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Hrafnkell "Rolf" Oskarsson

aka "RO 9/95" on our brochures:

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In cooperation with the student members of Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College's International Law Society and the Scandinavian American Foundation in New York, during the summer of 1995 Capriotti & Associates sponsored a law student from Iceland.

Using a J-1 visa, which permits temporary employment to aid a person to gain practical experience, Hrafnkell worked side-by-side with us for 7 weeks.

With the goal of learning the U.S. immigration laws, he was instrumental in the improvement of our informational brochures. He worked hard to explain the very technical law and procedure in his second language, English.

We wish to thank Hrafnkell for his invaluable contribution. As a direct result, we were able to post these web pages in a few weeks instead of months.

More about Hrafnkell and how to contact him:
Born in Reykjavik, Iceland, November 3, 1969. Graduated June 1989 from the Menntaskolinn i Reykjavik (High School of Reykjavik), where he majored in Contemporary Languages.

Entered Icelandic University Law School in the fall of 1991. He attained his Cand. Juris degree in June 1996, with Corporations Law and International Private Law as specialties. He currently works for the State Housing Agency (which is a form of government-owned mortgage bank.)

He plans to attain an advanced Law Degree in the near future, preferably from a University in the U.S.


This is a rough English translation of an article that Hrafnkell wrote for his school's journal when he returned to complete his final year of law school:

My Internship with an International Law Firm in the U.S.

- by Hrafnkell Oskarsson - University of Iceland Law School

1. Introduction.

In the summer '95, E.L.S.A.'s (European Law Students' Association) work exchange program included, for the first time, a job in the U.S. As many know, E.L.S.A. has enabled Icelandic law students to work for European law firms and institutions for quite some time. Now, however, the program also includes the U.S. due to cooperation with E.L.S.A.'s sister organization in the States, I.L.S.A. (International Law Student's Association.) Their exchange program is known as I.S.A.I.L.

This writer was sponsored by the organization and worked for a period of seven weeks at the law offices of Capriotti & Associates International Law in Portland, Oregon, on America's west coast This firm specializes in Immigration Law. The Editor of Ulfljotur has asked me to put down a few lines about my experience, as follows.

Shortly after New Year '95, E.L.S.A.'s work exchange manager Anna Linda Bjarnadottir brought to my attention a job opportunity for an Icelandic law student in the U.S. As I had been harboring an interest for U.S. Law for a long time, I filed an application and was subsequently informed that I had the opportunity to work for up to 10 weeks during the late summer. I of course accepted and began to work on the getting there.

I received a kind of crash course in U.S. Immigration Law as I began preparing for my visa application, the reason being that I required a J-1 visa to be able to work as a "compensated trainee." A J-1 visa requires its bearer to be sponsored by an organization, which is authorized by the U.S. government to arrange reciprocal work programs. I.L.S.A. had applied for such authorization, but had not yet been granted it.

Thus, Mr. Capriotti and I turned to the Icelandic-American Society, which has previously sponsored Icelanders to work in the U.S. In short, the Society proved most helpful,and I was able to get my visa on time. I arrived in Portland on August 4, 1995.

2. The Firm.

Capriotti & Associates International Law specializes in tasks pertaining to the legal status of immigrants and other foreigners. Cases falling under this category are generally referred to as a special field of law, Immigration Law, which is taught as a special course at many Law Schools in the U.S.

Immigration Law is a special field of the law in many respects, but has a kinship to (the Law of Executive Branch Management, a concept in Nordic Law), and furthermore, the U.S. Constitution plays a role, especially the Bill of Rights. The employees of Capriotti & Associates include the lawyer himself, Franco Capriotti, who has specialized in Immigration Law since 1979, plus a paralegal/bookkeeper and a legal assistant. Also, the firm is loosely affiliated with a circle of lawyers, with which it associates on a case-by-case basis, i.e. the "Associates" part of the firm's name.

3. The job of an Immigration Lawyer.

Most people know to some degree how complicated immigrating into the US and the attainment of citizenship can be. For this reason, many people wanting to work or become residents of the USA entrust lawyers with their cases.

Thus, in the US there are numerous lawyers engaging solely in immigration law. These have among themselves the nationwide organization A.I.L.A., (American Immigration Lawyers Association) consisting of over 3,500 members.

