat fee).

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Did Your Do-It-Yourself Fixes Get You Nothing for Your Contract Dispute? Investing in Legal Help May Get Results You Want

Before retaining us as attorneys to assist them, many of our  clients first had tried to solve their legal problems on their own. They thought they understood their contract and situation well enough to address it.  Many had hoped their communications and strategies with the contracting officer would solve the problem.

But often the contractors’ do-it-yourself methods did not work, and they were met with rejection. And many were not sure why. At that point, they decided professional help was needed.

If you have a legal dispute involving a contract or otherwise, you may be in the process of trying to fix things yourself. You may well be very good at running your business and solving problems that arise. But you cannot be an expert in everything.

If you get the sense your fixes to legal issues are not working, you may consider making an investment in an attorney. Whether that investment is worthwhile depends on several factors: (1) What’s the result you have achieved on your own?  (2) What’s the best result possible, in terms of how much money or legal penalties are available? (3) Are you sure you identified all possible means of legal leverage? (4) How much in legal fees could you expect to pay, and is an attorney willing to share risk with a reduced fee or contingency fee arrangement ? (5) What are your odds of getting a much better result with an attorney than you could on your own? (5) Is the legal fee and risk worth the likely outcome you could achieve by hiring an attorney?

The blog authors, as litigation attorneys, help most of our clients obtain a significant return on investment of their legal fees. For example, a client on a contingency fee may receive at least $2 for every $1 we receive in legal fees. The better the financial result, the better for everyone. If an attorney is willing to share some or all of the financial risk for your matter, the investment in hiring an attorney becomes more affordable.

If your do-it-yourself efforts are not bringing the results you want to achieve for your contract dispute, please consider contacting us at atty@vkvlaw.com or (+1) 202-340-1215(+1) 202-340-1215 if you want to learn more about legal representation and suggestions how you can reach the best resolution.

Where Can I Find USAID Contract and Grant Resources?

USAID announced plans to fund almost $300 million in new aid programs in Afghanistan over the next five years. This article gives readers information about how they might be eligible to participate in these and other US government programs as a grant recipient or contractor.

USAID’s website here provides a detailed review of its grant and contracting process, from project design to solicitation to award.

USAID posts its contract solicitations on the Federal Business Opportunities website, otherwise known as FedBizOpps (www.fbo.gov). USAID posts its grant opportunities on the federal grant site here (www.grants.gov).  These sites list contracting and grant opportunities for USAID, and for all of the US federal government.

On the grant and contract sites you can search for projects by country, by subject, by government agency and a variety of other filters.

Of interest to many of our readers, USAID has pages dedicated to small businesses that are new to US government grant and contract programs and are interested in partnering with USAID. On this site, USAID links to a variety of resources discussing a mentor/protégé program, subcontracting options, and a listing of grant and contract opportunities geared towards smaller companies.

If you are interested in becoming a USAID grantee or contractor, we encourage you to thoroughly read USAID’s site to learn about the opportunities that exist.

If you are a US government contractor or grant recipient who has questions about your legal rights, we offer a free initial case review. For more information about the legal services we offer contractors and grantees, please see our Legal Services page here or email us at atty@vkvlaw.com.

Considering Legal Action? Don’t Let Worries About Travel Stop You

When people are telling the attorney-authors about legal concerns involving United States laws, some say they are worried if they take legal action against an opponent, especially one in a different location from them, they will have to travel too much to fight for their case.

In reality rarely does a party have to travel to pursue their rights.  I can count on one hand the types of events that might require a party to travel.  Those events (which only could arise after a legal complaint is filed) are:

  • a deposition (which could be required in person, but can be conducted via phone if agreed);
  • mediation (a settlement conference which sometimes is mandatory, and sometimes a mandatory mediation requires in-person attendance); and
  • trial.

More often than not, cases are resolved before any of the events above occur, so the client never needs to travel.  Most of the clients I have represented have not traveled at all by the time their cases resolved.  Most of my clients’ cases have resolved via settlements (contracts agreeing to financial terms, closing of the legal matters, etc.).  Settlement is often a better option than litigating through trial or thereafter.

