New Laws Take Effect in New York in 2021

It’s been a busy year for lawmakers dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Legislation was passed that prevents evictions, provides testing, treatment, and vaccination against COVID-19.

It may be easy to forget heading into the new year there are other laws that will be taking effect. Below is a recap of laws that will be taking effect beginning in 2021.

Minimum wage

On December 31, 2020, the state’s minimum wage increased to $12.50 an hour outside of New York City. In Long Island and Westchester County, the minimum wage increased to $14 an hour.

Paid family leave

Eligible employees will be eligible for 12 weeks of paid family leave beginning January 1, 2021. Employees who use paid family leave will be able to receive 67% of their weekly earnings- up to $971.61 a week.

Section 485-A property tax exemption

Revisions to the residential-commercial urban exemption program forcing yearly recertification to make sure applicants are in compliance with the rules of the tax exemption program. A percentage of renovated buildings with this exemption must be used for residential.

Stretch limousine safety

Stretch limousines altered on or after January 1, 2021, will have to have at least two safety belts in the front seat and a safety belt in the rear for each passenger.

Increased Thruway tolls

With the exception of the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, NY EZPass rates will be frozen as of January 1, 2021. Travelers with an EZPass from out of state will pay 15% more than current NY EZPass rates. Travelers who choose tolls by mail will pay 30% more than NY EZPass customers.

Election recount

Effective January 1, 2021, a recount of elections will take place if the margin of victory is less than 20 votes, is 0.5% or less, or “where one million or more ballots have been cast and the margin of victory is less than 5,000 votes,” according to the state Senate website.

Brianna’s Law

Persons born after January 1, 1988, must take a boating safety course before getting a boating license.

Child-Parent Security Act

As of February 15, 2021, the Child Parents Security Act gives the “intended” parents of children born through “third party reproduction” methods like sperm or egg donation, embryos, or surrogacy full parental rights and obligations which include the ability to make medical decisions for the child(ren).

Auto-renewal of service contracts

Beginning February 9, 2021, companies (ie. Netflix, Hulu, Disney+) must notify customers at least 15 days in advance before auto-renewing service contracts.

Capped price of insulin

Beginning in 2021, the out of pocket cost for insulin cannot exceed $100 for a 30-day supply for patients with health insurance.

New York Bail Reform

New York’s bail law eliminates pretrial detention and money bail for the vast majority of misdemeanor and nonviolent felony cases. The law also requires release for certain violent felonies – second-degree burglary and second-degree robbery.

The law would still require cash bail for major drug trafficking offenses, sex offenses, criminal contempt in a domestic violence case, witness tampering or intimidation, and certain offenses against children.

Cuomo estimates the new law will keep about 90% of defendants out of jail at least until their case gets resolved.

NY Divorce Based on Domestic Violence and Psychological Abuse

Falling out of love is a downward spiral that can trigger intense negative feelings. When those negative feelings manifest themselves in in various ways, the stage is set for domestic violence to take place.

In New York domestic violence falls under the umbrella of “cruel and inhuman treatment,” and such treatment, specially as part of a pattern established over time, may provide sufficient grounds for divorce.

Domestic violence is a pattern of physical, psychological, emotional and abusive behavior that can affect any family member regardless of their age, gender, sexual preference, ethnicity or social standing. Although the definition of domestic violence varies from state to state, it can include any acts of actual or threatened abuse including psychological, physical, sexual or financial abuse, and threatening or intimidating behavior towards a spouse.

In the context of divorce proceedings, because of the private nature of the domestic violence treatment, proving the existence of psychological,  sexual or financial abuse, and threatening or intimidating treatment can be challenging, but a domestic violence victim should a written record of the abuse and enlisted the help of any witnesses.

If you are a victim of domestic violence and are considering to pursue a divorce on the grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment, please call the Law Offices of Norka M. Schell, LLC at (212) 258-0713, as soon as possible, to discuss your options with our NY divorce attorney.










Immigration Consequences and Domestic Violence

In general, a qualifying domestic violence conviction triggers deportation regardless of sentence, and regardless of whether the conviction is a felony or misdemeanor. The domestic violence deportation ground appears at the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) Section 237(a)(2)(E)(i), 8 USC section 1227(a)(2)(E).

Many domestic violence convictions fall into other grounds of deportation, such as aggravated felonies, or crimes of moral turpitude.  There are four distinct ways that a noncitizen can become deportable:

  • Conviction of a “crime of domestic violence;”
  • Conviction of “stalking;”
  • Conviction of a “crime of child abuse, child neglect, or child abandonment; or
  • Judicial finding in civil or criminal proceedings of a violation of certain portions of a domestic violence protective order.

Like any deportation ground, the domestic violation ground can cause a permanent resident, refugee, or other person who has been admitted to the United States to be placed in removal proceedings and charged with being deportable. The person can also be barred for cancellation of removal for nonpermanent residents under the INA Sec. 240A(b)(2).

