Archive for the Lawful Permanent Residence Category

ANNOUNCING:  “GreenCardGo!” and “GreenCardGoPro!” Apps Now Available!!

Posted in Adjustment of Status, Change of Status, Extension of Status, Immigrant Visas, Lawful Permanent Residence, Naturalization, Nonimmigrant Visas, Unlawful Presence Bar (3- or 10-yr bar) on February 22, 2018 by GuruImmigration

We’re very excited to announce we’ve just released our self-consultation apps, “GreenCardGo!” and “GreenCardGoPro!” this week on the App Store for iOS and on Google Play for Android!!  The apps support both English and Spanish.

iOS:
Free:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/greencardgo/id1317503966?ls=1&mt=8
Paid:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/greencardgopro/id1210459276?ls=1&mt=8
 
Android:
Free:  https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.greencardgo.free
Paid:  https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.greencardgo.paid

 

Everyday we get many calls and emails from readers of this blog and from people around the world asking, “How do I immigrate and get a green card to the US?”  or “How can I become legal when I’m already here and don’t have documents?”  We always tell them this is such a broad subject — there are many possible ways to get a green card — that it’s almost impossible to recommend any particular method without the attorney speaking to that person.  Sometimes a person won’t qualify for anything immediately, but it’s not possible to say until a consultation is done with that person, after much back-and-forth questions and answers.

These apps will allow anyone in the world to have access to our basic consultation as if they were sitting in the attorney’s office here in Los Angeles.  We believe there’s no other app quite like these on the market, especially one available for free and, for the paid version, at such a low price.   The apps will take you through a series of questions about yourself and based on your responses, will recommend the best methods of obtaining green card.  As readers of this blog already know, our blog here leans heavily toward family-based immigration (for example, this) and so “GreenCardGo!” is the same way.  However, if you’re fortunate enough to have received a job offer from a US employer willing to sponsor you for green card, the apps can handle that situation, too.

For most people, it’s not only themselves who are interested in getting a green card, they’re also wondering how their spouses and children can obtain one, too, at the same time.  These apps will show how, and if and when that’s possible.

For those of you already living in the US and without documents, the apps will show you how to obtain your green card by filing the necessary waiver application, such as the I-601A provisional waiver, which we have blogged about in the past (see here).  Under other situations, the apps will show when a waiver is not necessary.

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The app is sophisticated enough to deal with certain difficult situations.  For example, it can handle the situation when a child is over 21 and seems to have “aged-out” from getting the green card with the rest of the family, but because of the law known as the Child Status Protection Act, will be deemed to be under 21 and thus can still obtain their green card.  The app will alert you when this type of situation is present and has the correct procedure to deal with it.  There is nothing quite like this on the market.

Spanish is fully supported:

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“GreenCardGo!” is the free version of the app while “GreenCardGoPro!” is the paid or premium version.  The great advantage of Pro! is that when the app gets to the end of the “consultation,” it will generate and email to you a pdf printout that summarizes all the recommended methods of getting the green card that you may have qualified for and it also lists all the questions and answers you’ve selected during the app.  This is extremely useful to have as a record of your session in case, for example, you want an immigration attorney to verify what the app recommended, which we highly recommend, or if you just want to run the app again and want to make sure you’ve got the same results.

GCGP reportGCGP informe

 

The apps are very easy user-friendly yet pack a wealth of information.  Please check them out and let us know what you think. If you like the apps, of course, we highly appreciate your reviews!

Happy green card hunting!

Larry L. Doan, Esq.
GuruImmigration.com

Can My Out of Status Boyfriend Get H4 Status Through Me?

Posted in Adjustment of Status, H-1B, Nonimmigrant Visas, Unlawful Presence Bar (3- or 10-yr bar) with tags , , , , , on August 3, 2014 by GuruImmigration

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Note: The Law Offices of Larry L. Doan in Los Angeles, CA, provides the following blog article and other information on this site, including our responses to comments, for the purpose of legal information only; it is NOT legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

[The following paid consultation question is taken from the Guru’s past client files.]

Hi GuruImmigration, I am currently an H1B visa holder. I want to marry my boyfriend who’s tourist visa expired in September 2012 (so he’s out of status). My company just informed us that in October 2014, they would petition us if we want to. My question is, If I marry him now, can he adjust his status to H4? If not, once my employer applies for my greencard, can he adjust his status and receive his greencard when I get mine?

Please help!

Answer:

Normally, spouses of H-1B visa holders receive H-4 status.  However, because your boyfriend’s already out of status, he cannot “change status” from tourist visa to the H-4 visa while still in the US after he married you (it’s not “adjust status” because that term is only for going to green card).  He must go back home to try to receive the H-4 visa at the U.S. consulate.  This is why remaining in-status is so important.

The problem is, because he’s been out of status for more than a year by now, he will get the 10-year bar as soon as he leaves the US and tries to apply for admission as an H-4 at the consulate.  The bar means he cannot be admitted back to the US for 10 years from date of departure.  Unfortunately there will be no waiver possible for this, which is only possible if extreme hardship can be shown to a spouse or parent who is a US citizen or legal permanent resident (LPR or green-card holder) when he is denied the H-4.  In this case, you are neither a citizen nor LPR, so no waiver is possible (assuming he doesn’t have a parent who’s a citizen or LPR).

If you manage to receive the green card through your employer in the future, then your future husband will also not be able to adjust status by being a dependent on your case because he’s been out of status for so long.  He’ll have to go home and try to apply for permanent residence there.  However, the 10-year bar will also apply if he leaves the US.  The only difference then will be that you will be an LPR, so the two of you will have to prove that you’ll experience extreme hardship if he is denied the visa to immigrate (due to family separation and other factors). It will be a hard case, but not impossible, and will require attorney assistance.

Follow-up question:

How about this statement I found on another site:

“The dependent spouse and child of an employment-based beneficiary are considered derivative beneficiaries. They are therefore eligible for lawful permanent residence under the same employment-based preference category as the principal beneficiary.”

Follow-up answer:

Yes, that statement would indeed be true when the derivatives are in-status. If the derivatives are out of status while in the US, they cannot adjust when it’s employment-based unless it’s only 180 days or less out of status. Unfortunately, your boyfriend has been out of status for more than a year.

Best,

Larry L. Doan, Esq.

GuruImmigration

Copyright © 2014 Law Offices of Larry L. Doan

Any action you take or rely upon after reading the information on this blog is your own responsibility and the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan bears no responsibility or connection to such action. For an analysis of your detailed and specific questions related to your individual immigration situation or problem, there is no substitute for a “live” meeting with an attorney. This can only be done during a paid consultation between the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan and you.  To get started with a consultation, please contact us: paidconsult@guruimmigration.com.

 

J-1 Out-of-Status and Happily Pregnant

Posted in Adjustment of Status, Lawful Permanent Residence, Nonimmigrant Visas with tags , , , on July 22, 2014 by GuruImmigration

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Note: The Law Offices of Larry L. Doan in Los Angeles, CA, provides the following blog article and other information on this site, including our responses to comments, for the purpose of legal information only; it is NOT legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

This summer the Blog will be updated frequently with the popular question/answer feature, composed of actual and recent consultation questions taken from the Guru’s file and his answers.

Dear GuruImmigration,

I have a J1 visa for 3 more years but the contract i came for its already expired, its been 1 years after that.

I just got pregnant and our marriage plans are going to be much sooner now.

We dont have insurance now and im not working so we were thinking i could get insurance from him after marriage.

And if not maybe get all our papers done so we could go to my native country and i could give birth there.

We really dont know exactly what to do, any idea? Thanks a lot.

