FREQUENTLY ASKED IMMIGRATION QUESTIONS
HOW DO I GET A GREENCARD (LEGAL PERMANENT RESIDENT STATUS "LPR")?
The two main ways to obtain a green card, or legal permanent residency (LPR), are through family or employment.
In order to get a green card through family, you must have an eligible sponsoring relative, who must either be a U.S. citizen or a green card holder.
A U.S. citizen can sponsor their spouse, parent, child, or siblings for a green card, whereas a green card holder can only sponsor their spouse or unmarried child. For immigration purposes, an immediate relative is a spouse, child (under 21) or parent of a U.S. citizen, and are not subject to any yearly quotas, or “preference category.”
In order to get a green card through employment, the prospective immigrant must qualify under one of the “EB”, or employment-based, categories, which include persons of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, executives and managers of multinational employers, religious workers, certain skilled workers who are "PERM approved," and certain investors.
Business, investment, and employment visas run the full gamut. Some are immigrant visas, meaning that obtaining one of these kinds of visas will allow you to become a permanent resident, while others are non-immigrant visas, meaning that they do not offer a path to legal residency and citizenship.
HOW DO I BECOME A CITIZEN (NATURALIZATION)?
Becoming a citizen is usually a long journey that begins with first obtaining a green card. After obtaining the green card, a person who waits for five (5) years, maintain continuous residence in the U.S., maintains the required amount of time physically present in the U.S., and has "good moral character" may applyfor citizenship, or “naturalization”. Upon applying to naturalize, an applicant must take the citizenship exam at the interview, pass the related test, and take the oath of citizenship before they can be granted naturalization.
A person who received their green card through a U.S. citizen spouse need wait only three (3) years instead of five (5) years. In addition, a foreign national who elects to serve in the military may also naturalize without need for any sponsor.
DO I QUALIFY FOR ASYLUM?
Individuals who face persecution based upon:
Political activities (support for, or membership in, a particular political party);
Race or membership in a particular ethnic group;
Religious beliefs or faith;
Membership in a particular social group (including sexual orientation), may be eligible for political asylum.
It is extremely important to remember that in most instances, with a few exceptions, a person seeking political asylum must apply for this relief within one year of entering the United States, or they may be barred from consideration for asylum.
It is also important to remember that many criminal convictions may serve to bar a person from consideration for this relief, although they may still be eligible to apply for withholding of removal or relief under the Convention against Torture.
Generally, it is required to show past persecution as an indicator of future persecution. However, Political Asylum is an extremely high evidentiary standard. Once asylum is granted, an individual may apply for lawful permanent residence (LPR also known as "Green Card") after one year.
WHAT IS THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT (VAWA)?
VAWA is a provisions in United States immigration law to protect victims of abuse who are not citizens of the United States. In cases of domestic violence, US immigration law allows certain victims of abuse who are not citizens to obtain lawful status without having to rely on their abuser to petition for them.
WHAT IS TEMPORARY PROTECTIVE STATUS (TPS)?
The Secretary of Homeland Security may designate a foreign country for Temporary Protective Status (TPS) due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country's nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately.
If you are granted Temporary Protective Status (TPS) then, during that timeframe, you are not removable from the United States and cannot be detained based on your immigration status. You can also obtain an employment authorization document (EAD).
Although TPS is only temporary, you can work toward lawful permanent residence. You can also apply for any additional immigration benefits that you are eligible for and then file for an adjustment of status.
In order to qualify you must be a national of a TPS-designated country, be admissible, file a timely application, and have been continuously physically present in the U.S. since the date specified for your country.
WHAT IS A REQUEST FOR EVIDENCE (RFE)?
A request for evidence is made when an application/petition is lacking required documentation/evidence (initial evidence) or the officer needs more documentation/evidence (additional evidence) to determine an applicant's eligibility for the benefit sought.
WHAT IS A "VICTIMS OF CRIME" VISA (U VISA)?
The U non-immigrant status (U visa) is set aside for victims of certain crimes, who have suffered mental or physical abuse, and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. To qualify you must also be admissible, or qualify for a waiver of admissibility.
WHAT IS ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS?
Adjustment of Status is a process by which an eligible individual, already in the United States, can get permanent resident status (a green card) without having to return to their home country to complete visa processing.
WHAT IS NATURALIZATION?
After someone obtains permanent residency, the next step is usually applying for U.S. citizenship. We guide clients through the naturalization process by filing an application for naturalization (paying special attention to those clients with a criminal history), helping clients prepare for naturalization interviews and filing derivative Citizenship applications.
WHAT IS DEFERRED ACTION FOR CHILDHOOD ARRIVALS (DACA) AND DEFERRED ACTION FOR PARENTS OF AMERICANS AND LAWFUL PERMANENT RESIDENTS (DAPA)?
As of June 15, 2012, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) allows certain people who arrived in the United States as children, and meet several guidelines, to apply for deferred action against removal for a period of two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization.
On November 20, 2014, the President announced a series of executive actions to expand the population eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, allow parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to request deferred action and employment authorization, and to expand the use of provisional waivers of unlawful presence to include the spouses and sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents and the sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
Unfortunately, due to a federal court order, USCIS suspensed the expansion of DACA and the implementation of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).
The court's temporary injunction does not affect the original DACA. Individuals may continue to come forward and request an initial grant of DACA or renewal of DACA under the original guidelines.
On January 19, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to "grant cert" in the case of United States v. Texas.
On June 23, 2016 the Supreme Court announced a 4-4 decision in a case challenging President Obama’s plan to shield as many as five million unauthorized immigrants from deportation and to allow them to work in the United States. The decision leaves in place an appeals court ruling blocking the president’s ambitious plan. The ruling was not a final decision in the matter, it only continues an injunction preventing the programs from going into effect. The question of the constitutionality of the program still remains before the lower courts.
HOW LONG WILL MY IMMIGRATION CASE TAKE TO PROCESS?
If you are waiting for U.S. government action on an immigration petition, visa, or other application, it is quite possible you have already experienced a longer wait than you would like.
For the most part, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reviews applications on a first-come, first-served basis – although everyone must stand in line behind the employment-related petitioners who have paid extra for “premium processing.”
If you are in a category of visa or green card applicant that does not allow unlimited numbers to be given out each year, a certain amount of waiting will be built into the process.
In certain family visa cases, USCIS may take longer to make decisions on I-130 visa petitions where the beneficiaries’ priority date will not be current for many years, such as in the case of the brother or sister of a U.S. citizen. However the applicant's place in line for a visa is established by their “priority date,” which is the date that USCIS first received the form I-130 petition.
Any immigration application that required you to have fingerprints taken will involve those prints being sent to the FBI for a check of your criminal and immigration record. This can add weeks or months to the process, particularly if you have a common name or an extensive record.
When USCIS deems additional information necessary, the agency may send you what’s called a Request for Evidence, or RFE. This may also delay a final decision. Gathering the evidence requested (even if you think it irrelevant your case, which it often is) and returning it in a timely manner is crucial.