However, there is discretionary waiver of deportability under the Domestic Violence ground for people who can show that they were primarily the victim in the relationship and make other showings. One can apply to waive a conviction of a Domestic Violence or a stalking offense, or being found to have violated a Domestic Violence Protective Order (PO), but not a conviction of child abuse, neglect, or abandonment.

Finally, being deportable under the Domestic Violation ground alone does not “stop the clock” on accruing the seven years of residence that is required for cancellation of removal for permanent residents, INA Sec. 240A(a), (d). But if the conviction also causes inadmissibility, it might stop the seven-year clock.

The Law Offices of Norka M. Schell, LLC can assist immigrants who are facing deportation on Domestic Violation ground, please call (212) 258-0713 to speak with our domestic violation lawyer.


New York Child Support and Child Custody-New York Divorce Attorney

In cases of divorce planning or child custody, family is at the heart of the dispute. It is all too easy to feel alone and overwhelmed during such a difficult time.

The family court deals primarily with the problems of children and their families. The court hears cases involving:

  • abuse and neglect of children
  • custody and rights to visit children
  • family offenses including abuse of spouses and other family members
  • children who may have committed crimes (Juvenile Delinquency)
  • children who are not charged with crimes but who may need supervision, treatment, or placement (PINS)
  • paternity
  • support of children, spouses and ex-spouses
  • planning for children who have been in foster care for a year or longer
  • termination of parental rights

In all child support proceedings in New York, child support is financial support provided by the noncustodial parent. Child support includes:

  • Cash payments (based on the parent’s income and the needs of the child)
  • Health insurance for the child (medical support)
  • Payments for child care, and
  • Payments for reasonable health care costs that are not covered by health insurance.

Any parent, guardian, caretaker of a child, or child who needs support can apply for child support services.

In custody proceedings in New York, the main concern for the court in awarding custody is the “best interest of the child.”  The “best interest of the child” test means that the courts are required to balance the ability of each parent to meet the needs of the child or children.

Working with the right lawyer can make the Child Support and Child Custody processes less stressful. Law Offices of Norka M. Schell, LLC, we understand what you are going through, and we are ready to help. The Law Offices of Norka M. Schell, LLC’s family lawyers will guide you through all aspects of your family law case. Be assured that our top priorities are ensuring your well-being and the well-being of your children.

If you ourself facing divorce or other family law issues, please contact Law Offices of Norka M. Schell, LLC at (212) 258-0713 to schedule an appointment with an experienced New York divorce attorney.


Maintaining Status

While studying in the United States, it is important to maintain your F or M student status. Your status relates to the purpose, or reason for why you want to come to the United States. The U.S. Department of State issues you your visa based on your intended purpose.

If the Department of State issues you an F or M student visa, this means that you are coming to the United States to study. You should not take any action that detracts from that purpose. Maintaining your status means:

  • Fulfilling the purpose for why the Department of State issued you your visa.
  • Following the regulations associated with that purpose.

F-1 and M-1 students share the same primary purpose for coming to the United States however, F-1 students enroll in more traditional academic programs, while M-1 students enroll in vocational programs. Because these two types of programs are different in nature, the types of benefits an international student may be eligible for and how long they may remain in the country depend on whether they are an F-1 or M-1 student. For information on Maintaining Status, contact the Law Offices of Norka M. Schell, LLC at (212)258-0713.

F-1 Aliens in Post-Completion OPT

As exceeding unemployment limits can result in a loss of status, we are reminding F-1 aliens participating in post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT), and their designated school officials (DSOs), that they must update the employer information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), including unemployment data. Federal regulations require F-1 aliens to notify their DSO within 10 days of any changes to their personal or employment information. In turn, DSOs must update SEVIS with the alien’s information within 21 days. This reminder helps ensure F-1 aliens and DSOs properly comply with existing requirements.

Aliens in F-1 nonimmigrant status may update their employer information through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Portal, a tool that allows F and M aliens participating in post‑completion practical training to report accurate and timely information directly to SEVP. DSOs may update the information in SEVIS following the instructions to add, edit, or delete the OPT employer. If aliens are unsure of whether they should report information using the portal, or provide the information to their DSO, they should contact their DSO for instructions.

Aliens in F-1 nonimmigrant status and DSOs must ensure that information is entered timely in SEVIS, so that the alien’s record is current and reflects actual employment data. SEVIS will count each day without employer information toward the total number of unemployment days allowed. Failure to update employer information in SEVIS to reflect that the alien is employed may result in any or all of the following actions:

  • The alien exceeding unemployment limits and therefore failing to maintain F-1 nonimmigrant status, rendering them removable, unless they are otherwise in a period of authorized stay;
  • SEVP setting an alien’s SEVIS record to “terminated” if they have exceeded unemployment limits;
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) initiating revocation proceedings for an alien’s Employment Authorization Document if they have exceeded unemployment limits; and
  • The exceeded unemployment limits negatively affecting the alien’s future benefit requests filed with USCIS.

Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak

On June 19, 2020, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany confirmed that for now, President Trump has no plans to lift restrictions discussed below for the Schengen area.