Answer:

First of all, congratulations for your pregnancy! If you were not on the J-1, then you could marry your US citizen fiancé (assuming he’s a US citizen), and adjust status to a green card while remaining here. Unfortunately, as you probably know (or should know), most J-1 visas have the two-year foreign residency requirement preventing them from applying for a green card until they go back and live in their country for at least two years. You would have to check the J-1 program that sponsored you and see if the requirement applies to you.

Assuming it does apply to you, you would have to apply for a waiver to waive this requirement. The waiver can be obtained through a few ways, including showing extreme hardship to your US citizen spouse and child if you were forced to live apart from them. It’s not easy to get, however, and realistically, usually only succeeds with help of an immigration lawyer. I recommend you consult with one.

As for your health insurance, as far as I know, a spouse is covered on his/her spouse’s health insurance if the premium is paid, regardless of their legal status in this country.

Best,

Larry L. Doan, Esq.

GuruImmigration

Copyright © 2014 Law Offices of Larry L. Doan

Any action you take or rely upon after reading the information on this blog is your own responsibility and the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan bears no responsibility or connection to such action. For an analysis of your detailed and specific questions related to your individual immigration situation or problem, there is no substitute for a “live” meeting with an attorney. This can only be done during a paid consultation between the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan and you.  To get started with a consultation, please contact us: paidconsult@guruimmigration.com.

 

Is the 10-Year Bar for Real and Could It Stop Me from Getting My Green Card?

Posted in Immigrant Visas, Lawful Permanent Residence, Naturalization, Removal (Deportation) Proceedings, Voluntary Departure, work permit with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 24, 2009 by GuruImmigration

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Note: The Law Offices of Larry L. Doan in Los Angeles, CA, provides the following blog article and other information on this site, including our responses to comments, for the purpose of legal information only; it is NOT legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

Many people have written us skeptical or not sure of the danger of the 3- and 10-year bars. Admittedly, these bars seem somewhat abstract or theoretical, and it can be difficult to grasp how they could affect oneself. Some people have asked how is it that people who are already in the U.S. “cannot get their papers here.” Well, that’s the way the law currently is. It was passed in 1996 as a way of penalizing people who came here illegally or who came legally but overstayed their visas for at least 6 months. The penalty was that these people could not get their papers here but must travel back to their home countries to do so. However, as soon as they set foot outside the U.S., they are subjected to these bars when they try to apply legally to return to the U.S. within 3 or 10 years.

With that in mind, it was quite nice that a reader of this blog recently commented and shared her experience with the 10-year bar. Her story was quite sobering, and we thought it has a little bit of everything that we’ve been blogging about, so we wanted to share it with you to show how this bar could wreak havoc on people’s dreams of living in the U.S. We’ve edited some of the original language to make it easier to read:

Hi Guru,
I came to USA on a tourist Visa in 1994 July. Got married to a green-card holder then in 1997 October. My husband applied I-130 for me in October 1997 and it was approved. I went with a friend of mine to the immigration in 1998 and I was inquiring for employment authorization and that’s where I was caught. I was released couple of hours later and reported to them every month. Appeared before the judge in Sept. 1998 and granted voluntary departure. The judge gave me 120 days which will expire on December 31, 1998. I was waiting for my husband’s swear in coz he had his citizenship interview. Since it did not take place in time I had to leave USA on 30th December 1998. I did not overstay the 120 days given by the judge.

OK, this lady had an I-130 petition filed for her by her green-card holder husband in 1997, then went to the Immigration Office to try to apply for an employment authorization document (EAD, or work permit) and got caught. Why? Doesn’t having an approved I-130 entitle you to a work permit?

The answer is most of the times no, not at all. When the husband filed the I-130 in 1997 for her, that placed her into the F2A category of spouses and children of green-card holders. At that time in 1997, people in that category had to wait something like 4 years for a visa number to be available. However, as we’ve shown elsewhere, without a visa number available, one cannot get a work permit. So, in 1998, when she went to the local Immigration office to inquire (and most likely apply) for the work permit, she was not entitled to one yet. At that time, we know she was out of status because it had been 4 years since she came to the U.S. on the tourist visa (in July 1994) and no tourist visa lasts 4 years. The act of going to the Immigration office made them aware of her presence in this country as being out-of-status. Therefore, they detained and released her but ordered her to appear in front of a judge in removal proceedings!

This shows that people who are out-of-status in the U.S. should proceed extremely carefully when trying to apply for something with Immigration here without consulting a lawyer. The lady here presumably did not do so, or got bad advice that she could qualify for a work permit, and made the mistake of applying for it. That’s how Immigration discovered that she had overstayed her tourist visa by 3 or 4 years.

What about the husband becoming a citizen, wasn’t that supposed to help her? Well, no, not unless he was approved for naturalization and was sworn in on time. In removal proceedings, the judge only gives the alien a couple of continuances at most, a good lawyer could get even more. If, after the continuances, the alien still does not have any form of relief available, then the judge cannot keep delaying the case and either will order removal or allow the alien the privilege of voluntary departure. Voluntary departure allows the person to leave the U.S. cleanly without having a removal or deportation against them on their records, and the maximum time given is 120 days to leave. IF the husband had been sworn in as a citizen in time while the lady was still in removal proceedings, then she would have converted from the F2A category to the immediate relative category, and a visa number would have been immediately available to her. Then she could have applied to the judge for her green card without having to leave the U.S.!

But, unfortunately, as she stated, “I was waiting for my husband’s swear in coz he had his citizenship interview. Since it did not take place in time, I had to leave USA on 30th December 1998.” So, because her husband did not become a citizen quickly enough, she indeed had to leave the U.S. within the 120-day period granted by the judge.

Her story then continues:

I went back to Malaysia and remained there since January 1st 1999. In May 1999 my husband became us citizen and he applied for immigrant visa for me and I had the interview on May 2000 and was denied because of overstay and it was a 10 year bar. I appealed and was rejected the I-601. The 10 year bar starts from the day I left USA. I left on 30th December 1998 and i have already completed the 10 year which is 30th December 2008.

So, back in Malaysia, after her husband had become a U.S. citizen, a visa number immediately became available for her. She naturally then tried to apply for the immigrant visa to return permanently to the U.S. She first was denied her visa due to the consulate’s finding that she overstayed previously by about 4 years on her prior tourist visa. Then, she filed the I-601 to try to apply for the extreme hardship waiver. However, this was also denied. Because of this, she could not get back to the U.S. legally, and had to wait 10 years from the date she left the U.S. before she could apply again! How could this happen, you might ask, since she got voluntary departure?

Well, voluntary departure at least prevented a removal order from being on her records, which would have been worse. However, the truth of the matter is that, receiving a grant of voluntary departure while in removal proceedings in court did nothing to erase the more than one year of unlawful presence that she had accumulated in the U.S. before starting her court proceedings. Thus, she became subjected to the 10-year bar as soon as she stepped foot outside the U.S. That’s how strict this bar is. The timing was particularly unlucky because not long after she left the U.S. on December 30, 1998, her husband became a citizen, and she became qualified for a visa to return to the U.S. But, unfortunately, at the consulate interview in Malaysia, the bar was invoked against her, as you can see, and so she had to wait 10 long years until December 30, 2008 to reapply.

Note: Some people are under the mistaken impression that this 10-year bar is only applicable if there was a removal (deportation) order against them. Not true! This 10-year penalty for being unlawfully present in the U.S. at least one year (either by overstaying one’s visa that long or being here illegally when one has no visa) kicks in no matter how one departs the U.S., even if it is voluntarily!

In any event, this lady’s heartfelt story above shows that there are real immigrants out there everyday who simply cannot “get their papers” here, but must return to their countries to do so. And, when they do that, they may be stuck in their countries for 10 years before being allowed to return, as happened with this lady. Having paid her dues, she is now in the process of reapplying again through her citizen husband, and should get approved easily this time since the 10 years have already passed with her being outside the United States. This is a real story. It is a story multiplied by thousands of times. For the sake of unification of families, let us hope that Congress will remove these bars from the law as soon as possible.