One complication stems from the fact that while there is but one law governing immigration affairs, two government agencies, independent of one another, enforce the law. On one hand there are Embassies and their consular offices, which issue visa stamps, these are a division of the U.S. Department of State. On the other hand there is the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service), a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Although they do communicate occasionally, these agencies function quite independent of one another, with the consequence that either agency's evaluation in a specific case doesn't tie the other's hands. For example, the INS evaluates a person's eligibility to enter the US, regardless of him having received a valid visa stamp at a US consular office. Thus, a person may have been granted a visa stamp, but upon arrival at the US border, he/she may be denied entry by the INS.

This also has the consequence that if an alien has been granted a change of status to a different non-immigrant visa class (which is permitted under US law) or an extension by the INS once in the US, he must have his visa stamp changed accordingly at a consular office outside of the US. The rules are also quite clear, that a person must apply at the consular office in his/her "home" country, unless another consulate agrees, in its "discretion" to process their request for a visa stamp. If a person is not in possession of the correct visa stamp, the person will not be readmitted if he/she leaves the US for some reason.

Legal Permanent Residence (LPR, commonly referred to as the "Green Card", because it was originally printed on green cardboard in the 1950/60's) may be obtained through various routes. This is usually a complicated process and it is quite hard for a non-lawyer to assess and advise on one's eligibility. Also, a great amount of work is often required to complete the application correctly. Several years of residence in the US as an LPR is a requirement for a citizenship application. LPR status in the US is attainable in various ways (through family 'sponsorship,' through employment 'sponsorship,' in connection with a specific job, etc.) Here, too, the requirements are numerous and the process can run through several years.

For these and other reasons foreign nationals, typically unfamiliar with the U.S. legal system, are likely to encounter problems. A large part of an immigration lawyer's job is to advise and consult with people regarding their rights and the possibilities of their achieving certain goals, (e.g. work permits, residence permits, citizenship), and furthermore to see to it that the client complies with all government requirements. In other words: tell the client what he/she can or can't do.

The gathering and coordinating of documents for visas/LPRs/citizenship is also a large part of the lawyer's job. The required documents vary widely and the government tends to set stringent requirements regarding form. Documents in a foreign language must be accompanied by a certified translation.

In addition, an immigration lawyer often has to appear on behalf of his client in administrative and federal court, regarding appeals from government decisions, defense to deportation and/or exclusion actions of a government agent. Most cases filed to overturn or seek alteration of an immigration official's decision are processed before special immigration courts. IF unsuccessful, appeals are made to federal courts, eventually leading to the US Supreme Court.

Thus, an immigration lawyer's work involves both counseling people intending to stay in the US or become US citizens, preparing applications to the government, and representation in court and within the government hierarchy.

4. The Internship.

My work at the firm was not unlike a regular internship as we know it in Iceland; a mixture of work and learning. Aside from the everyday duties of organizing applications for the INS, the job involved quite a bit of legal research, as the firm maintains an array of informational brochures for its clients.

These need to be updated and revised in tune with changes in the legislation. For those interested, these brochures can now be accessed through the Internet at

Although the principles of U.S. Law differ quite a bit from Icelandic Law, the sources of Immigration law are relatively easy for an Icelandic law student to access. This stems from the fact that statute law, such as the Immigration Act, plays a relatively large role in this field, but case law is by no means unimportant.

Naturally, I did not spend all my time at the desk, for although Portland is not a large city by U.S. standards (inhabitants: approximately 1 million total), it is by no means a dull place, and both my boss and Karin Troedsson, I.L.S.A.'s contact person, were untiring in showing me what the city had to offer.

I also had the luck of sharing a house with two law students from Lewis & Clark College and was thus exposed to the extracurricular activities of that school's law students, which was no less active than at the law faculty back home.

Finally, I was able to travel the West Coast, all the way from California in the south to Vancouver in the north.

5. Conclusion.

In my opinion, the value of work exchange visits such as the above is unquestionable for students who wish to widen their horizons. The stay proved valuable to me both in terms of language training as well as increasing my understanding of the U.S. legal system.

Both items are important to those who wish to take advanced legal courses in a foreign country, and thus it is importnatn that Icelandic students take advantage of the work exchange program to a larger extent than they have over the last few years.

It is my hope that E.L.S.A. will continue its cooperation with I.L.S.A. in the U.S., as it is perhaps more important now than ever, in this decade of European integration, that to-be lawyers keep a wide perspective.

CAPRIOTTI & Associates International Law
Immigration · Nationality · Consular Process
North America & Europe
P.O. Box 2792 · Portland, OR 97208-2792
Fax: 1-503-223-3886 · Voice: 1-503-221-1600

We have a North America TOLL-FREE number available for our clients. Please ask Mr. Capriotti.

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