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How do I Obtain a Student Visa to Study in the U.S.?

June 5, 2015

Student Visa Blog.jpgIf you are a citizen of a foreign country and wish to study in the United States ("U.S."), you will need to apply for a U.S. student visa. Below is a basic step-by-step guide to obtaining an F-1 visa, a non-immigrant visa used by international students pursuing an academic degree or a shorter course of study in the U.S.

Step 1: Apply to the U.S. Academic Institution(s)
An international student must first satisfy the academic institution's admissions criteria. Carefully read the school's website to learn about admissions requirements for international students. The application process may involve completing standardized tests, writing an admissions essay, and submitting recommendation letters. Upon the student's acceptance, the institution will issue an I-20 form (titled "Certificate of Eligibility"). The I-20 certifies that the student has been accepted to a full-time academic program and is financially capable of supporting themselves in the U.S. throughout their course of study. The I-20 also permits the student to apply for an F-1 visa.

Step 2: Application
Students apply through a U.S. Embassy or Consulate within their home country. The application process includes the completion of the DS-160 (online application for the F-1 visa) and DS 157 forms (for all males between the ages of 16-45), the submission of a photo, and the payment of an application fee.

Step 3: Interview
The F-1 visa interview generally takes place in the U.S. Embassy or Consulate located in the applicant's home country. The applicant must bring the following documents to the interview: the I-20, a valid passport, the DS-160 form, and an application fee receipt. The Embassy or Consulate may also request additional documents, such as transcripts and test scores.

Step 4: Approval
If the applicant is approved and an F-1 visa is issued, it's important to keep the following in mind:
• F-1 visa holders may not enter the US more than thirty days before classes begin.
• F-1 visa holders are permitted to work on-campus for up to twenty hours a week. Students who wish to work longer hours must receive authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS may also grant permission for Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical Training for a total of twelve months.
• F-1 visa holders may remain in the U.S. for up to sixty days after the completion of their academic program.
Please note that F-1 visa approval is not guaranteed, and the applicant can be denied issuance of the F-1 visa if they are found ineligible pursuant to the law.

For assistance with your student visa application, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or

Remember, these blog posts are not meant to be legal advice. You should consult an attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation.

photo credit: My collection of passport stamps via photopin (license)

Attorney Michele Jackson among community leaders modeling for Dress For Success

September 5, 2014

MLJ WEB.jpgTonight is the 12th annual Stepping Out In Style fundraising event presented by Dress for Success Indianapolis and PNC Bank at the JW Mariott in Indianapolis.

Stepping Out in Style is a fundraising event to raise money to support Dress for Success Indianapolis. Dress for Success Indianapolis provides professional attire and career development services to low income women living in Indianapolis and the surrounding counties who are referred to us by over 90 partnering agencies. In today's economy, the women we serve face challenges that extend far beyond finding a job. Most have limited resources and face barriers which require long-term support, perseverance and essential career development tools to help them thrive in work and in life. Their mission is "To promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life."

The evening will begin with the Bedel Financial Consulting, Inc. cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner, fashion show and the Citizens Energy Group after party. During the cocktail reception, guests can purchase tickets for the Grand Prize Drawing, bid on fabulous items through the Mainstreet silent auction, and try their hand at the Diamond Dig, sponsored by Aronstam Fine Jewelers! Guests can then join us at the after party to visit with friends and meet our models, artist and sponsors for the evening.

Attorney Michele Jackson, among other community leaders, has been selected to participate as a model to the stage for a high-energy fashion show. They will be wearing unique clothing from upscale local boutiques and walking the catwalk escorted by esteemed members of the Indianapolis Fire Department. The list of models for the evening are as follows:

  • Nicole Bickett - Chief Administrative Officer, Mainstreet
  • Angela Buchman - Meteorologist, WTHR Channel 13
  • Karen Crotchfelt - President and Publisher, Star Media
  • Meggie Dials - Regional Director of Channel Sales, ExactTarget; Founder, The Sussy Project
  • Shyra Ely-Gash - Wardrobe Stylist and Former WNBA Player
  • Kelly Huntington - President and CEO, Indianapolis Power and Light Company
  • Michele Jackson - Partner, Harden Jackson, LLC; Executive Director, MLJ Adoptions;
  • Founder, Global Orphan Foundation
  • Thea E. Kelly - Senior Counsel Commercial Operations, Dow AgroSciences LLC
  • Jewel Lofton - Lifelong Professional Women's Group (PWG) Member
  • Allyson Morrison - Lifelong Professional Women's Group (PWG) Member
  • Brooke Olzendam - Sportscaster, Fox Sports Indiana
  • Terina Perry - Project Manager Indianapolis, Lucas Oil Products
  • Andrea Roberts Pierson - Partner, Faegre Baker Daniels LLP
  • Debra Ross - Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, The National Bank of Indianapolis
  • Sunny Lu Williams - Vice President Business Development, Telamon

To purchase tickets for tonight's event click HERE.