Copyright © 2009-2012 Law Offices of Larry L. Doan

Any action you take or rely upon after reading the information on this blog is your own responsibility and the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan bears no responsibility or connection to such action. For an analysis of your detailed and specific questions related to your individual immigration situation or problem, there is no substitute for a “live” meeting with an attorney. This can only be done during a paid consultation between the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan and you.  To get started with a consultation, please contact us: paidconsult@guruimmigration.com.

 

Top 10 Reasons Why Immigrants Get Visas Denied

Posted in Grounds of Inadmissibility, Immigrant Visas, Lawful Permanent Residence, Removal (Deportation) Proceedings, Unlawful Presence Bar (3- or 10-yr bar) with tags , , , , on September 14, 2009 by GuruImmigration

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Note: The Law Offices of Larry L. Doan in Los Angeles, CA, provides the following blog article and other information on this site, including our responses to comments, for the purpose of legal information only; it is NOT legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

We thought it would be fascinating and instructive to analyze and compile a list of why people were denied their visa applications in trying to immigrate to the U.S. An immigrant with one of these reasons potentially lurking in the background could try to gauge their chances of success to some extent using this list.

Only 2017 statistics are included in the list. Also, it only includes people who tried to apply for immigrant visas last year, that is, to immigrate permanently to the U.S. In legalese, these reasons for denial are known as “grounds of inadmissibility” or “inadmissible grounds.” These grounds come into play at the last step of the immigration process: at the consulate interview in the immigrant’s home country before the immigrant receives the immigrant visa for permanent residence. This is after all the years of waiting for the visa priority date to be current, after all the facts of the relationship have been proved to be true between the petitioner and beneficiary, after all the forms appear to have been correct….but then these grounds appear suddenly like thieves in the night to derail the immigrant visa application.

Note:  Our new self-consultation apps on how to immigrate to the US, available as described here, are for applicants who do not have these grounds on their records, except for Nos. 6 and 4 below (Unlawfully present in US 365 days or more) which fortunately, as can be seen below is not too difficult to overcome with the right type of extreme hardship evidence.

For each inadmissible ground, along with our comments, the list includes the total number of people denied last year, as well as the percentage who were denied. In other words, out of the total number of applicants faced with a certain ground of inadmissibility, such as for example, criminal convictions, some percentage of applicants was ultimately approved for their visas because they managed to receive some type of waiver.

The list is ranked by the total number of applicants denied, from the smallest to the largest. So, let’s begin…

No. 10 – Controlled substance violators

Applicants denied: 644 Denial rate: 94%

The extremely high rate of denial is quite fitting here.  Those applicants who violated or were convicted of violating controlled substance laws (no matter in what country, by the way) have an extremely difficult time overcoming this ground, as seen in the 6% figure of those who managed to do so.

No. 9 – Public charge

Applicants denied: 1,221 Denial rate: 38%

A public charge is someone who cannot support themselves in the US but must resort to the government to support them. Such a person cannot immigrate here.  As can be seen, however, this reason for denial is relatively easy to overcome with 62% of applicants able to correct the problem when they were told by the consulate that there was a problem. In reality, the immigrant’s petitioner had to sign the Affidavit of Support form ahead of time to agree they would pledge their income and assets to support the immigrant.  Even if the income is not enough, a joint sponsor’s income can be used to help out. Thus, it’s quite easy to overcome the ground of being a public charge and for the immigrant visa to be approved as a result.

No. 8 – Smugglers

Applicants denied: 1,292 Denial rate: 51%

Just to be clear, this refers to alien smuggling, not contraband. And yes, there is a waiver available if the alien being smuggled was someone in the immigrant’s immediate family. The term “smuggling” makes it seem as though the immigrant committed a very serious act, but actually, it includes acts such as “encouraged, induced, assisted, abetted, or aided any other alien to enter or to try to enter the United States in violation of law.” So, it’s not only hiding another person in the trunk of a car that can make you guilty of alien smuggling! Regardless, the 51% denial rate shows that this ground is not so difficult to overcome as in previous years when there was up to 90% denial rate.

No. 7 – Crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT)

Applicants denied: 1,363 Denial rate: 80%

The bad CIMT. In immigration work, lawyers hate to hear this acronym mentioned because it means the client’s case could be a very hard case! A crime, such as DUI (driving under the influence) will not involve moral turpitude because it does not involve “baseness” or a “bad heart,” which is a rough definition of “moral turpitude.” But DUI with death or injury involved may involve moral turpitude, depending on the local DUI law involved and if there was at least recklessness on the part of the driver in causing the death or injury. Of course, it goes without saying that more serious crimes such as fraud, theft, rape, murder, and so forth are CIMTs. A conviction for a CIMT in an applicant’s past will make them inadmissible to the U.S. although a waiver is possible. However, the 80% denial rate shows that the waiver will be quite difficult to get.

No. 6 – Unlawfully present 365 days or more (provisional waiver)

Applicants denied: 1,956 Denial rate: 5%

This category is very common because, as we discussed it in detail in our other article, “I’m Illegal, I Can Still Get a Green Card by Marrying My U.S. Citizen Boyfriend or Girlfriend?”, many immigrants have previously accumulated unlawful or illegal presence in the US of 365 days or more, such that if they leave to try to apply for their permanent visa at the US consulate in their country, they are confronted with the 10-year bar.  As was shown in that article, this bar has available an extreme hardship waiver that is applied for in the US even before the applicant leaves for the interview, known as the “provisional unlawful presence waiver” or just “provisional waiver.”

The 5% rate of denial is misleading; it does not mean this waiver is easy to get (anything involving the showing of “extreme hardship” to a US relative is not easy to begin with).  It only means that even after the provisional waiver had been approved for the applicant before leaving the US, he or she was confronted with something seriously deficient about the waiver:  for example, maybe the consulate discovered there was fraud in applying for the waiver, or some other problem, etc.  All this statistic really shows is that for 95% of applicants who had the provisional waiver approved before leaving the US for consulate interview (if it’s not approved, they most likely wouldn’t leave), they will eventually be approved for their visa.

No. 5 – Unlawfully present after previous immigration violations

Applicants denied: 2,648 Denial rate: 83%

This category is an extremely harsh category to be caught under. It consists of immigrants who had been unlawfully present in previous times in the U.S. for a total period of more than 1 year, or who were ordered removed or deported, but later they entered or tried to enter the U.S. illegally. At their consulate visa interview, when this negative immigration history is discovered, such a person cannot be admitted to the U.S. It’s a lifetime bar! However, the person could wait 10 years outside the U.S. then apply to immigration authorities for permission to reapply for admission to the U.S.

No. 4 – Unlawfully present 365 days or more (non-provisional waiver)

Applicants denied: 3,022 Denial rate: 39%

This category is the same 10-year bar as in No. 6 above, except that for these applicants, for whatever reason, they did not obtain an approved provisional waiver before leaving the US for their consulate interview.  Instead, at the interview they are confronted with the 10-year bar.  And, as was shown in the same article, this bar does have an extreme hardship waiver available to excuse it when the applicant is applying from outside the US, the non-provisional waiver type.  This waiver had a 39% denial rate last year, or in other words, nearly 6 out of 10 applicants got the waiver approved.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean this waiver is easy to get. Obviously, the statistics used to construct this list does not, and indeed, cannot tell us how many people who knew ahead of time they would be denied and did not bother to apply. For example, someone with a weak case might have obtained legal advice ahead of time from their immigration lawyer that applying for a visa would be a waste of time even if there is a waiver available in the law. Thus, it may be that for certain waivers such as this one, there were more applicants with stronger cases to begin with anyway, thus biasing the rate of success toward approval. To obtain approval of this waiver, the immigrant has to leave behind their family in the U.S. and travel back to their home country and apply at the U.S. consulate. If the waiver is denied, they are stuck in their country unable to return to their family. Thus, looking at the statistics we believe that it’s likely only people who felt more confidently ahead of time that they have a strong hardship case would take this risk.