So even those matters that involve lawsuits that are filed and pursued for months or years will usually only involve one to two instances of travel at most. When a given client of mine is scheduled for a deposition or mediation and does not want to travel, I explore if alternatives are possible, such as a phone appearance.  Also, if a client of mine who is outside of the United States has concerns about being able to enter or re-enter the U.S. to pursue legal rights, there are usually options available to resolve those concerns (e.g. phone appearances, visas for legal matters, etc.).

The bottom line is you should not assume frequent travel, or any travel, will be required if you retain an attorney and explore legal options.  The attorney will discuss with you what events, if any, are likely to occur that could require travel. You should not let assumptions or fears about travel stop you from exploring your possible legal rights or legal action.

Should You Get a Local Attorney?

Local Article Photo

If you’re looking for an attorney to help with a legal dispute, you may have thought of this question: “Should I get an attorney located near me?”

My answer, which is a typical lawyer answer, is “maybe.”  It depends.  Lawyers in the U.S. are generally licensed to handle Federal-law matters all across the U.S.  I personally handle Federal- law matters in numerous States, and represent clients located in States other than my mine (Wisconsin) and in other countries as well.  Those clients retained me because I have experience with Federal- law issues at hand.  For them, expertise trumped location.  Why? Because the quality of legal work is the most important issue.  And most legal work is remote: the vast majority of legal work is done via a computer, phone, and mailed or electronically- transmitted documents.  Even clients who live very close to me will only very occasionally meet in person with me, and that is almost always because we decide to meet in person, not because we have to.

With that said, there are some types of matters where an attorney’s location and licensure is very important to a matter.  For example, if a given issue concerns a particular State’s law or legal proceedings, then it will be necessary to have an attorney who is licensed in that State’s laws.  Some of my Federal cases also involve secondary State- law issues, in which event I work along with co-counsel attorneys located or licensed in the pertinent States.  Not all cases warrant this type of work-sharing, however, and an attorney should be able to explain whether it’s necessary or advisable.

Any attorney who you contact should be able to tell you whether your matter involves a State- law issue, or issue that the attorney is unable to assist you with (due to lack of licensure, etc.).  The key is to contact the attorney and ask.  If you feel a particular attorney can help you with your specific issues, don’t assume location is a barrier.

In my view, there are two better questions than “Should I get a local attorney?”  Those are: (1) Can a particular lawyer you’ve learned about help you with your concerns? (2) If that lawyer is not located near you, has that lawyer explained whether his or her location would present a barrier for you?

Iraqi Contractor SIV Program Extended, But End Is Near

For our Iraqi readers who are interested in the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for contractors working with the US government, we want to make sure you have heard the latest: Congress extended the program for a short while longer, but the end of the program is in sight.

In this article we discuss the status of the SIV program and a different type of contractor right: your right to apply for an SIV if you are a contractor working for or on behalf of the US government who has experienced threats to your life because of that work.

SIV Program Update Summary

At the end of 2013, Congress extended the SIV program, but set parameters signaling the impending end. Of note, Congress set a deadline of September 30, 2014 for applying for Chief of Mission approval for the SIV (the first approval phase). If you miss this deadline, you cannot apply for the SIV.

Equally importantly, Congress limited the number of visas that will be issued to 2,500. Once that number is reached, no more visas will be issued regardless of when you applied for the SIV. What this means to you is if the visas are used up before the September 30, 2014 application deadline, the program ends and you cannot apply.

The good news, however, is Congress did not set a deadline for issuing the visas. Visas may be gone in six months or a year, or they may be used up slowly and many may be available even after a year or two years. No one knows how quickly or slowly the visas will be used. What this means to you is if your SIV case has already been filed by September 30, 2014, and visas remain available, you may still be eligible for approval. This news is particularly of interest to Iraqis who have pending cases in “administrative processing” with the embassy and are awaiting final approval. Your cases are still alive and will remain eligible for a visa until all 2,500 visas are issued.

The other key factor affecting your eligibility for the program is the qualifying work period is set at a maximum date of September 30, 2013. This date means for you to qualify for the SIV, you must have worked for or on behalf of the US government for more than one year between March 20, 2003 and September 30, 2013. If you have not worked for or on behalf of the US government for a full year as of September 30, 2013, then you do not qualify for the SIV.

If you miss the opportunity to apply for the SIV, or do not qualify for it, you have other options. In particular, the U.S. refugee program through IOM remains available to Iraqis.