Press Release - Attorney Michele Jackson Honored with "Young Entrepreneur Award"

April 23, 2014

MLJ WEB.jpgCARMEL, IN - April 22, 2014 - Founding Partner and Attorney Michele L. Jackson has been selected to receive the "Young Entrepreneur Award" from the Madame Walker Theatre Center at the 9th Annual Spirit Awards Gala.

"It truly is an honor to receive an award from an organization that celebrates the cultural heritage of diverse ethnicities and symbolizes the spirit of creativity and community pride in Indianapolis," Jackson said. "It is especially humbling to be honored by an organization founded by such an amazing woman and entrepreneur."

The Awards Gala will be held at Madame Walker Theatre on April 26, 2014. The evening opens with a cocktail reception and is followed by the awards ceremony where business and civic leaders will be recognized for their contributions to arts and culture.

Founded in 1927 as a lifelong dream of Madame C.J. Walker, the Theatre Center's mission is to preserve and advance the legacy of its namesake through arts, entertainment, cultural education, entrepreneurship and civic engagement. It lives its mission by celebrating the rich heritage of the African-American culture and other minority cultures through artistic expression and is seen as Central Indiana's only multi-cultural art house into which everyone is welcome. For more information about the programs and services available at the Theatre Center visit:

Harden Jackson, LLC is a Carmel law firm providing personalized service with a responsive and compassionate approach. As effective and experienced litigators, the attorneys work with clients to develop strategies for negotiating settlements, while always preparing for litigation if necessary. The practice assists clients in all areas of family law, adoption and reproductive law matters. For more information, please contact Leah Potter at 317.569.0770 or

Indiana Celebrates National Adoption Day - Photo Gallery

November 9, 2012

Here are the photos from Indiana's celebration of National Adoption Day. It was a day filled with education, personal stories and the celebration of children who have found their forever families.

This is an adoptive parent panel. They shared their personal stories and answered questions about their adoption journeys.


There were also adoptees sharing their stories.


Thaxton, who was adopted from the Democratic Republic of Congo, was exhausted from being so cute. Look at the drool!


Judge Zore reading the announcement from Indianapolis mayor, Greg Ballard, declaring it officially "Adoption Day in Indianapolis"


Attorney Michele Jackson with her beautiful son, Kingston.


How is Child Support calculated in Indiana?

November 1, 2012

Often times when our clients first come to our office seeking a divorce, they are armed with loads of questions surrounding the divorce process. Child support seems to be a topic in which there is a lot of misinformation out there and even more questions. Since 1989 Indiana courts have followed the Indiana Child Support Guidelines. The court uses a Child Support Worksheet to decide how much child support to order. The purpose of the Worksheet and Guidelines is to establish an appropriate child support amount based on the parent's ability to pay and allow more efficiency in our courts. Typically, each parent completes a worksheet listing their income and other required information. Each worksheet must be signed by the parent. Income must be verified with documentation of past and current earning.

What factors go in to determining child support?

1. The weekly gross-income of both parents
2. Costs of childcare
3. Costs of healthcare
4. Number of nights the non-custodial parent spends with the child(ren)

There are also a few exceptions in which the child support amount can differ from the worksheet, such as extraordinary health or education expenses.

Once Child Support has been established, there are situations in which it can be modified. However, there are certain minimum requirements for making such changes. There are two requirements that must be met in Indiana to petition for a modification: 1) At least 12 months have passed since the date of the last modification and 2) The reduced or increased child support obligation must reflect at least a 20% change (plus or minus). In order to be modified, the changes in circumstances must be "substantial and continuing". A job lay-off or job loss, for instance, is not considered "continuing" as the parent is expected to seek and obtain other employment or to return from lay-off.

Child support can be a complicated computation. Remember, these suggestions are not meant to be legal advice. You should consult a family law attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation.

