FAMILY IMMIGRATION

The immigration services only recognize a marriage that is legal in the country where the marriage took place so a civil union is not recognized.

Yes you may. However, you need to prove that your spouse is domiciled in the United States and earns sufficient income to support the family unit. Most domicile issues are resolved when your U.S. spouse moves back to the U.S., by securing a job, a place to stay, etc., while the minimum income issue is usually solved by proving that the U.S. citizen spouse is already earning income from an employment in the U.S. However, usually because the U.S. citizen spouse would not have filed income tax returns in the U.S. , a joint sponsor will more than likely be needed unless property or savings exist.

No. As soon as you get married, you can petition for her as her spouse rather than based on the approved alien fiancé petition.

It is advised not to because you will generally come on a nonimmigrant visa, while a petition shows intent to immigrate. Not only can you get refused your visa but you can also get stopped when entering the U.S. and put on a flight back home. Additionally, if there is no visa available in your category, even if you entered the U.S., you must be in legal status to obtain your green card (unless you are the spouse, parent or minor child of a U.S. citizen).

You may be able to remain in the U.S. while processing your application for your green card throughmarriage as long as you overcome the presumption of preconceived intent to immigrate to the United States when you entered the country. A 30/60 days rule applies in this case where if the application is filed within 30 days of entry, there is a presumption of bad faith in entering as a nonimmigrant, whereas if you wait to file after 60 days of your admission, there is a presumption that you acted in good faith when you entered on a non-immigrant visa or ESTA. While an immediate relative cannot be denied a green card on the sole basis of a preconceived intent, it is nonetheless a factor USCIS can look at when adjudicating your case, among other factors.

INVESTOR VISAS

The law does not specify a minimum dollar amount for an investor visa. That amount will vary depending on the type of activity you select (service vs. selling goods for example), whether you are creating a business from scratch or buying an existing business, the location of the business and with which U.S. Consulate you are applying for the visa.

Again, this will depend on the type of activity you are intending on setting up. If it is a service company, then buying an existing business will be quite difficult, whereas if it is a shop for example, you will have businesses available to you. Purchasing an existing business is preferred in most cases since the company will generally continue to generate profits when you are ready to close on the existing purchase of the business, upon obtaining the E-2 visa.

Generally, an E-2 visa does not lead to a green card unless a million dollars has been invested in the company from personal funds and the investor can show 10 full-time employments within two years of filing the application. Please check our green card section for all the options that may be available to you.

This will depend on the type of activity you have. It may be that your company is very small and you do not need employees. However, it is generally understood that your company will have to hire employees to show that it is benefiting the U.S. economy. It is a major factor that the Immigration services consider when you apply for the renewal of your E-2 visa.

Several criteria are looked at when renewing an E-2 visa such as the number of employees you have, whether they are full-time or part-time, the salary they earn, whether you hire independent contractors, the profits generated which should be sufficient to support the investor and his family, and whether you are benefiting the U.S. economy.

Generally, you will need to invest at least $500,000 into a project run by a regional center or up to a $1,000,000 in your own company. In the latter scenario, you also have to prove that you will create 10 full-time employments within the two years following the filing of the alien entrepreneur petition. For more information on this, please check our investment immigration section.

WORK VISAS

Law firms will not find an employer sponsor for. You must either go through a recruitment agency or find a job offer on your own.

Though the options are more limited, there are many different types of work visa you can qualify for even if you do not hold a bachelor’s degree. You can for example come on a J-1 visa as a trainee or intern for up to 18 months as long as you find a company to sponsor you and meet the requirements. Third-party organizations which specialize in J-1 placements, H-2B or H-3 will be able to assist you with this. There are also exceptional ability visas (O-1) or performer visas (P) for which you are not required to show such education.

