FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT IMMIGRATION
A “green card,” issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), provides proof of lawful permanent resident status, with authorization to live and work anywhere in the United States. Most green cards must be renewed every 10 years, but conditional green cards based on marriage or investment must be replaced after the first 2 years.
A lawful permanent resident, also known as a “green card holder,” is a foreign national who is authorized to live and work anywhere in the United States, sponsor certain relatives for their own green cards, and ultimately apply for U.S. citizenship. Most U.S. citizens and U.S. green card holders are entitled by law to sponsor their spouses for a green card, also known as “permanent residence status.” The total cost, wait time, and other details of the marriage green card process vary based on several factors.
A conditional green card is valid for only 2 years, and the designation “CR1” on the physical card stands for “conditional resident.” A conditional green card holder must file Form I-751 to “remove the conditions” and obtain a permanent green card. In most cases, a conditional green card is issued to a spouse who has been married for less than 2 years at the time their green card was first approved.
The immigration options available to you depend on what type of connections you has to the United States. For instance, if you born in another country in which you are a citizen or national and you have family in the United States, then they may be able to petition for you for some kind of status. If you’re an immediate relative, you may be able to obtain entry fairly quickly, whereas if you’re a brother or sister of a United States citizen you may have to wait many years – right now the wait is well over a decade – to obtain any kind of permission to enter based on that relationship.
There are other kinds of temporary visas for people who are entering for business or as tourists, and for many of these, it’s necessary to convince the U.S. government that you do not plan to stay permanently once you’re here. There are also visa options available for victims of qualifying crimes, victims of human trafficking, spousal victims of domestic violence, and those who have been victims of persecution in their home country. In order to find out what kind of relief you qualify for, you need to be completely open and honest with your attorney
In most cases, you need to expect to be patient. No matter what type of benefit or relief you’re applying for it is not a quick process. You need to expect to be aware of deadlines and documentary requirements, and you need to know all your options and potential obstacles before moving forward with a case. Your immigration case is an investment, one that you should actively participate in and uphold your responsibilities. The saying “expect the worst, hope for the best” is a good rule to live by in immigration law. There are many ways to get a green card, and the timeline for each pathway is different. Depending on the situation, the marriage-based green card process can last as little as 10 months or over 3 years. A marriage-based green card can take between 10 and 38 months to process, depending on whether your new spouse is a U.S. citizen or green card holder and where you currently live. Adjustment of Status can take anywhere from six to eighteen months, or even longer, depending on where you live in the United States.
It is important that when starting this process, you go into it knowing that this will take several months at the least. Many times there is nothing we can do once we submit the case, it is out of our hands. If you ever have any doubts or concerns, make sure you communicate them from the beginning.
To qualify, you must be someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because he or she has suffered harm and/or has a well-founded fear of future harm because of who they are. This may include harm that is based upon one’s race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or some other characteristic about oneself that cannot be changed, such as one’s sexuality. These are called "particular social groups. Then there must be a "nexus" between the persecution and the above listed groups. This means that you had to have faced persecutions or will face them "on account of" your belonging to that group of people. Now even if you qualify for asylum, there may be bars that preclude you from gaining it. Bars to asylum include:
- Persecution of others;
- Conviction of certain types of crimes in the United States;
- Commission of serious, non-political crimes outside of the United States;
- Being a danger to national security;
- Terrorist activity;
- Firmly resettling in another country outside of your home country;
- Having a safe third country where you could live;
- Prior asylum denial (except in changed circumstances); and
- Filing for asylum more than one year after arriving in the U.S. (with limited exceptions).
It is important to consult an immigration attorney if you think that you might be barred from qualifying for asylum because of one of these reasons.
Any person who is not a citizen can be deported from the U.S. Certain immigrants are particularly at risk for deportation.
Immigrants with certain convictions can be deported, barred from adjusting their status to lawful permanent residency, or prohibited from returning to the U.S. after a trip abroad. This includes:
- Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs, or green card holders)
- Asylees & Refugees
- People who have been granted withholding of removal or temporary protected status (TPS)
- People who have applied to adjust their status
- People on tourist, student, business, and other visas
The types of convictions leading to deportation are very broad and even include offenses that the criminal judge considered minor enough to warrant no time in jail. This deportation is like a second punishment that happens after immigrants finish their criminal sentence and can happen years after the conviction.
US citizens cannot be deported. However, the government can attempt to take away the citizenship of a naturalized citizen if they can show that her naturalization was gained through fraud – for example, if a person did not disclose an arrest or conviction on the naturalization application. A person whose citizenship is stripped may again be vulnerable to deportation. If you find yourself in these situations, it is essential you contact an immigration attorney as soon as possible.
It could, that's why it's important to be completely honest with your attorney about past entries and exits, arrests, convictions, or encounters with immigration. Many immigrants with old deportation orders or past convictions are detained when they apply for legal status or citizenship. Some undocumented immigrants apply for benefits for which they do not qualify (for example, because of bad legal advice or to get a temporary work permit), putting them on immigration’s radar and at greater risk.
If you receive a deportation order or notification, the first thing you must do is contact a knowledgeable immigration attorney —one who can work with you closely to build your deportation defense. You need an attorney who understands and is skilled in all aspects of immigration law. Attorney Felton and our team are committed to providing you with the honest, aggressive representation you need.
Green Card applications are typically denied because the applicant is inadmissible for some reason. The most common grounds of inadmissibility are unlawful presence and criminal activity. There are waivers for some grounds of inadmissibility.