No. 3 – Misrepresentation

Applicants denied: 4,360 Denial rate: 74%

This is the “When you lie, you fry” category. These were immigrants who had their visas denied due to being caught committing fraud or misrepresenting (lying) some fact in order to obtain the visa or even any previous visa or admission document. The relatively high denial rate shows that U.S. immigration authorities do not have a high tolerance for immigrants not being truthful on their applications. Still, 26% of them last year ended up overcoming this due to a waiver being available. The waiver is to show extreme hardship to a spouse, child or parent who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident and thus, is quite similar to the waiver used for the very common 10-year bar, which is the next category.

No. 2 – Labor certification

Applicants denied: 8,363 Denial rate: 96%

A less well-known way of immigrating to the U.S. is through an employer petition. A U.S. employer can petition for an immigrant worker to take a permanent job position in the U.S. In order to qualify, however, the employer must file a labor certification application with the U.S. Department of Labor to certify that there are no willing, able, and qualified U.S. workers for the job position. Only if this labor certification is certified will the immigrant worker be approved a visa to immigrate. However, at the consulate interview, there are many applicants whom the consulate found to have intended to immigrate to the US to work, without having had a labor certification filed and certified for them.  Those cases must be denied.  Or, even if a labor certification has been obtained, the visa may still be denied, such as when the consulate officer believes the worker does not truly intend to work for the employer, or fraud in obtaining the labor certification, etc.   This ground of denial is almost impossible to overcome as seen in the almost 100% rate of denial.

Finally, we come to the TOP REASON FOR VISA DENIAL, which is…:

No.1 – Application does not comply with provisions of law or regulations!

Applicants denied: 85,185 Denial rate: 33%

Amazingly, for something that is #1, it is not a fancy reason to deny a visa! The Department of State does not break out in fine details what these consisted of, but they have to do with reasons such as the applicant not being eligible for the visa being sought, filing requirements not met, lack of required evidence, missing forms, missing information, etc. Pretty mundane reasons actually. That said, this category seems to also be a catch-all category containing reasons for denial that do not fit neatly into any of the main categories laid out in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

This reason for denial (legally, section 221(g) of the INA) is relatively easy to overcome. This is understandable if the denial has to do with deficient application forms or missing evidence since those can be easily fixed by the applicant. A HUGE number of applicants were told initially they were in this category last year, more than 254,000, which easily dwarfs all the other nine categories combined. The lesson here is, make sure you are eligible for the visa ahead of time and your applications and documents in tip-top shape! Hiring a good immigration lawyer is obviously a good start toward this end.

So, those are the top 10 reasons for denial in terms of number. In terms of percentage, the ranking goes like this from the most difficult to overcome to the easiest:

1. Labor certification – 96%
2. Controlled substance violators – 94%
3. Unlawfully present after previous immigration violations – 83%
4. Crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) – 80%
5. Misrepresentation – 74%
6. Smugglers – 51%
7. Unlawfully present 365 days or more (10-year bar)(non-provisional waiver) – 39%
8. Public charge – 38%
9. Application does not comply with provisions of law or regulations – 33%
10. Unlawfully present 365 days or more (10-year bar)(provisional waiver) – 5%

We hope you will never face any of these reasons for denial in your quest to immigrate to the U.S.!

Source:  US State Department, Fiscal Year 2017 Annual Report, Table XX, Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Visa Ineligibilities, available at http://travel.state.gov/content/dam/visas/Statistics/AnnualReports/FY2017AnnualReport/FY17AnnualReport-TableXX.pdf

Copyright © 2009-2018 Law Offices of Larry L. Doan – GuruImmigration

Any action you take or rely upon after reading the information on this blog is your own responsibility and the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan bears no responsibility or connection to such action. For an analysis of your detailed and specific questions related to your individual immigration situation or problem, there is no substitute for a “live” meeting with an attorney. This can only be done during a paid consultation between the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan and you.  To get started with a consultation, please contact us: paidconsult@guruimmigration.com.

I-130 Approval Is Not Green Card!

Posted in Lawful Permanent Residence with tags , , , , , on August 30, 2009 by GuruImmigration

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Note: The Law Offices of Larry L. Doan in Los Angeles, CA, provides the following blog article and other information on this site, including our responses to comments, for the purpose of legal information only; it is NOT legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

The I-130 Petition for Alien Relative is probably the most common immigration form filed by people in the U.S. immigration system. A lot of people contact us right after the I-130 petition has just been approved. They’ve been waiting for years and happy. They want to know what they can do to claim their green cards right there and then!

Sorry, we have to tell them. The I-130 approval is a necessary first step for immigrants but does not necessarily entitle them to a green card right away, except for “immediate relatives.” The purpose of the I-130 petition is simply to classify the immigrant as a close relative of the person filing the form to put them into one of the recognized categories of U.S. immigration law. So, when U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) approves the I-130, it is simply saying in effect: “OK, we find this immigrant is indeed your spouse/son/daughter/sibling as you claim.” That’s all. They’re not saying the immigrant got the green card. Not yet.

Family-Preference Categories

The five family-preference, or relative, categories are:

F1: unmarried sons and daughters 21 and over of U.S. citizens
F2A: spouses and children under 21 of legal permanent residents (green-card holders)
F2B: unmarried sons and daughters 21 and over of legal permanent residents
F3: married sons and daughters 21 and over of U.S. citizens
F4: brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens

In the above, “F” just stands for “Family.” The U.S. citizen or permanent resident filing the I-130 for his or her relative will be referred to as the “petitioner” and the relative(s) will be referred to as “beneficiary” or “beneficiaries.” From the categories listed above, yes, of course you are probably wondering, “What about spouses and children under 21 of U.S. citizens, shouldn’t they be listed somewhere?” The answer is, yes, but not in the five categories above. They are part of a separate and special category called “immediate relatives” that was mentioned. Whereas, the relatives in the categories above are in the “family-preference categories.” F1 has the highest preference and F4 has the lowest preference. Meaning there are generally more visas allocated each year to the higher preferences although every category has a limited number of visas allocated to it each year. Obviously, the F4 category is the slowest category because it has the lowest priority, i.e., the least number of visas available each year for it. Waits of 10 years or more is normal for F4.

Long Waits for I-130 Approval and for Visa Numbers

The problem is that an I-130 filed for a relative in one of these preference categories usually takes years just to be approved. Let’s call this Stage 1: from the time of filing the I-130 until its approval. For example, as of May 31, 2013 (latest data available), it’s taking about 3 1/2 years until approval for an I-130 in the F1 category at the California Service Center (CSC), and almost 1 1/2 years until approval at Vermont Service Center (VSC). For brothers and sisters (F4 category), it’s taking about 3 1/2 years until I-130 approval at CSC and almost 3 years at VSC. These are average processing times reported on the USCIS website; your own petition may be longer or faster. You’d think it’s normally not too difficult to prove that someone is your child or sibling, and you’d be correct, since usually USCIS only asks to see birth certificates (except for marriage cases because of the prevalence of fraud). Yet, they can take that long to get through Stage 1! It is thus not surprising that when they receive the I-130 approval notice from USCIS, the beneficiary and their petitioner feel such happiness that they believe the beneficiary’s green card has been approved or will be soon.