It varies according to which visa you apply for and which type of processing you chose. The option of premium processing is available to most employment petitions, which can lead to a decision on your case within 15 days of the filing date, while the regular processing can take several months. Also, while an H-1B petition for example can be filed on April 1st of the next fiscal year, you cannot start working for your employer even if the petition is approved until October 1st of that year (unless you work for a cap-exempt employer). When a petition is approved, you will generally need to apply for the visa itself at a U.S. Consulate overseas which will generally take several weeks. Additionally, background checks can further delay the issuance of the visa.

The employer will have to file a petition for nonimmigrant worker on your behalf with USCIS and decide which type of visa is the right for you and if/what they are willing to pay for the process (attorney fees, filing fees, wage, etc.). You cannot start working until you obtain the approval from USCIS. The employer can request a change of status to your new work visa status, if such option is available to you and if you are legally in the U.S. or you can apply for your U.S. visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad.

Technically not. A tourist visa or ESTA does not allow you to search for prospective employment. You may look for employment from abroad or hire a recruiter to assist you with this.

GREEN CARD

While some nonimmigrant visas can be renewed indefinitely, a visa is not the equivalent of a green card and it will terminate when you cease to comply with the purpose for which it was issued (work, tourism, training, running a company, etc…). Some visas allow you to have a green card application while continuing to work for your employer under that visa (H-1B, L-1).

Absent exceptional circumstances such as being subject to extreme cruelty by your spouse, if your spouse is unwilling to proceed with the filing of the green card, it will not be possible for you to obtain permanent residency. Note that we also file for VAWA cases for abused spouse in our office and can assist you with this.

To apply for the removal of conditions on your green card along with your spouse you must be living together as husband and wife. If not, you must be divorced in order to proceed with a waiver of the joint filing requirement. There are also some exceptions to that including being subject to extreme cruelty by your spouse.

Yes, it is actually recommended if you want to maximize your chances of being selected for the DV lottery, as long as the other spouse qualifies on his own based on the country of nationality and education or employment experience.

The timeframe varies depending on which category you apply for a green card (EB1, EB2 or EB3). While the EB1 generally allows you to file a petition for immigrant worker as well as the green card application at the same time, the EB2 (absent a national interest waiver) or EB3 category involve a labor certification process which can take many months to get approved. An audit of the labor certification will further delay the process as well as the wait on visa availability for your category. You can access the visa bulletin to find out about the visa availability according to your priority date, i.e. date of filing of your labor certification or petition for immigrant worker.

It is important to realize that having a green card comes with obligations such as residing in the United States for a minimum amount of time out of a year. One is recommended not to travel outside of the U.S. for more than 6 consecutive months out of the year, otherwise your absence may be questioned by Immigration, whether you are truly residing in the U.S.. While a trip of longer than 1 year will trigger a presumption of abandonment of residency, a trip of less than 6 months would not. Additionally, a trip of longer than 6 months can impact your application for naturalization as it can break the required continuous residence in the U.S. (unless you can prove that you maintained ties to the U.S. during this time) and thus you would need to count the required residence (5 years or 3 years if based on marriage) over starting from the date of return from that trip.

CITIZENSHIP/NATURALIZATION

Yes, you can apply for naturalization even if you are separated from your U.S. citizen spouse, as long as you can prove continuous residence in the U.S. for the five years preceding your application and that you have held your green card for at least 4 years and 9 months as of the date of the filing.

The rules surrounding derivative citizenship can be quite complex, so depending on your age, how your father obtained citizenship (by birth or naturalization), and if you are already a permanent resident, you may qualify for citizenship. Please check our detailed section on citizenship/naturalization for more information.

If you decide to apply for naturalization through marriage to a U.S. citizen, you must have held your green card for a minimum of three years and have lived together for the past three years. Otherwise, you must have held a green card for five years (absent exceptional circumstances).

Depending on when the incidents happened, you may still qualify for naturalization. If those occurred outside of the statutory period (5 years or 3 years if application based on marriage), and they are non-removable offenses, you probably would still qualify. If they occurred during the statutory period, then more than likely you would be precluded from establishing good moral character, which is a requirement to file for naturalization. The attorney would need to review the criminal records to make that determination.

