Articles Posted in Frequently Asked Questions

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In today’s post, we will discuss how green card holders may be affected by President Trump’s Executive Order imposing a temporary travel ban on foreign nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen), including green card holders as well as non-immigrants. Since the release of the Executive Order, several courts have issued temporary injunctions preventing green card holders (LPRs), legally authorized to enter the United States, from being detained and/or removed from the United States until a federal court can decide the constitutionality of the orders.

In response to these court orders, the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has provided further guidance on the enforcement of these actions, and the impact on green card holders from these seven Muslim-majority countries. While both agencies have indicated that they are complying with the court orders, the consensus is that immigration officials will continue to enforce President Trump’s Executive Orders, and they will continue to remain in place.

What does this mean for green card holders? The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security has stated that the entry of lawful permanent residents remains in the national interest, therefore “absent receipt of derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare,” lawful permanent resident status will be a deciding factor in allowing an LPR entry. The entry of lawful permanent residents will continue to be discretionary and green card holders will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

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One of the most common questions we often receive during in person and telephonic consultations is whether an aggravated felony may decrease a person’s chances to legalize their status in the United States. The harsh reality is that the immigration options for noncitizen aliens convicted of an “aggravated felony” are severely limited, and in most situations, the immigration laws of the United States subject these individuals to the harshest deportation consequences. Even if you have been lawfully admitted to the United States or are currently a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) you may be subject to deportation if you commit an aggravated felony. In other words, so long as you are a noncitizen alien, you may be at risk of deportation if you are or have been convicted of what is considered an “aggravated felony” in the United States or any other country. What’s more, aggravated felons lose many of the privileges that are designed to provide relief to individuals from deportation, and in some cases these individuals may be prevented from re-entering the United States permanently, following removal from the United States. The immigration laws of the United States, passed by Congress, contain numerous provisions that are designed to keep criminals outside of the United States, and in turn prevent criminals from being allowed to remain in the United States. While Congress has recognized that there are few exceptions to the rule that should be made in cases where there is a compelling argument to be made in favor of allowing a person found guilty of an aggravated felony to remain in the United States, having taken into consideration the fact that an immigrant’s removal may result in extreme hardship for U.S. Citizens. Unfortunately, these exceptions are very few and far in between, and deportation is the most probable outcome. When it comes to crimes of moral turpitude and crimes that fall under the category of “aggravated felonies” the U.S. immigration system is very unforgiving.

What is an aggravated felony?

An aggravated felony is a term that describes a particular category of offenses that carry with them harsh immigration consequences as punishment for noncitizen aliens who have been convicted of these types of crimes. Noncitizens who have been convicted of an aggravated felony lose the opportunity to apply for most common forms of relief available to law abiding noncitizens, that would have shielded them from deportation. Noncitizens who have been convicted of an aggravated felony for example are ineligible to apply for asylum and may not be readmitted to the United States in the future. An “aggravated felony” is an offense that Congress has labeled as such, and does not actually require the crime to be considered “aggravated” or a “felony” to qualify to be an “aggravated felony.” In other words, the term must not be taken literally. Many crimes that are labeled “aggravated felonies” are nonviolent in nature and constitute minor offenses, nonetheless these crimes fall under the Congressional categorization of an “aggravated felony.”

The myth of what constitutes an “aggravated felony”

For purposes of immigration law, an offense does not need to be considered “aggravated” or a “felony” in the place where the crime was committed to be considered an “aggravated felony” under the Congressional definition of “aggravated felony.” There are numerous non-violent and trivial misdemeanors that are considered aggravated felonies per the immigration laws of the United States. At its inception, the term referred to crimes that were of a violent and non-trivial nature including such crimes as murder, federal drug trafficking, and illicit trafficking of firearms. Today, Congress has expanded the types of crimes that fall under the category of “aggravated felonies” to include non-violent crimes such as simple battery, theft, the filing of a false tax return, and failure to appear in court when summoned. To view the complete list of aggravated felonies under the Immigration and Nationality Act please click here. Other offenses that fall under this category include sexual abuse of a minor, although some states do not classify these crimes as misdemeanors or criminalize such behavior for example in cases of consensual intercourse between an adult and a minor. In most situations, a finding of any of these offenses will result in the loss of most immigration benefits, and in cases where the noncitizen is already a legal permanent resident or is in lawful status, the noncitizen will be subject to deportation.