US Embassy Announcement on the SIV Program Extension

Below is the announcement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad regarding the extension. For more information about the extension and the eligibility criteria for the program, click here: http://iraq.usembassy.gov/siv-special.html

The Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program benefiting individuals who have been employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government has been extended through passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2014.

The NDAA authorizes the issuance of 2,500 immigrant visas after January 1, 2014 to qualified principal applicants.

The NDAA does not include a date by which these visas must be issued, so consular officers have the authority to issue visas under this program until all 2,500 numbers have been used worldwide.  The Iraqi SIV program will end after all visas have been issued.

Under this legislation, the one-year period during which principal applicants must have been employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Iraq begins on or after March 20, 2003, and ends on or before September 30, 2013.The legislation includes a requirement that the principal applicant must apply for Chief of Mission approval no later than September 30, 2014.

Those applicants with cases pending do not need to re-file.  If your petition has been approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), we encourage you to provide all requested documents to the National Visa Center (NVC) immediately so that your visa interview can be scheduled promptly.

Derivative family members (i.e., spouses, children) of principal applicants who were issued SIVs prior to December 31, 2013 can still be issued after December 31, 2013.

Applicants are advised to check their email accounts and consult our website (http://iraq.usembassy.gov/) regularly for the most recent information regarding the SIV program.

The separate U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for U.S.-affiliated Iraqis remains an option, as the eligibility criteria are very similar to those of the SIV program.  For more information on USRAP, please visit http://iraq.usembassy.gov/refugeesidpaffairs.html.

Eligibility Criteria

If you are an Iraqi who has worked as a contractor directly to the US government, or as a subcontractor to a prime contractor of the US government, you may be eligible for the SIV program.

The key eligibility criteria includes:

  • The applicant must be a national of Iraq.
  • The applicant must have been employed by, or on behalf of the US Government in Iraq, on or after March 20, 2003, for at least one year before September 30, 2013 (in other words, between March 20, 2003 and September 30, 2013).
  • The applicant must have provided faithful and valuable service to the US Government. This service must be documented in a letter of recommendation from the employee’s supervisor.
  • The applicant must have experience or be experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of his/her employment by the US Government.

If you meet the above eligibility criteria and are interested in immigrating to the United States, you should consult with a competent attorney about the SIV and other visa options available to contractors.

Attorney-Author Vandaveer has successfully represented numerous Iraqi contractors in their pursuit of an SIV based on their work with the US government. After receiving their green cards, some chose to continue working as contractors or subcontractors with the US government from their new home in the United States. If you want to know whether you qualify for the SIV program or have other questions about your rights as a contractor for the US government, please contact our office at atty@vkvlaw.com or call 202-340-1215.

Did You Find Improprieties in the Contract Bidding or Award Process? Consider (Quickly) a Protest

The attorney-authors receive inquiries from contractors for the United States Government (USG) who complain a contract was awarded to a competitor unfairly.  Some contractors think there is nothing they can do about an unfair award by the USG.  That is wrong.  If you lost a contract award and believe the bidding process or award was unfair or may have violated the law, you can protest.

This article describes what a protest involves and the short deadlines involved with a protest– often, a 10-day deadline.  If you are potentially interested in a protest, read on, and make a prompt decision whether you will take action.

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U.S. DOD Resources for Small Business Government Contractors

The attorney-authors of this blog receive many requests from our readers seeking basic information about how to become a contractor for the U.S. government.

Finding such information can seem daunting, especially for private sector business people or foreign nationals who may not be familiar with the complexities of U.S. government agencies, operations, laws and regulations.

In this blog we will from time-to-time post resources we hope you will find helpful in your pursuit of government contracts.

In this post, we feature the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) resource websites. The DOD has created an office dedicated to assisting small business owners that are interested in working with the U.S. government. On its website, it posts such useful information as how to find contracting opportunities, the regulations governing contracting, and how to market to the U.S. government.

Of interest is this snapshot of basic information on contracting with the government. This handy two-page sheet identifies the contract types, the relevant legal resources, the basic contracting process, and websites where a prospective contractor can research contract opportunities.

If you have a dispute with the U.S. Government or one of its prime contractors and want to learn more about your rights and options, please contact the blog-author attorney Vonda K. Vandaveer at vonda@vkvlaw.com or +1-202-340-1215. There is no fee for initial communication about your matter.

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