On May 24, 2020, based on concerns regarding COVID-19, President Trump issued a proclamation suspending the entry of individuals who were physically present in Brazil during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. On May 25, 2020, the effective date of the proclamation was amended to be May 26, 2020. Similar to other proclamations implementing entry restrictions for certain nations, the Proclamation also includes a list of exemptions to which the suspension and limitation on entry do not apply.


Visa Waiver Program (VWP) program allows citizens from participating countries to travel to the U.S. as non-immigrants for business, tourism, transit and medical purposes. Travelers arriving into the U.S. under the VWP are permitted to stay up to 90 days per visit and not required to obtain other travel authorizations, such as a U.S. visa. There are currently 39 countries that participate in the VWP. 

Individuals traveling under the VWP agree to waive their rights to review or appeal. 

In response to COVID-19, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has tried to facilitate the ability of VWP travelers to lawfully remain in the US beyond the allowed 90-day period of stay. 

Under ordinary circumstances, VWP travelers are not eligible to change (C/S) or extend their status (E/S) – they must depart the United States in a timely fashion. Failure to depart results in ineligibility for future VWP travel and other serious potential immigration consequences. The single exception to these restrictions is a rarely granted, 30-day, emergency forgiveness known as Satisfactory Departure. At this time, CBP has tried to facilitate the Satisfactory Departure process and is allowing requests for two 30-day extension periods. On April 17, CBP announced that VWP travelers granted Satisfactory Departure may apply for an additional 30-day extension of their admission period if they remain unable to depart the United States because of COVID-19. 

CBP is handling Satisfactory Departure requests due to the closure of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field offices which would otherwise adjudicate these cases. Thus, these requests may be made to CBP at Ports of Entry and Deferred Inspection Offices. These offices are typically located at or near international airports throughout the United States. Each CBP location has slight variations and nuances in the manner of processing these requests, such as how far in advance one can apply and the exact mechanism for making the request. Travelers should be prepared to document their inability to depart the United States with documentation including flight cancellations, home country conditions, travel restrictions, illness, and/or COVID-19 exposure. 

For assistance with the visa waiver, call the Law Offices of Norka M. Schell, LLC at (212)258-0713.

Access to Immigrants’ Information

Immigration applications are the most common trigger of adverse immigration consequences. When an immigrant applies for an immigration benefit or status, such as green card or naturalization, s/he must demonstrate that s/he is admissible to the U.S. and has good moral character. Immigration adjudicators often compel applicants to divulge information about their family court cases when, for example, proof of materially supporting a child is relevant to the relief being sought; when a child does not reside with the applicant; when an applicant has had an order of protection issued against him or her; or where an applicant has been arrested for a crime involving endangering the welfare of a minor (even if the charge was dismissed).


There are three types of fingerprinting that can prompt an immigration authority or adjudicator to demand access to family court information and adjudications: a) fingerprints taken at the time of booking into a local jail; b) fingerprints taken to conduct both criminal and civil background checks; and c) fingerprints taken to adjudicate immigration applications.

a.         Fingerprinting at Booking in Criminal Matters – Any time an immigrant litigant is arrested on a family court warrant or confined in connection with a contempt order, the immigrant becomes vulnerable to detection and apprehension by ICE. Fingerprints taken by local jails at booking are automatically shared with ICE via federal data-sharing networks.

b.         Fingerprinting for Background Checks in Family Court When individuals are fingerprinted for family court related background checks, the print checks are done by New York State’s Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).

c.            Fingerprinting for Immigration Applications – For many types of immigration benefits, including those that relate to protecting unaccompanied minors and victims of domestic violence and other crimes, USCIS requires that the immigrant applicant undergo a “biometric screening” that includes both fingerprints and digitized photographs. USCIS uses the fingerprints to check an individual’s immigration and criminal history. Fingerprints are run through immigration databases that include information about immigrants who have violated immigration laws. Fingerprints are also run through the FBI’s criminal database, which includes information about past arrests, criminal convictions, and any active orders of protection. The FBI database includes information about active orders of protection issued by both family and criminal courts, which it obtains through a data sharing agreement with the New York State Police. Any time an immigrant applies for an immigration benefit, USCIS can access information about an immigrant’s travel, family, criminal history, etc. Immigrant applicants are often questioned about travel, family, and criminal matters that surface through biometric screening, and can be denied benefits after disclosure of information about arrests that do not result in prosecution. 

Individuals should always consult with a competent immigration attorney to determine the potential for adverse immigration consequences and to identify any available options that may pertain to his or her specific case.


The US Has Finalized An Asylum Agreement With Honduras

On Friday, a newly-finalized asylum agreement with Honduras took effect. The agreement means that the U.S. may send some asylum seekers to Honduras rather than handle their asylum claim here. Critics of the agreement say it violates our obligations under international asylum law, particularly since Honduras has high levels of violence and corruption. On Friday, a newly-finalized asylum agreement with Honduras took effect. The agreement means that the U.S. may send some asylum seekers to Honduras rather than handle their asylum claim here. Read it here.