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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 this segment, we answer 5 of your most frequently asked questions received on our social media platforms and our website. Please remember that every case is different and every immigration journey is unique. You should not compare your situation to anyone else’s. We hope that our answers will provide you with further guidance while you embark on your immigration journey. If you have any further questions, please call our office to schedule a free first time consultation. We serve international clients and domestic clients in all 50 states. We thank you for your continued trust in our law office. Do you want us to answer your question? Please submit your questions to us through our website, or our Facebook page. For more information on the services we offer please click here.

The Affidavit of Support: Using Assets to Supplement Income

Q: I will be petitioning my spouse for permanent residence soon and have a question about the affidavit of support. If I do not have the support of a joint sponsor and my income does not meet 125% of the federal poverty line, can I use my assets?

A: Yes, you may use your assets to supplement your income if your total income does not meet the income requirements of the 2016 HHS poverty guidelines according to your household size, as specified by the charts below. If your total income falls short, you may submit evidence to demonstrate the value of your assets, or the sponsored immigrant’s assets, and/or the assets of a household member with their consent. Not only can the assets of the petitioner, immigrant, or household member be used to supplement any deficient income, but the assets of these persons can be combined to meet the necessary financial requirement. In order to use assets, the total value of the assets must equal at least five times the difference between your total household income amount and the current Federal Poverty Guidelines for your household size. An exception exists for U.S. citizens sponsoring a spouse or minor child. In this case, the total value of the assets must only be equal to at least three times the difference. Not all assets may be used to supplement income. Assets that can be converted to cash within one year without hardship or financial harm may only be used to supplement income. The owner of the asset must provide a detailed description of the asset (if the asset is property, an appraisal can be included or online listing from a reputable website showing the estimated value of the asset), proof of ownership of the asset (title, deed, etc.), and the basis for the owner’s claim of its net cash value. If you are using your home as an asset, you must use the net value of your home (the appraised value minus the sum of all loans secured by a mortgage, trust deed, or other lien on the home). You may use the net value of an automobile only if you can show that you own more than one automobile, and at least one automobile is not included as an asset. Other examples of typical assets used to supplement income include property, 401k, IRA, mutual investment fund, etc.

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In this segment, we answer 5 of your most frequently asked questions received on our social media platforms and our website. Please remember that every case is different and every immigration journey is unique. You should not compare your situation to anyone else’s. We hope that our answers will provide you with further guidance while you embark on your immigration journey. If you have any further questions, please call our office to schedule a free first time consultation. We serve international clients and domestic clients in all 50 states. We thank you for your continued trust in our law office. For more information on the services we offer please click here.

Fiancé Visa

Q: I am a U.S. Citizen who is planning to marry a Moroccan citizen. I am interested in applying for the K-1 fiancé visa for him. The problem is that we have not met in person and it is hard for me to travel to his country because I am a single parent. I know one of the requirements for this visa is to meet in person. Are there any other visa options available to us since we have not met in person? I have heard of people obtaining waivers due to traveling hardships. Please advise.

A: Thank you for your question. This is a very common fiancé visa question. In order to file the K-1 fiancé visa you must meet the following requirements:

  • You (the petitioner) are a U.S. citizen.
  • You intend to marry within 90 days of your fiancé(e) entering the United States.
  • You and your fiancé(e) are both free to marry and any previous marriages must have been legally terminated by divorce, death, or annulment.
  • You met each other, in person, at least once within 2 years of filing your petition. There are two exceptions that require a waiver:
    If the requirement to meet would violate strict and long-established customs of your or your fiancé(e)’s foreign culture or social practice.

