Articles Posted in Biometrics Appointments

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In this informational post we discuss the I-130 Consular Process for spouses. Consular processing refers to the process by which a U.S. Citizen immigrates their foreign spouse to the United States from abroad. Depending on the foreign spouse’s country of residence, and the volume of applications processed by USCIS, the National Visa Center, and the U.S. Consulate or Embassy where the foreign spouse will have their immigrant visa interview, the process to immigrate a spouse to the United States can take anywhere from 8 to 12 months. Consular processing is a complicated process. It is recommended that applicants obtain the assistance of an experienced attorney to file this type of application.

What is the first step involved in the process?

The first step involves filing the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. This petition establishes that a relationship exists between the U.S. Citizen and intending immigrant. This petition thus is used for family-based immigration to the United States. A separate I-130 must be filed for each eligible relative that will immigrate to the United States including minor children of the foreign spouse. The filing and approval of the I-130 is the first step to immigrate a relative to the United States. Because this petition is filed by the U.S. Citizen petitioner, the foreign spouse does not need to wait until a visa number becomes available before applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate/Embassy abroad. By contrast, if the petitioner is not a U.S. Citizen and is instead a Lawful Permanent Resident, an immigrant visa is not immediately available to the foreign spouse. Due to this, the foreign spouse must wait until their priority date becomes current according to the visa bulletin issued by the Department of State. The I-130 is accompanied by various supporting documents mostly biographical in nature. These documents include the signed forms, the filing fees, passport photographs of the petitioner and beneficiary, the petitioner’s proof of citizenship, a copy of the beneficiary’s passport ID page, copy of their birth certificate with a certified translation, and a copy of the marriage certificate. Once these documents have been compiled, the applicant mails them to USCIS for approval. USCIS takes approximately 4 months to process and approve this application. This time frame will depend on the volume of applications being processed by USCIS at the time of filing.

The National Visa Center Stage

Once the I-130 petition has been approved, USCIS will mail the petitioner a receipt notice known as the I-797 Notice of Action. This Notice of Action serves as proof that the I-130 petition has been approved, and more importantly indicates that the petition will be forwarded to the Department of State’s National Visa Center within 30 days. The National Visa Center is a government agency that conducts pre-processing of all immigrant visa petitions that require consular action. The National Visa Center requires the applicant to send various documents, before the application can be sent to the United States Consular unit where the foreign spouse will attend their immigrant visa interview. The NVC determines which consular post will be most appropriate according to the foreign spouse’s place of residence abroad, as indicated on the I-130 petition. Once the NVC has received all documents necessary to complete pre-processing of the immigrant application, the case is mailed to the consular unit abroad. From the date the I-130 has been approved, it takes approximately 30-45 days for the National Visa Center to receive the application from USCIS and begin pre-processing.

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In a recent blog post, we told you all about the I-751 Removal of Conditions Application. In this segment we will briefly cover the basics of the I-751 Removal of Conditions Application and what you can expect one you have filed the application with USCIS.

Overview: 

The I-751 Removal of Conditions Application is filed by conditional permanent residents who gained their ‘conditional’ permanent resident status, based on their marriage to a United States Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident. An easy way to know whether you have been given a conditional green card is by checking the abbreviations that appear on your green card under immigrant ‘category.’ If your green card contains the abbreviation ‘CR’ under the immigrant category, then you are a conditional permanent resident. Additionally, if your green card was granted for only a 2 year period, then you have received a conditional green card.

Who must file the Removal of Conditions Application?

It is important to understand who must file the Removal of Conditions Application. If you are still married to the same person through which you gained your ‘conditional’ permanent residence (2- year green card), and you wish to obtain a 10-year permanent green card, you must file an I-751 application for removal of conditions jointly with your spouse. If you have divorced your spouse, you may still apply for removal of conditions on your own, however you must provide substantial proof of bona fide marriage. Applications that are filed by the ‘conditional’ permanent resident alone, are called I-751 waiver applications. Regardless of whether you will be filing the I-751 application with your spouse, or filing the I-751 waiver application alone, applicants must be prepared to demonstrate that they entered their marriage in ‘good faith’ and not for the purposes of evading the immigration laws of the United States. In other words, the additional process to remove the conditions on your permanent residence, is a fraud prevention mechanism to safeguard against sham marriages.

The removal of conditions application must be filed only by those individuals who were given a two-year conditional green card by USCIS. USCIS issues 2-year conditional green cards to foreign spouses (and LPRs) who have been married to a U.S. Citizen for less than to two years, on the date that the green card application is approved. Foreign spouses who have been married to their U.S. Citizen spouse for more than two years, on the date the green card application is approved, receive permanent 10-year green cards, and do not need to apply for removal of conditions.

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The eventual goal of most immigrants, residing in the United States temporarily, is to gain United States Citizenship, and later to immigrate their immediate relatives to the United States. It is very difficult however to obtain U.S. Citizenship, and there are important requirements that must be satisfied before applying. For starters, you must meet the minimum age requirement to apply, you must also be a legal permanent resident (LPR) of the United States (green card holder) for a certain period of time before you may apply. In addition, you must prove that you have maintained your legal permanent resident (LPR) status by demonstrating that you have remained continuously physically present in the United States. Lastly, you must be competent in the English language, and be a person of good moral character in order to apply for U.S. Citizenship. There are many valuable benefits conferred to U.S. Citizens. The most important benefit is that U.S. citizens are entitled to protection from the United States government in exchange for their allegiance to the country. Secondly, unlike green card holders, U.S. Citizens may leave the country and travel abroad for any length of time without having to worry about returning to the United States to maintain their immigration status. U.S. Citizens can also apply for immigration benefits for their immediate relatives and other family members more quickly than legal permanent residents. Legal Permanent Residents may also lose their immigration status and risk removal from the United States if they are convicted of serious crimes such as crimes of moral turpitude. U.S. Citizenship is also required for many jobs in the United States including law enforcement. Generally, there are also greater employment opportunities for American Citizens.