The truth is that, after getting through Stage 1, most of the times the beneficiary still has to endure another wait, sometimes very long. That wait is for a visa number to become available. Let’s call this Stage 2: from I-130 approval until a visa number is available. As mentioned, there are limited number of visas available each year in each category. It’s first-come first-served, so whoever got the I-130 filed for them first will be in line ahead of another person who was petitioned for at a later date. The date that USCIS receives the I-130 is called the “priority date.” This is the date that determines if there is a visa number in your category.

The U.S. Department of State publishes the Visa Bulletin each month which you can use to check what priority dates are current in your category. Once there, click on the link for the current month (or latest month). For example, the August 2013 Visa Bulletin, under the F1 category, shows the cut-off date of “01SEP06” for beneficiaries who are citizens of most countries (that is, not India, China, Mexico, or Philippines, who have their own columns in the Visa Bulletin table — Mexico and Philippines are notoriously slow since there is so much demand for visa numbers from those two countries). This means that currently as of mid-August 2013, only I-130 petitions filed for unmarried sons and daughters 21 and over of U.S. citizens before Sept. 1, 2006 have visa numbers available for most countries.

Example: As an example of the Stage 2 wait for visa number after the I-130 has been approved, let’s say you’re a U.S. citizen petitioning now for your unmarried daughter over 21 (F1 category) from Mexico, so the priority date is in August 2013. Currently, for the August 2013 Visa Bulletin, visa numbers are available in the F1 category for those Mexicans with I-130s filed on or before Sept. 1, 1993 (almost 20 years ago). So, even after the I-130 has been approved, which could take 3 1/2 years for F1 as seen above at California Service Center, your daughter still has to wait for about another 16 years before a visa number is available for her to immigrate. Or, let’s say you’re a U.S. citizen petitioning for your brother now from the Philippines. Looking at the same Bulletin, visa numbers are currently available in the F4 category for those Filipinos with I-130s filed on or before Jan. 8, 1990 (more than 23 years ago!). So, even after the I-130 has been approved, which could take about 3 years for F4 at CSC, your brother still has to wait about 20 more years for a visa number, or to get through Stage 2.

Looking up the Visa Bulletin can only give an estimate as to when a visa number will become available. It is impossible to give a precise answer as to how fast each category will move in the future, especially if your priority date is several years behind. For some months, the visa numbers can move very fast, but then they will slow down, barely moving at all. All one can say is, for example, right now, the August 2013 Visa Bulletin shows that in the F3 category (married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens), the priority cut-off date is 08DEC02″ for most countries, which means only those F3 petitions filed prior to Dec. 8, 2002 have visa numbers, for beneficiaries of most countries. If your priority date is in 2007, for example, then it may take five years, more or less, until there is a visa number available for you.

Note: Sometimes, USCIS takes so long to approve the I-130 due to whatever glitches or problems in the particular case that Stage 1 becomes much longer than it should, so that once the I-130 is approved, the Stage 2 wait for a visa number can be relatively short. In even rarer cases, on the date that a visa number becomes available for the beneficiary’s particular priority date, the I-130 is not even approved yet! That is, Stage 2 and Stage 1 are effectively reversed. In that case, the beneficiary still has to wait until the I-130 is finally approved before they could proceed to Stage 3.

Note: Sorry, but we cannot answer for free questions of the type, “I’m in so-and-so category, with I-130 petition filed on so-and-so date. How long do you think I have to wait?” This blog article was originally written to show people how to use the Visa Bulletin to look the information up themselves and to estimate how long the wait might be in their own cases. Hundreds of people have asked this question on the blog or emailed us when they can do this themselves. It is quite easy to do. As mentioned, using the Visa Bulletin will give you only an estimate of the wait. No one can predict precisely how quickly visa numbers will move in the next few years. Not even USCIS or us lawyers can tell you for sure.

No Benefits While Waiting for Visa Numbers to Be Available: During the wait until a visa number is available, or in Stage 2, the fact that a beneficiary has an I-130 filed for them does not mean that they get any immigration benefit because of that I-130. The same thing during Stage 1. If the person is here in the U.S. in unlawful status, they must take care not to be picked up by USCIS and put into removal (deportation) proceedings.

Also, people ask us this all the time but with only an approved I-130, the person does not get a temporary work permit if a visa number is not yet available. Neither will they get a driver’s license since the DMV will not issue a license unless the person has work authorization in the U.S. or proof of legal status. In other words, if you’re here illegally or you’re out-of-status on your visa, the I-130 by itself does not do anything to make you legal. This is just a false hope. It’s amazing how many of our clients were duped by notarios, non-lawyers, and even bad lawyers who told them otherwise about what the I-130 could do for them.

For example, some immigrants are under the mistaken impression (or given bad advice) that despite the long waits for visa numbers above, as soon as they have an I-130 filed for them and received by USCIS, or receive news of the I-130’s approval, that they can start filing for their green card or to be legal at that moment. There is no such thing. Be careful: filing such application or paperwork too early will, at best, leads to rejection of the application and loss of filing fees, and at worst, may result in removal proceedings if the immigrant is out-of-status or illegal in this country. Unless the immigrant is an immediate relative, there is no shortcut or going around Stage 2 before the next step for the green card can be taken.

What Happens Once Visa Numbers Are Available

However, after the wait when the priority date is finally “current,” meaning that a visa number is finally available, the beneficiary at that point can proceed to the final Stage 3: actually applying for permanent residence or green card status. This stage has three different possibilities:

a. If the beneficiary came to the U.S. originally with a visa or was inspected, is still in status and does not have serious grounds of inadmissibility, he or she can file for adjustment of status in this country, similar to the “easy” boyfriend or girlfriend scenario described in “It’s Easy for Me to get a Green Card by Marrying My U.S. Citizen Boyfriend or Girlfriend, Right?”

b. If the beneficiary came illegally or has been out-of-status (and not an immediate relative), then he or she must go back to the home country and apply at the U.S. consulate, with the 3- or 10-year bar being an obstacle (except for those out-of-status/illegal for 180 days or less), a difficult situation just like the boyfriend or girlfriend that was described in “I’m Illegal, I Can Still Get a Green Card by Marrying My U.S. Citizen Boyfriend or Girlfriend?” There is also a category of those who came illegally or who have been out-of-status who can apply for adjustment of status here (and not have to apply in their home country), if they have had certain old petitions filed for them in the past.

c. On the other hand, if the beneficiary is outside the U.S., they will file the immigrant visa package with the U.S. consulate in their country, submit police background and medical checks, among other documents, and then be interviewed at the consulate to receive the immigrant visa (unless if they had spent more than 180 days illegally/out-of-status in the U.S. on a prior stay). With the immigrant visa in hand, they can be admitted to the U.S. as a legal permanent resident.

A very important benefit for these family-preference categories is that the spouse and children under 21 of the main beneficiary are also entitled to immigrate at the same time, and in the same order of priority as him or her when a visa number is available.

Good to Be Immediate Relatives

The exception or shortcut to all the long waiting described above is the category of “immediate relatives” mentioned. This is composed of three subcategories: (1) spouses of U.S. citizens, (2) children under 21 of U.S. citizens, and (3) parents of U.S. citizens when the citizen is at least 21. There are always visa numbers available for these people in unlimited numbers. So, they are highly preferred, or favored, in the U.S. immigration system, much more preferred than those in the five “family-preference categories” above. For an immediate relative, on the date the I-130 is filed, they can skip Stages 1 and 2 and go directly to Stage 3 if they qualify for adjustment of status in the U.S. to green card. If they’re outside the U.S., only Stage 1 (filing of I-130 until approval) has to be waited for, Stage 2 would be zero.