Get Involved with supporting the Family Act - Helping make family infertility treatments affordable

October 18, 2012

The Family Act of 2011, S 965/HR 3522 (See the bill here) is a bill pending in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives that would create a modest tax credit for the out-of-pocket costs incurred for the medical treatment of infertility. The bill is designed to help thousands of couples nationwide bear the cost of medical treatment for infertility, specifically IVF. The financial burden of an infertility diagnosis is significant, and any means to help offset these costs is a positive development for women and men who face IVF treatment.

For many years, families have been created with the help of the Adoption Tax Credit, and we hope this new tax credit will achieve the same level
of success for those trying to cover the costs of medical treatments. The Family Act of 2011 has actually been modeled after the Adoption Tax

Key provisions of the House and Senate bill:

  • The Family Act covers the out-of-pocket costs associated with in vitro fertilization (IVF) including diagnostic tests, laboratory charges, professional charges, and medications for IVF.
  • The Family Act covers the out-of-pocket costs of fertility preservation procedures if the man or woman is diagnosed with cancer and the cancer treatment or disease itself may result in infertility.
  • The Family Act has a cost sharing provision allowing 50% of all applicable medical expenses to be covered up to a lifetime maximum of $13,360. You would need to have out-of-pocket costs totaling $26,720 to claim the entire credit in your lifetime.
  • If you do not owe taxes in a particular year, do not owe enough taxes to use the whole credit, or do not reach the max amount in one tax year, it carries over to the next year for a max of five years after the first year you use the credit.
  • The Family Act is available to couples filing jointly with adjusted gross incomes of less than $222,520, but the credit is smaller for those earning between $182,500 and $222,520.

RESOLVE's President/CEO, Barb Collura is trying to raise awareness for more people to get involved. "We are pushing very hard right now to have the bill voted on during the Lame Duck session (after election day and before 12/31/12). The bill will not have a separate floor vote but will be attached to a larger bill. There are many issues Congress has to deal with during the Lame Duck session and our supporters will be looking for a bill that will pass to attach the Family Act to it.
"Right now we need EVERYONE in the country who cares about increasing access to IVF to write and call their Senators and Member of the House
and urge them to co-sponsor the Family Act. Now is the time! If everyone can do this between now and the end of November, it will make a HUGE difference. Thanks!"

To take action right now to promote The Family Act, please go to this link, where you can click to send a letter to your Senators and Representative. Share the link with clients and colleagues, too:

Photo of the week

October 12, 2012

Attorney Michele Jackson photographed with the children and staff at an Africa orphanage



September 20, 2012

Michele Jackson, an attorney at Harden Jackson Law, is presenting a seminar on Adoption Law sponsored by the National Business Institute ("NBI") on October 3rd, 2012.

Ms. Jackson is a founder of HARDEN JACKSON, LLC where she serves as Chair of the Adoption & Reproductive Law Practice Group and concentrates her law practice in adoption, surrogacy, and international family law. Her practice includes representation for expectant (birth) or adoptive parents, as well as step-parent and second parent adoptions. Additionally, Ms. Jackson represents intended parents or surrogates in gestational surrogacy arrangements and other Assisted Reproductive matters such as egg donor agreements. She is routinely sought for her knowledge and experience regarding issues in international adoptions and international family law and has extensive experience with children in the United States and orphans worldwide. Ms. Jackson has dedicated herself to the adoption of orphans worldwide, while assisting couples and individuals to realize their dreams of becoming parents. Her commitment includes traveling to countries to develop and maintain in-country contacts including agencies, attorneys and foreign authorities.

The seminar titled: Adoption Law: Start to Finish is designed for attorneys who want to learn more about adoption laws and proceedings. The program may also be of value to paralegals, adoption agency employees, social workers and counselors. A description of the seminar is provided below:

Adoption is an emotional process for all the parties involved. Are you prepared to assist and guide your clients through this highly emotional time in their lives? Whether you represent the birth parents or the adoptive parents, our faculty will update you on the latest adoption laws, help you understand various procedures and requirements, and give you the background you need to handle adoption cases without unnecessary delays, ethical problems, or surprises.