When applicants sign the N-400 application for naturalization they are promising to support the United States constitution, obey all of the laws of the United States, renounce foreign allegiances and/or foreign titles of nobility, and bear arms for the Armed Forces of the U.S. or to perform services for the U.S. government when called upon. The N-400 oath of allegiance must be taken very seriously. If you are not prepared to support the U.S. Constitution and bear arms for the U.S., you should not apply for citizenship.

General Naturalization Requirements

In order to apply for naturalization, applicants must satisfy all of the requirements below except for members of the armed forces and their immediate relatives. Members of the armed forces may apply for expedited naturalization as indicated below.

  • Language Requirement: You must be able to read, write, speak, and understand the English language in order to take the Citizenship test, although exemptions exist for certain applicants.

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What is Adjustment of Status?

Adjustment of Status is the process by which a foreign national can change their immigration status from a temporary nonimmigrant to an immigrant (permanent resident), while in the United States. There must be a basis under which a foreign national can apply for adjustment of status. In most cases the foreign national must have an immediate relative who is a U.S. Citizen or have an employer willing to file an immigrant petition on their behalf.

Generally, a foreign national can apply for adjustment of status, if they were inspected by a customs official at a United States port of entry and admitted or paroled into the United States, and meets all requirements to apply for a green card (permanent residence). The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) allows an eligible foreign national already living in the United States with their U.S. Citizen spouse, to obtain permanent resident status without having to return to their home country to apply for an immigrant visa at a United States consulate abroad. Spouses of U.S. Citizens are eligible for adjustment of status to permanent residence once the US Citizen spouse files a petition on their behalf called the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. The I-130 Petition for Alien Relative is typically filed at the same time (concurrently) as the I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. For immigration purposes, the intending immigrant (or foreign national) is referred to as the ‘beneficiary’ of the application, while the U.S. Citizen spouse is referred to as the ‘petitioner’ of the I-130 application. The petitioner allows the beneficiary to apply for adjustment of status on the basis of their marital relationship (established with the filing of the I-130 Petition).

In general, most immigrants become eligible for permanent residence once an immigrant petition is filed on their behalf by either a qualifying family relative (I-130 Petition) or through an employer (I-140 Petition) although there are special categories of green card applicants that exist. Unlike distant relatives of U.S. Citizens and alien workers, spouses and immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens are not subject to any visa limitations. This means that they do not need to wait in line to receive permanent residence; an immigrant visa is immediately available to them and there are no quotas. The process of immigrating a foreign spouse through adjustment of status takes approximately 4-6 months depending upon the volume of adjustment of status application being processed by USCIS at the time of filing, and the amount of applications waiting in line for an interview at your local field office.

Spouses of U.S. Citizens residing abroad are not eligible for adjustment of status

For spouses of U.S. Citizens residing abroad, adjustment of status is not an option because the intending immigrant and U.S. Citizen spouse must be living together in the United States in order to apply. Instead, spouses of U.S. Citizens who are living abroad must resort to consular processing, in order to obtain an immigrant visa and permanent residency. Consular processing is also utilized to immigrate a foreign spouse who is ineligible to adjust status, for example in the case where the foreign spouse entered the United States illegally.

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If you have filed your green card application with USCIS, you are probably asking yourself whether you can travel internationally (yes we mean Mexico too) while your application is in process. After all, filing the green card application is admittedly a stressful process for both the applicant and petitioner. Accomplishing this achievement is worth celebrating.  To reward yourself you may be aching to celebrate your newfound immigration status by going on holiday or taking that important business trip you and your business partners have been discussing.

Travel Authorization for Re-entry

Not so fast!! You cannot travel internationally unless you have received a travel authorization document from USCIS, known as an advance parole document. You are required to obtain such travel authorization if you seek to re-enter the United States after temporary foreign travel. To do so, you must file Form I-131 Application for Travel Document with USCIS. For applicants filing a green card application based on their marriage to a U.S. Citizen, the I-485 and I-131 application is typically filed concurrently. There is no fee for the I-131 application if it is submitted along with Form I-485. It takes approximately 90 days, from the date the I-131 application is received, for USCIS to issue this travel authorization. Once the travel authorization is received, it would no longer be worth traveling outside of the country, because applicants typically receive their “interview notice” in the mail during this time frame. The interview notice will contain the date, time, and location of the green card interview and require the applicant to be physically present in the United States. In emergency situations, it is possible to reschedule the green card interview although this will obviously delay receipt of the green card.

Emergency Expedite Requests

Although it is possible to request an expedited advance parole document in emergency situations, there are important reasons why you should not do so. Firstly, the process for expediting an advance parole document is extremely difficult. You must have a legitimate reason for making an expedite request. Attending a business conference, your best friend’s wedding, or going on your honeymoon are not legitimate reasons for making an expedite request. Even in emergency situations such as the death or serious illness of a relative, we have seen immigration officers repeatedly deny expedite requests. Secondly, you are required to be physically present in the United States in order to attend your biometrics appointment for fingerprinting (within 3-4 weeks of filing the green card application) and later to attend your in person green card interview before an immigration officer (within 3-4 months of filing your application).

Taking these factors into consideration, it is important for applicants to plan accordingly. Never make any travel commitments until you have at least received your travel authorization/advance parole document from USCIS. Keep in mind that you will be required to return to the United States in order to attend your in person green card interview. If you do not appear on your scheduled interview date your application will be denied. Do not let this happen to you.

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