One major advantage for an immediate relative is that both the I-130 petition and the adjustment application are allowed to be filed concurrently, i.e., filed at the same time. Compare that with immigrants in the family-preference categories who must first wait for an I-130 to be approved (go through Stage 1), which could take years as described above, then wait for Stage 2 to complete, and finally proceed to Stage 3 for the adjustment application to green card.

So, to sum it up, if you are someone interested in immigrating to the U.S. and you are not an immediate relative, having a U.S. citizen or legal resident relative file the I-130 for you, despite the long wait for visa numbers, is still good future planning because it reserves your place in the line. We can assist you with filing the I-130 since approval can sometimes be difficult.

Copyright © 2009-2013 Law Offices of Larry L. Doan

Any action you take or rely upon after reading the information on this blog is your own responsibility and the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan bears no responsibility or connection to such action. For an analysis of your detailed and specific questions related to your individual immigration situation or problem, there is no substitute for a “live” meeting with an attorney. This can only be done during a paid consultation between the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan and you.  To get started with a consultation, please contact us: paidconsult@guruimmigration.com.

 

Student visa holder married green card holder, what can she do?

Posted in Lawful Permanent Residence, Nonimmigrant Visas with tags , , , , , on August 18, 2009 by GuruImmigration

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Note: The Law Offices of Larry L. Doan in Los Angeles, CA, provides the following blog article and other information on this site, including our responses to comments, for the purpose of legal information only; it is NOT legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

[The following paid consultation question is taken from the Guru’s past client files.]

Dear GuruImmigration,

My sister is a F1–name removed–currently maintaining status. She married a Green Card Holder (DV) in April 2009. They have not filed any petition yet as she wanted to continue studies as a F-1. They have been living together.

She is going to graduate in May 2010. Now she wants to file family petition and remain in the US with her husband.

(1) Do we file I-130, I-485, I-765, I-131 together at the same time?

(2) Can she remain in the US until there is a decision on her I-130 OR will she have to continue going to school?

Answer:

The husband is a legal permanent resident (LPR or green-card holder) and can only file an I-130 for your sister. The I-485 application to adjust status to permanent residence CANNOT and must not be filed together with the I-130 or it will be rejected because the husband only has a green card and not a U.S. citizen yet. The I-485 can ONLY be filed once a visa number is available for your sister as the wife of an LPR. That’s because the immigrant who marries an LPR has to proceed one step or stage at a time, and the first step that must be taken is filing the I-130 and wait until it is approved by U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).

The I-130 is approved relatively fast but it does not grant your sister the right to file the I-485 until a visa number is available in her appropriate category of relatives. As the wife of an LPR, she is in the F2A category of relatives, which is running about 4 years behind in visa numbers, more or less. She’ll have to maintain lawful status in this country (continuing going to school, change to H-1B, E-1 visa, or whatever other nonimmigrant visa she qualifies for independently), while waiting in the 4 years or else she will jeopardize her chance of filing an I-485 in the future due to being out-of-status. Not until there is a visa number available for the F2A category will the I-485 finally allowed to be filed. And as stated, no visa numbers are available for a few years in that category if an I-130 is filed today. To understand this issue read the article “I-130 Approval Is Not Green Card!” as a whole, with particular attention to what we have called the “Stage 1” and “Stage 2” waits in that article.

So, in essence, marrying an LPR is less “advantageous” than marrying a U.S. citizen, because an immigrant who marries a citizen can file an I-130 together with the adjustment of status (the I-485) and work permit and all that quickly since there is no wait for a visa number. This is obviously the scenario described in our article “It’s Easy for Me to get a Green Card by Marrying My U.S. Citizen Boyfriend or Girlfriend, Right?” However, if one is in love with an LPR, then that’s who one is in love with!

Also, many immigrants continually make the mistake of thinking that as soon as their LPR spouses file the I-130 for them, that they can stay in this country regardless if their nonimmigrant visa (the student visa in this case) is out-of-status. No! The I-130, even if it is approved, does NOT grant any right to a person to be in this country or to get a work permit or a driver’s license whatsoever. A person who is out-of-status on their nonimmigrant visa is subjected to removal (deportation) proceedings at any time. Whether they will actually be served papers to go to court for those proceedings is another story due to lack of resources on the part of Immigration & Customs Enforcement. But understand if a person is out-of-status, this could happen any time. Jan. 19, 2010 update: For example, see the comment of another reader whose brother overstayed a tourist visa for two years and thought he could continue to stay here until one day the police or immigration agents came to his house to put him into deportation.

The way to get out of this quandary is if the husband files for citizenship and gets approved in the meantime. That will reduce your sister’s wait and make things easier. Of course, saying that the husband could file for citizenship does not mean that it’s a done deal. He will have to wait until he’s been an LPR for 5 years, then go through the actual process of applying, and then he may or may not get approved, depending on his behavior and records since he became an LPR.

Best,

Larry L. Doan, Esq.

GuruImmigration

Copyright © 2009-2012 Law Offices of Larry L. Doan

Any action you take or rely upon after reading the information on this blog is your own responsibility and the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan bears no responsibility or connection to such action. For an analysis of your detailed and specific questions related to your individual immigration situation or problem, there is no substitute for a “live” meeting with an attorney. This can only be done during a paid consultation between the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan and you.  To get started with a consultation, please contact us: paidconsult@guruimmigration.com.

 

 

Nonimmigrant Visas and Why Maintaining Status in the U.S. Is Important

Posted in Adjustment of Status, Change of Status, Extension of Status, Lawful Permanent Residence, Nonimmigrant Visas with tags , , , , , , on August 14, 2009 by GuruImmigration

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Note: The Law Offices of Larry L. Doan in Los Angeles, CA, provides the following blog article and other information on this site, including our responses to comments, for the purpose of legal information only; it is NOT legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

Many people ask us what is a Nonimmigrant Visa? Isn’t everybody an immigrant to the United States? Well, no. Even though the media and everyday language tend to refer to everyone who comes to the U.S. as an “immigrant,” commonsense would dictate that that is not always the case. There are people who simply want to come here to visit for a while, or for another purpose such as going to school or work for a company for a period of time. For those people, the only way they can come to the U.S. legally is to be approved for a nonimmigrant visa at the U.S. consulate in their homeland.

These types of visas are always issued so that the person is allowed to stay for only a limited length of time in the U.S., never permanently. The period could be as short as a few months to as long as a few years, depending upon the purpose the person has in coming to the U.S. The problem is when people treat their nonimmigrant visa as a permanent visa. They begin to feel they can just stay here indefinitely. We actually get this quite often with clients who consult with us. Most of them of course know ahead of time they’re allowed to stay here for a limited length of time, yet many call us after their stay has expired because they assumed that an immigration lawyer would make everything alright. Well, usually we can help, but sometimes we cannot. After a person has overstayed, it is usually difficult to fix the problem or would be very costly to the client to fix, short of the client going back to their country.

Consequences of Overstaying Visa

What are the consequences of overstaying one’s nonimmigrant visa? First of all, you will not be allowed to extend status (get more time on your stay here), but must leave the U.S. and reapply for a new entry. Secondly, you’re not allowed to change status while in the U.S. to another nonimmigrant visa. Say you came here with a tourist visa to visit friends at an American college, but then decided you like the school so much you want to go there, too. You can apply to change status to a student visa if you do so before the end of your tourist stay (which on a tourist visa is usually 6 months). However, if you wait until after your stay has expired, you won’t be allowed to change status but must go back to your country and apply for a new student visa.

Or, say you’re here on a student visa pursuing a bachelor’s degree at an American university. Now, you’re graduating and have received a job offer at a U.S. high-tech company. You would need to obtain an H-1B visa in order to be allowed to work at your job. You can apply for change of status to H-1B if you do it prior to the end of the time allowed you as a student (usually 60 days after graduation or end of optional-practical-training work permit), but not after.

