Do I need an immigration lawyer?
Seeking employment, reuniting with family living abroad, staying safe from a dangerous situation, and becoming a citizen are life-changing events for those seeking to call the United States home. US Citizenship and Immigration Services is the government agency that processes and approves visa applications. There is a lot at stake when applying for a US immigration visa, and it can be a complex and overwhelming process. If you are in any of the situations below, you will want to work with an experienced immigration lawyer to navigate the system.
I want my family members living overseas to join me in the United States.
After immigrating to the United States, many people want their family to be able to join them. US citizens and green card holders whose family members who are citizens of another country are able to apply for visas that allow their family to live in the United States. US citizens and green card holders can apply for a green card (permanent residency) for their spouse, unmarried children under 21, adult children (married and/or 21 and over), and their spouses and children.
Only US citizens can apply for green cards for their parents (including stepparents and adoptive parents) or their siblings.
I want to marry my significant other who is currently living overseas.
International borders are no barrier to falling in love. When a US citizen wants to marry their significant other in the United States, they apply for a K-1 visa, also known as the fiancé(e) visa. In order to apply, the couple must have met in person within the last two years, unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as civil unrest or religious restrictions. The K-1 allows the foreign fiancé(e) to immigrate to the United States and allows for 90 days in order for the couple to marry. After being married, the new arrival can apply for a change of status to permanent residency (green card). If the foreign fiancé(e) has children, they can also be sponsored for immigration under the K-2 visa.
The K-1 visa is available for opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples.
I have a green card and want to become a US citizen or apply for US citizenship for my child.
A US green card holder is also described as a lawful permanent resident, and they can apply to become a US citizen through naturalization if they meet certain requirements.
The applicant must be at least 18 years old, a lawful permanent resident for five years before they apply, and must have lived in the US continuously during that time. They must also be physically present in the United States for 30 months out of the five years immediately before applying, and prove they are of good moral character. For example, if the applicant has gambling offenses, prostitution, perjury, or drug offenses on their record in the five years before they apply for citizenship, an argument could be made that the applicant doesn’t meet these standards.
If the applicant is married to a US citizen, the residency requirement is three years instead of five, and the applicant must be married to their spouse for the entire three years before they apply.
Two additional steps when applying for US citizenship are the citizenship interview and the naturalization test, which measures your ability to read, write and speak English and your knowledge of US history and government. When you pass the test, the final step is to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States in a citizenship ceremony. You are then able to join in the rights and responsibilities of US citizenship.
For children born to a parent who is a US citizen, the child can become a US citizen through acquisition at birth, or before the age of 18. Children born overseas are eligible to apply for citizenship if one of the parents is a US citizen and either living in the United States or has custody of the child overseas.
A foreign national present in the United States may be able to apply for an adjustment of status within the United States, rather than returning to their home country while the visa is being processed. Having an adjustment of status can be used to apply for a green card.
Undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, often referred to as Dreamers, could apply to live and work in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program if they 1) between the ages of 15 and 31, and 2) met education requirements or were serving in the military.
However, the program has become involved in political controversy. Currently, a court ruling means that though the USCIS is accepting applications to DACA, it is not processing them. The court ruling is currently under appeal.
If a country is experiencing war, a natural disaster, or an epidemic, and it is dangerous for nationals of that country to return home from the United States, the Department of Homeland Security might grant Temporary Protective Status (TPS). Currently, countries under TPS include El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Ukraine. A national of a country under TPS can register with proof of identification and evidence that they have had continuous residence in the United States. TPS does not lead to permanent residence, but it does not prevent applying for other immigration programs that the applicant may be eligible for.
Immigrants can be vulnerable to being victims of crimes, abuse and exploitation. Being separated from family and friends, speaking limited English and difficulty finding employment can all contribute. An immigrant who is the victim of a crime that has resulted in mental or physical abuse, and has information that could help lead to the prosecution of criminal activity, could be eligible for U nonimmigrant status which allows them to stay in the United States. Spouses and children of the victim could also be eligible.
If an immigrant is in an abusive relationship, their abuser may use the visa application process as a threat or form of intimidation and control. Therefore US immigration law, under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows spouses, children and parents of US citizens to file a petition for immigrant classification with USCIS on their own without sponsorship by their US citizen family member. These applicants are known as VAWA self-petitioners. If the application is approved by USCIS, VAWA self-petitioners may apply for a green card.
Deportation, or formal removal from the United States, can happen when a foreign national violates the terms of their visa. However, a person facing deportation may have options. If they are undocumented, they may be able to apply for adjustment of status through the petiton of a family member, or asylum. Asylum may be granted if an applicant can prove they could be persecuted in their home country because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
There are four main types of visas for applicants with the right combination of skills and education to work in the United States, either temporarily or permanently.
- 1. A Temporary Non-Immigrant worker is sponsored by an employer for a specific specialized job, and a specific amount of time, including positions in multinational corporations, nurses, agricultural workers, religious workers, athletes, and entertainers.
- 2. There is also demand in the United States for workers with specialized skills who want to live in the United States permanently. More than 140,000 visas are available each year for these types of workers, their spouses and children. For some visas, it is required to have a Labor Certification, or job offer from a US employer. The employer makes a claim that there are not enough US citizens available to perform the job, and that by hiring a foreign worker, the working conditions and wages of US citizen employees.
- 3. Visas are available to individuals who would like to pursue full-time academic or vocational studies in the United States. There is also a visa classification for educational and cultural exchange.
- 4. Those who would like to visit the United States on business, such as attending a conference, negotiating a contract, or consulting with business associates.
Getting the Best Advice on Your Immigration Application
Applying to USCIS has many steps, including gathering extensive documentation, filing the correct forms, providing all of the correct information accurately, and making the best possible case for your particular visa.The risk of having your application denied means your American dream is on the line. The process can be incredibly complex and stressful. You need expert legal advice with flawless attention to detail on how to proceed with your application and navigate the system.
Don’t go through your immigration process alone. Contact us for a free initial consultation.