There are exemptions from taking the English and Civics examination. You are exempt From the English language requirement, but are still required to take the Civics test if you are: 1) Age 50 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident (green card holder) in the United States for 20 years (commonly referred to as the “50/20” OR 2) Age 55 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident in the United States for 15 years (commonly referred to as the “55/15” exception). In those instances, you will be allowed to take the civics test in your native language and bring an interpreter at your interview. If you are age 65 or older and have been a permanent resident for at least 20 years at the time of filing for naturalization, you will be given special consideration regarding the civics requirement.

OTHER VISA CATEGORIES

Asylum can only be filed if you are currently in the United States and preferably within one year of your entry into the U.S. If you require assistance from overseas, you would need to file for refugee status through a referral to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for consideration as a refugee. For more information on the referral criteria, see the USRAP Consultations and Worldwide Processing Priorities page.

You may still file your application and qualify for an exception to the one year deadline if you can prove that you were unable to file within the one year because of exceptional circumstances (changed or extraordinary circumstances).

There are risks associated with overstaying your visa, such as possibility of deportation, or future bar (three or ten years) from coming back to the United States. There are circumstances, if you qualify as an immediate relative (spouse, parent or child of U.S. citizen) where the overstay will be forgiven when processing your green card application or if you have filed your application for green card under the 245(i) amnesty law.

Once an ESTA is cancelled, you will need to apply for a tourist (B1/B2) visa at your U.S. Consulate. It will be very difficult obtaining that visa once your ESTA has been cancelled, presumably because you had an intention to immigrate to the U.S. or have committed crimes that make you inadmissible to the U.S. or committed fraud while trying to seek admission into the country. You may be advised to seek another type of visa along with a waiver.

ESTA will allow you similar activities as the B-1 visa for business, such as searching for a prospective business to purchase or set up in the United States. You may still consider applying for a B-1 visa if you intend on purchasing an existing business in the U.S. as the existing timeframes to find and negotiate a contract for purchase of a business will vary, as well as finding commercial space.

REMOVAL/WAIVERS

If you were stopped and scheduled for a deferred inspection at a local CBP office, you should contact an attorney to accompany you during this appointment. Though the attorney cannot speak on your behalf, nor stop any process of detention during that appointment, it is best that you know ahead of time what can happen to you based on your existing criminal records. Having a green card does not prevent the U.S. government from seeking your removal from this country when you have a conviction that makes you inadmissible, no matter how long ago it happened.

Unless you qualify for permanent residence under 245(i), the amnesty law, you would not qualify to get a green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen. You would have to file a petition for alien relative first through USCIS and then leave the country to receive your immigrant visa at your U.S. Consulate. Upon your departure from the U.S., you would be subject to a 3, 10 or permanent bar, depending on the nature and number of immigration violations. The new provisional waiver rule allows you to apply for a waiver of the bar prior to your departure, so that you may know ahead of time how long you may be separated from your spouse.

Having a U.S. citizen child does not in and of itself allow you to remain in the country. However, it can be an eligibility factor for certain waivers and a factor the Immigration Judge will consider in adjudicating your application or waiver filed with the court.

You may be able to come back even after deportation (removal). The possibilities will depend on the reasons why you were deported in the first place and what visa you intend to use to come back to the U.S. See our detailed section on waivers to find out how you can reenter the country.

DACA & OTHER EXCEPTIONS

Unless you have obtained a work authorization from USCIS, you will not be able to obtain this documentation. Every State has pretty much aligned with this rule.

As of today, the reform is still on hold and thus only individuals who came to the country as children and meet the specific requirements for DACA are eligible.

You may qualify for deferral of removal or some other kind of prosecutorial discretion which may allow you to stay as long as you meet the conditions under which the prosecutorial discretion is administered. You can also get employment authorization under certain circumstances.