Another consequence of overstaying a nonimmigrant visa, which is very undesirable and can be disastrous, is the inability to adjust your status to permanent residence (not to be confused with “change of status” discussed above), as described below.

The worst consequence of overstaying is that an overstayer is subjected to removal (deportation) at any time. Whether they will actually be served papers to go to court for removal proceedings is another story (due to lack of resources on the part of Immigration & Customs Enforcement). But understand if a person is out-of-status, this could happen any time. Jan. 19, 2010 update: For example, see the comment of another reader whose brother overstayed a tourist visa for two years and thought he could continue to stay here, until one day the police or immigration agents came to his house to put him into deportation.

Extension & Change of Status

Extension of status or change of status (to another nonimmigrant visa type) while still in the U.S., when allowed, is obviously highly desirable since the person does not have to leave and reapply for a new entry or apply for the new type of visa at the U.S. consulate in that person’s country. He or she would apply with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) here and await a decision while remaining in the U.S. This obviously saves time, money, and hassle.

Sometimes a person overstayed their nonimmigrant visa through no fault of their own. In those unusual situations, the immigration law does have a provision to excuse the overstay and the person can still apply for change of status. However, it is not always easy to prove that it was no fault of one’s own. The assistance of an experienced immigration lawyer is usually necessary in those cases.

Of course, a person who overstayed their visa can leave the U.S. and reapply for the new visa at the U.S. consulate in their country. However, at the visa interview, their overstay will be discovered and the visa probably denied. Or, if they try to come back to the U.S. on the original visa, usually the overstay will be discovered by the immigration officer at the airport, and that visa will be canceled and the person denied entry. Ouch!

By the way, the length of validity, or when the nonimmigrant visa expires, as printed on the visa itself, has nothing to do with the actual length of stay permitted by the immigration officer when a person arrives in the U.S. For example, many B-1/B-2 tourist visas have a 10-year expiration printed on them. That is simply the length of time the same visa can be used to apply for entry at the airport. The tourist will not be allowed, as some people mistakenly believe, to visit and stay in the U.S. for ten years! The immigration officer will give him or her 6 months in most cases because that’s the maximum length of initial stay on a tourist visa (it can be extended by another 6 months maximum while still in the U.S.). The officer will give the tourist a little slip called the I-94 with the red-ink expiration date that’s stapled to a page inside the passport and stamped with the final day of stay. Some nonimmigrant visas, such as the F-1 student visa, will receive the I-94 with the “D/S” notation, meaning that they are allowed to stay for the “duration of status,” or until the end of their educational program or other activities.

A nonimmigrant visa is like a contract or agreement. If you break the promise of complying with the terms of the agreement (by overstaying), you are penalized under the agreement. Instead of contractual damages, however, you are penalized by not being allowed to extend or change status or to return quickly to the U.S.

Serious Consequence of Overstaying: No Adjustment of Status to Green Card

Many nonimmigrant visa holders eventually are petitioned for a green card by a close family member who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident (LPR), or petitioned by a U.S. company for a green card while they’re in the U.S. The problem: unless they are being petitioned for as an immediate relative, overstaying by even one day will result in not being able to adjust to green-card status in the U.S., and they must go back to their own country for U.S. consulate processing. Most people, when they have a choice, would rather go through adjustment of status here rather than do consulate processing as it is obviously less costly and less time-consuming.

However, there is quite a large population of nonimmigrant visa holders who have overstayed by more than 180 days in the U.S. The problem is, even if they have an approved I-130 family petition and not classified as an immediate relative, as soon as they set foot outside the U.S. to go back to their homeland to apply (if they want a green card – there is no other way), the 3- or 10-year bar will kick in. As a result, they will not be approved by the consulate for the final visa to return to the U.S. for 3 or 10 years, unless they qualify for the extreme hardship waiver, which is not easy to get. This is a very risky situation. Only those non-immediate relatives who have I-130 petitions with priority dates (filed dates) on or before April 30, 2001 will be spared this return journey to their country and can adjust their status here.

Good News for Overstayers

The good news is that, as we described in “It’s Easy for Me to get a Green Card by Marrying My U.S. Citizen Boyfriend or Girlfriend, Right?”, by marrying a U.S. citizen in a bona fide marriage, even an overstayer can remain here and adjust their status to green card. Indeed, being a spouse of a U.S. citizen is one type of immediate relatives mentioned above. Perhaps because that option is so readily available, many people don’t take being out-of-status on their nonimmigrant visas too seriously since they know in the back of their minds they could always marry a citizen in the future.

Of course, a true and bona fide boyfriend or girlfriend may not be available at a given time because one is not in love! If that’s the case, such a person may continue to live in the U.S. out-of-status, which is not easy at all since he or she won’t be able to obtain a work permit or social security number legally. A person here on an expired work visa, such as an H-1B, might have had a social security number issued previously when he or she was working in legal status, but once they become out-of-status, although the SSN might still exist the person cannot legally obtain work authorization. Thus, people who have been out-of-status for a long time eventually get tired of living “underground” like this and call us for help on a marriage case. At that time, we are of course happy to help and explain the options available, especially the potential risk of having a marriage that does not appear real. But for the most part, people are sincere and have a genuine citizen spouse willing to help them and the process to get the green card is smooth.

Copyright © 2009-2012 Law Offices of Larry L. Doan

Any action you take or rely upon after reading the information on this blog is your own responsibility and the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan bears no responsibility or connection to such action. For an analysis of your detailed and specific questions related to your individual immigration situation or problem, there is no substitute for a “live” meeting with an attorney. This can only be done during a paid consultation between the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan and you.  To get started with a consultation, please contact us:  paidconsult@guruimmigration.com.

 

I’m Illegal, I Can Still Get a Green Card by Marrying My U.S. Citizen Boyfriend or Girlfriend?

Posted in Adjustment of Status, Immigrant Visas, Lawful Permanent Residence, Unlawful Presence Bar (3- or 10-yr bar) with tags , , , , , , on August 7, 2009 by GuruImmigration

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Note: The Law Offices of Larry L. Doan in Los Angeles, CA, provides the following blog article and other information on this site, including our responses to comments, for the purpose of legal information only; it is NOT legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

In a previous post, “It’s Easy for Me to get a Green Card by Marrying My U.S. Citizen Boyfriend or Girlfriend, Right?”, we promised that we would discuss the hard, maybe extremely hard, marriage cases. Well, those are the ones in which the applicant came to this country illegally, the vast majority of times by crossing the border without inspection. There is a huge number of these folks living in the U.S., especially people from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and sometimes mainland China. That’s not a surprise since the U.S. southern border was and still is to some extent relatively easy to cross without inspection.

It usually comes as a shock when we tell these people that even though they are married to a U.S. citizen, they still must go back to their homeland to obtain final approval to return permanently to this country, unless they had a previous immigrant petition filed for them by April 30, 2001. However, most people simply don’t have the benefit of having a previous petition filed for them, so the green card cannot be approved while they are in the U.S. For example, Mexicans in this situation would have to travel to the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, Mexico, which is just across the border from El Paso, Texas, to be interviewed and obtain approval, a process called “consular processing.”

Just across the border from Texas? No problem, let’s book a ticket…

But wait, not so fast! The problem is, these people had been living in the U.S. illegally for many years prior to departing for their homeland. If at least a year illegally, which is common, then the immigration law imposes a harsh 10-year bar against these people from getting their cases approved if they are now in their country trying to apply to return, even if they have a U.S. citizen spouse and children waiting back in the U.S.! This is perhaps even a bigger shock to people. If more than 180 days to less than a year illegally then they face a 3-year bar from returning, which is still too long.