  • Get all the adoption assistance available for your clients, including tax credits.
  • Advise wisely on the differences between private placements and agency adoptions.
  • Comply with the notice and consent requirements for adoptions without parental consent.
  • Avoid problems when dealing with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services when adopting an international child by knowing what to expect ahead of time.
  • Know your role in the interplay between social worker and guardians ad litem during the adoption process.
  • Advise clients knowledgeably with an understanding of current adoption law.
  • Tackle sensitive ethical issues and other problems that are unique in adoption situations.

To learn more about Michele Jackson and her adoption practice, click here.

Who gets child custody in divorce in Indiana?

September 7, 2012

Attorney Lanae Harden offers information on what the courts in Indiana look for when determining child custody in a divorce.

The best interests of the child is the standard by which any order of child custody is determined. If the parties agree, the court will order joint custody. Even if only one parent wants joint custody, the court may award it if the court thinks it would be in the child’s best interests.

The court can consider many factors, including:

  • whether the persons have agreed to joint custody;
  • the fitness and suitability of each of the persons;
  • whether the persons are willing and able to communicate and cooperate in advancing the child’s welfare;
  • the wishes of the child (with more weight given to the child’s wishes if the child is at least 14 years old);
  • geographical proximity of the parents’ homes; and
  • the physical and emotional environment in each home.

By definition, legal custody is the decision making control over a child. The legal custodian(s) have control in decisions of healthcare, religion, and education. The parties can agree to any other type of decision making control. Some examples of other types of decision making control in the child's life include the participation in extracurricular activities, dating age, summer camps, age for getting a job, or methods of discipline for the child.

Physical custody is simply where the child lives or spends his or her time. The child may have a primary physical custodian, which is just where the child lives most of the time.

Physical custody may be shared between parents who do not live together through parenting time. Indiana has created minimum parenting time guidelines, but they are only a starting point. Once again, the parties may agree to whatever parenting time schedules work best for them and their children.

Joint custody does not mean each parent will have the child one half of the time. The court can order joint legal custody, and then decide how much time each parent will have the child.

Remember, these suggestions are not meant to be legal advice. You should consult a family law attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation. 

To learn more about child custody in Indiana click here.  To contact our attorneys about your child custody situation click here.

Virtual Visitation - Co-parenting in the Cyber Age

August 21, 2012

Technology’s rapid advancement of e-communication continues to improve the speed and variety of ways we can keep connected via telephone and the web. This technology has impacted family law as well, with many parents now utilizing cyber technology to stay more connected with their children, especially in situations where distance is a factor. More states and family courts now acknowledge “virtual visitation” as a means for parents to interact with their children through the use of technology. "Virtual visitation," (also referred to as “e-visitation”) is the common term to reference various forms of internet technology such as video-enabled phone applications (i.e. Skype) as well as video phones, social media, email and text messaging.

The concepts of virtual visitation have appeared in several family law cases, dating back to 2001. However, Utah was the first state to adopt virtual visitation laws following a court order in a case where a divorced father of a then-four-year-old asked the judge to require his ex-wife to allow him to use Skype to maintain contact with his son.

The Utah legislation prompted a surge in requests for virtual visitation. Non-custodial parents relayed their own experiences that interactions with their children via phone were often limited and short. In contrast, reports have shown that video calls via the internet last as much as 3 times longer than telephone calls. This information has led to advocacy for legislation and permitting virtual visitation is becoming a growing trend. Since 2004, 6 more states have adopted legislation, and while none exists in Indiana, a pre-draft bill has been proposed and is awaiting legislative support.

Even without legislation, many judges consider proposals for virtual visitation by determining whether this type of contact is in the best interests of the child. Virtual visitation can be used to encourage increased contact between a non-custodial parent and the child, and the face-to-face interaction improves bonding in comparison to traditional telephonic contact, especially with younger children who have limited verbal skills. However, parents should remember that virtual visitation is not a substitute for in-person parenting time; the internet simply provides some extra tools, to be used carefully. If you have a parenting time or other family law issue and need legal advice, contact Harden Jackson Law at 317-569-0770 to schedule a consultation.

The above is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult with an attorney to discuss details of your particular situation.

Wisconsin Ruling Prevents Most Insurers from Denying Benefits to Surrogates

August 9, 2012

Two Wisconsin surrogate mothers- with help from the state Commissioner of Insurance and state Supreme Court- have made Wisconsin the most surrogacy-friendly state in the nation when it comes to health insurance.