    2. If you prove that the requirement to meet would result in extreme hardship to you.

As indicated above there are only two exceptions that would allow you to seek a waiver of the K-1 visa two-year meeting requirement. The first requires the petitioner to demonstrate that compliance of the two-year meeting requirement would violate strict and long-established customs of either your fiancé’s foreign culture or social practice or of your own foreign culture or social practice. While it is difficult to prove this, it is not impossible, however the couple should be aware that substantial evidence is required to prove that either your or your fiancé’s culture explicitly prohibits you from meeting the two-year requirement. Of course this element is largely at odds with traditional Western norms and practices, therefore it is extremely difficult to explain to an immigration officer why you and your fiancé cannot meet in person before you are to be married.  This waiver should only be considered in very limited circumstances.

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Many of our clients are unaware that they may be eligible to receive a fee waiver upon demonstration of a clear financial need. Although USCIS receives much of its funding from the application and petition fees they charge to applicants, the service understands that applications can be very costly for applicants, and that some applicants will not be able to pay the necessary filing fees. Although not all applications and petitions are eligible to receive a fee waiver there are many petitions that qualify.

Who may apply for a fee waiver?

A fee waiver request may be submitted by persons who are unable to pay the required filing fees or biometric service fee(s) for any application or petition that is eligible to receive a fee waiver. In order to receive a fee waiver, applicants must demonstrate that they are unable to pay the filing fees by providing documented evidence of that need with the fee waiver request Form I-912. A fee waiver request, Form I-912, must be filed with all applications and petitions for which you are requesting a fee waiver.

You can request a fee waiver if:

  1. The form you are filing is eligible for a fee waiver (refer to list below) and
  2. You can provide documentation showing that you qualify based upon at least one of the following criteria:
  • You, your spouse, or the head of household living with you, are currently receiving a ‘means-tested benefit.’
  • Your household income is at or below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines at the time you file.

You can verify whether your income is below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines by calculating your household size and household income, and reviewing the I-912P 2016 Federal Poverty Guidelines.

For example, if you are living in the state of California and you have a household size consisting of three people (you, your husband, and your child) and your total income is at or below $30, 240 you may file a fee waiver request by providing evidence that your income falls below the federal poverty guideline based on your household size and place of residence.

  • You are currently experiencing financial hardship that prevents you from paying the filing fee, including unexpected medical bills, emergencies, or other hardship.

Note: You are only required to file one Form I-912 for all family-related applications or petitions you would like to qualify for a ‘fee waiver’ at the same time.

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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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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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In this segment, we answer 4 of your most frequently asked questions received on our social media platforms and our website. Please remember that every case is different and every immigration journey is unique. You should not compare your situation to anyone else’s. We hope that our answers will provide you with further guidance while you embark on your immigration journey. If you have any further questions, please call our office to schedule a free first time consultation. We serve international clients and domestic clients in all 50 states. We thank you for your continued trust in our law office. For more information on the services we offer please click here.

Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) and the Affidavit of Support

Q:  I am a US Citizen married to a foreign national. We have a child together. We recently moved to the United States from abroad.  My husband and son entered the United States on a B-2 visa and we are planning to apply for their adjustment of status. My question is regarding the Form I-864 Affidavit of Support. I have just secured employment and will be able to sponsor my family. I want to know what documents are required in support of the Affidavit of Support as proof that I have sufficient income to support my family. At the moment I do not have pay stubs. I plan to start my employment next month.

A: Thank you for your question. If your child was born abroad, your child may acquire U.S. Citizenship by filing for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA, Form FS-240) before your child reaches their 18th birthday. To do so, the U.S. Citizen parent must report the birth of the child at their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Anytime that a child of a U.S. Citizen parent is born abroad, the parent must report the birth to nearest U.S. Consulate as soon as possible. This will allow the Consulate to issue a Consular Report of Birth Abroad as an official record of your child’s claim to U.S. Citizenship. The CRBA may be used as proof of your child’s U.S. Citizenship and allows the child to obtain a U.S. passport. A child with a consular report of birth abroad receives the same privileges as a child born in the United States. It is recommended that you first contact your closest U.S. embassy or Consulate before filing a petition for your son, because it is likely that you will not need to go through the immigration process for your son.

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