Note: These bars apply not only to people who came to the U.S. illegally and then leave the U.S. (to apply overseas with or without full knowledge of these bars), but also to those who have been out-of-status on their visas (came legally) and then leave the U.S. before getting a green card (the departure is the key, if no departure then no bar). Also, we get asked all the time whether a child “brought” here by his or her parent “unwillingly” is considered to come here illegally. The answer is yes, there’s no excuse! If the child crossed the border without inspection (illegally) with his or her parents or other people, the child will have the 3- or 10-year bar be an obstacle now, unless he or she leaves the U.S. by the time they turn 18 1/2 and is trying to apply from overseas.

We’ve seen many people made this journey without adequate prior information and legal advice, and now they’re stuck in their country without a way of returning to the U.S. except by entering illegally again. Juarez, Mexico, is used here as an example only. If a person came here illegally from a country much further from the U.S., the journey back to the homeland and then being stuck there because of the bar is a scary prospect! Only if they had been illegal in the U.S. for 180 days or less will there be no bar, but not too many people fall into that category. Also, time living illegally in the U.S. while under 18 does not count.

These bars were put into the law by Congress in 1996. Since then, many of us in the immigration law community have been pushing Congress to get rid of them. Meantime, the same law that added these bars does provide a way of overcoming them, and that is through what’s known as the “extreme hardship” waiver. Basically, the applicant has to prove to the immigration officer that the denial of their case (which means no visa issued to enter the U.S.) would result in extreme hardship to his or her spouse or a parent, where the spouse or parent has to be a U.S. citizen or legal resident.

Extreme hardship is not an easy standard to meet. It is not merely the claim that you will be separated from your spouse and family in the U.S. because every one of these cases involves separation. It is something more, encompassing emotional, psychological, financial, and material hardship that the family will suffer. Documents and evidence must be submitted to demonstrate these hardships. For a realistic chance for the waiver to succeed, all the evidence should be marshaled and put together by an immigration attorney experienced in this type of matter. Otherwise, it will be too easy for the consular officer to deny the waiver.

To make it clear, the 3- and 10-year bars do not take effect if the person never leaves the U.S. However, if they remain here, they cannot become legalized under current law if they do not have a spouse or parent who is a citizen or has a green card. There is no way to get their papers here! People continue to ask us if there is a way but no, there is absolutely no way to do it while remaining in the U.S., we cannot do magic if it’s not within current law. It’s the person’s choice, of course, to go or to stay. Going will lead to possible approval by the consulate overseas for permanent residence at a considerable risk, while staying will lead to the same old same old of being illegal in the U.S. and not having any papers. It’s really almost a Catch-22 situation for immigrants.

Update:  A new “provisional unlawful presence waiver” or “provisional waiver” has been available since March 4, 2013, where the applicant can apply for the waiver here rather than being forced to apply only in their home country.  Thus, the Catch-22 situation is eliminated.  Again, the applicant has to establish that if he or she were refused admission to the US, it would result in extreme hardship to his or her spouse or parent, where the spouse or parent is a U.S. citizen or legal resident.

When you search the internet for information on green card through marriage, be careful of sites that discuss how the immigrant spouse can file for “adjustment of status,” “adjustment,” or “Form I-485” without even mentioning these bars. “Adjustment of status” is the process of filing for the green card here in the U.S. without having to leave. It simply is not possible if the immigrant came illegally and is now relying on a petition filed after April 30, 2001!

The only exception for the immigrant spouse who came illegally to the U.S. is if he or she had a previous immigrant petition filed for them prior to or on April 30, 2001. This could have been a family I-130 petition filed for them by a relative or former relative who was a U.S. citizen or legal resident, or even a labor certification or employment petition filed for them by an employer offering a permanent job. If that is the case, the good news is that the person does NOT have to travel to the U.S. consulate to get their green card but can adjust their status here. This is the famous 245i law that many immigrants have heard about. They would fall into the “easy” cases described in our previous article. An extra $1,000 penalty is necessary in addition to regular filing fees, but that’s a whole lot better than having to leave the U.S. and be confronted with the 3- or 10-year bar!

Update: A lot of people married to US citizens (or planning to marry) have sent us comments and questions after reading this article, who arrived in the U.S. with a visa or otherwise inspected upon entry, and are worried now that they have been out-of-status for so long. Please note that the article you just read is not applicable to you but to those who crossed the border illegally. Your situation is described in the previous article “It’s Easy for Me to get a Green Card by Marrying My U.S. Citizen Boyfriend or Girlfriend, Right?” As explained there, even if you have been out-of-status for many years, that violation is forgiven if your citizen spouse is going to petition for you for the green card. The 10-year bar will not apply to you unless you make the mistake of leaving the U.S. for whatever reason before receiving the green card.

Copyright © 2009-2018 Law Offices of Larry L. Doan

Any action you take or rely upon after reading the information on this blog is your own responsibility and the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan bears no responsibility or connection to such action. For an analysis of your detailed and specific questions related to your individual immigration situation or problem, there is no substitute for a “live” meeting with an attorney. This can only be done during a paid consultation between the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan and you.  To get started with a consultation, please contact us:  paidconsult@guruimmigration.com.

 

It’s Easy for Me to get a Green Card by Marrying My U.S. Citizen Boyfriend or Girlfriend, Right?

Posted in Adjustment of Status, Lawful Permanent Residence with tags , , , , on August 5, 2009 by GuruImmigration

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Note: The Law Offices of Larry L. Doan in Los Angeles, CA, provides the following blog article and other information on this site, including our responses to comments, for the purpose of legal information only; it is NOT legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

This is probably the most common question we get asked by people who are here in the U.S. and want a green card. While most people might have heard from the media and common knowledge that marriage to a citizen is the fastest way to obtain a green card, or permanent residence, the answer may surprise you: Yes, you can, but it may be very hard depending upon how you came to the U.S. and what you’ve done since.

The reason for this is that U.S. immigration law has changed so many times over the years. Each time it changes, the process gets more complicated. So, yes, a foreign person can ALWAYS be petitioned by his or her US citizen spouse. But, petitioning is only the first step. It simply is a finding by the immigration authorities that the couple is indeed validly married to each other. What about the next step?

If the applicant came to the U.S. with a visa or was inspected in some way at the border or airport, then that’s the best situation. They can file to adjust their status to get a green card at the same time that their U.S. spouse file a petition for them, rather than having to wait for the spousal petition to be approved first (which could take a year or more) and then filing for the green card. There is no waiting period for a visa to become available. The only waiting would be the processing time U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) takes to decide the application, which is about six months, for example, in Los Angeles, and in most USCIS offices throughout the country.

This is all done without the applicant having to leave the U.S. to finalize the process. It does not matter how long the applicant has been in the U.S., even if they have been out-of-status for a long time on the visa  they used to enter the U.S.  Finally, as long as the applicant does not have reasons that prevent them from being admitted to the U.S. such as criminal convictions, previous overstay in the U.S. followed by departure, drugs, health/mental problems, or other specified problems under the law, their case is approved. This is the easy green-card situation that many people hope for.

Unfortunately, there are a large number of people who came to the U.S. illegally by crossing the border, especially from countries such as Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and sometimes China. They were never inspected upon entry. Those are the hard cases we mentioned at the beginning. In fact, they can be extremely hard! That will be dealt with in our next post.

Copyright © 2009-2012 Law Offices of Larry L. Doan

Any action you take or rely upon after reading the information on this blog is your own responsibility and the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan bears no responsibility or connection to such action. For an analysis of your detailed and specific questions related to your individual immigration situation or problem, there is no substitute for a “live” meeting with an attorney. This can only be done during a paid consultation between the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan and you.  To get started with a consultation, please contact us: paidconsult@guruimmigration.com.

 

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