A 2010 Supreme Court ruling, handed down after the two women were denied benefits, makes it illegal for most health insurers to refuse to cover a surrogate’s pregnancy. That means infertile couples who want to be parents can save thousands of dollars in medical costs by working with Wisconsin surrogates.

“The Supreme Court has said, essentially, that if you are an insurance policy governed by Wisconsin law and you provide maternity coverage, you can’t exclude coverage for somebody based on the circumstances of conception,” said attorney Lynn Bodi, who co-owns a surrogacy agency in Madison. Attorney’s around the country are very aware of the Wisconsin decision, the only one of its kind in the nation so far, Bodi said. She believes that the other states are interested in trying to use it to explain to their courts and legislatures that this makes sense.

The case began after Janesville-based MercyCare Insurance Company and MercyCare HMO denied coverage to the two women. They had served as gestational surrogates, meaning they were not genetically related to the children that they were carrying. The first delivered a baby in 2003, incurring $18,511 in medical bills. The second delivered twins in 2004, with medical bills totaling $16,745. Their health plans said “surrogate mother services” were not covered.

The Wisconsin Commissioner of Insurance reviewed the situation after one of the women complained it was discriminatory to exclude her from coverage based on how conception occurred. Jorge Gomez, then the state insurance commissioner, agreed, calling the decision to become pregnant “intensely personal.” “To give an insurer license to inquire into why a woman is pregnant or whether she intends to keep her baby would be improper,” he wrote.

MercyCare challenged the decision and won in Circuit Court. Gomez’s office appealed. Rather than issuing a decision, the state Court of Appeals sent the case to the Supreme Court, which ruled against MercyCare. “An insurer may not make routine maternity services that are generally covered under the policy unavailable to a specific subgroup of insureds, surrogate mothers, based solely on the insured’s reasons for becoming pregnant or the method used to achieve pregnancy,” the decision says.

Some health plans, including those regulated by the federal government rather than by the state and those that re self-funded, are not covered by the ruling. It does not require insurers to cover reproductive technology, such as in vitro fertilization, only the costs of prenatal care and delivery. Fears that the case would damage the industry have not materialized, according to Phil Dougherty, senior executive officer at the Wisconsin Association of Health Plans. “It’s not anything that has been on our radar screen, “ he said. “No one has raised that specific issue as an industry issue to be addressed.”

Five things you need to know when filing for divorce in Indiana

July 24, 2012

1. Never allow your emotions to rule your actions – if your spouse has left and filed for divorce it is time for you to take action. Get an attorney and do what you need to do to protect yourself.

2. Don’t use the same lawyer. Each party should obtain separate counsel and get separate advice. Even if you plan to work things out amicably, one lawyer cannot equally represent conflicting or different interests.

3. Indiana addresses four main issues in Divorce: Property division, Child Custody, Child Visitation and Child Support.

4. Indiana has "no fault" divorce, which means you don't have to prove either spouse did anything wrong to get a divorce. The spouse who wants a divorce just has to tell the court that the marriage is "irretrievably broken" to get a divorce. There is really nothing the other spouse can do to stop a divorce

5. All assets and property are generally divided up 50/50%. Even if you had significant assets prior to the marriage, the judge will generally view it as marital property and split evenly, unless they have a good reason not to do so or if there was a sound prenuptial agreement in place.

Divorce can be confusing and emotional.  Find a divorce lawyer that you trust to navigate you through the process.  Remember, it doesn't have to be adversarial.  You can choose to Collaborate or mediate  to resolve your differences.

Click here to learn more about divorce in Indiana.

Remember, these suggestions are not meant to be legal advice. You should consult a family law attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation. 


July 19, 2012

New Child Support Guidelines:

Harden Jackson Law on WISHTV

May 23, 2012

Family Law:

Giuliana and Bill Rancic expecting through a gestational surrogate

April 23, 2012

You may have heard about Giulana and Bill Rancic's plight to have a baby.  Giuliana, who co-hosts "Fashion Police" on E! and who shares a reality show with Bill ("Giuliana & Bill" on Style Network), has publicly shared the couple's infertility struggles and then her subsequent breast cancer diagnosis on television.  They announced on the TODAY show this morning that they are having a baby through a gestational surrogate.

The couple had struggled to get pregnant prior to her cancer diagnosis and had two frozen embryos as their last hope.  Due to the cancer fighting drugs Giuliana has taken, she would have to wait years to carry a child.  They chose surrogacy and now have a baby on the way.

You can read more about their interview here: