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Posted on in Green Cards

Westchester County NY green card application attorneyIf you have come to the U.S. on a temporary visa and want to remain here indefinitely, you may be eligible to apply for an adjustment of status and become a Lawful Permanent Resident. This will allow you to live and work in the U.S. for as long as you like, and you may eventually apply for citizenship through naturalization. The adjustment of status process can be convenient for those who already reside in the United States, as it does not require you to return to your home country for consular processing.

How to Ensure Your Adjustment of Status Is Approved

To improve your chances of approval, your written application must be accurate and thorough, and it must include all necessary supporting documentation. There are a number of documents that you must submit, including:

  • You must complete a Green Card application, Form I-485. Some of the supporting documents you must attach, along with English translations, include:
    • A copy of your government-issued identity document with photograph.
    • A copy of your birth certificate or other evidence of birth, such as church, school, or medical records.
    • Your inspection and admission documentation.
    • Certified police and court records documenting all criminal arrests, charges, or convictions, even if you were acquitted or your record was later cleared (as often happens with juvenile offenses).
    • Other documentation as needed for your specific immigration category.
  • You, or more commonly your sponsor, must file an immigrant petition. For example, if you are applying for family-based immigration, your sponsor would file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.

Officials of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will review your application and most likely will ask you to appear for an in-person interview. Interviews are generally waived for children under the age of 14. During the interview, it is critical that you answer all questions honestly and completely. You will be under oath, and any false or misleading statements could result in your disqualification.

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Posted on in Green Cards

Stamford green card attorneyIf you are a foreign citizen currently living in the United States, you may be thinking about applying for an adjustment of status (AOS) using Form I-485. If your AOS application is approved, you will be given a green card, and you will be able to live and work in the U.S. for as long as you want.

In our last post, we explained the requirements to qualify for a green card. However, even if you meet all of the qualification criteria, your application could still be denied. In this post, we will explain some of the reasons why U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) might deny an AOS application. 

Reasons for Denial of an Adjustment of Status

Here are some of the common reasons that the USCIS might deny your AOS application:

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New Canaan green card attorneyIf you are legally in the U.S. on a short-term visa, you may qualify for an adjustment of status (AOS) that will allow you to legally remain in the country indefinitely. This adjustment of status will make you a lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the United States; in other words, you will receive a green card, also known as an I-551 card. 

To be eligible for an adjustment of status, you must meet some basic requirements. However, even if you meet all of the basic requirements, the approval of your application is not guaranteed. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) hearing officers have wide discretion to approve or disapprove any application. Your application may also be subject to annual immigration quotas. An experienced immigration lawyer can help ensure that you do meet all of the requirements, improving your chance of approval. 

Criteria for an Adjustment of Status

You must meet several basic requirements in order to qualify for an Adjustment of Status, including:

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New Canaan waiver of inadmissibility attorneyIf your application for a U.S. immigration visa has been denied because you have a criminal record, you should consider speaking to an attorney about the possibility of getting a waiver of inadmissibility.

Types of Crimes Eligible for a Waiver of Inadmissibility

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will not grant a waiver of inadmissibility to people who have committed very serious crimes, such as human trafficking, terrorist activities, or most drug crimes. However, a waiver may be possible if your criminal record involves:

  • Crimes such as theft, prostitution, or certain immigration law violations.
  • A single conviction for possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana.

In some cases, USCIS may decide that your original visa application was misjudged and that you actually are admissible. Therefore, you do not need a waiver after all. You should actually be deemed admissible if:

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Fairfield County immigration waiver of inadmissibility attorneyIf you have been declared inadmissible to the U.S. for certain reasons, you may be eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility. In order to qualify for a waiver, you will need to fulfill specific requirements, one of which may be hardship.

The USCIS Definition of Hardship

To fulfill the hardship requirement, you must prove that a specific member of your immediate family--a “qualifying relative”--would suffer hardship if you are denied admission to the United States. 

A qualifying relative (QR) must be either a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who is a member of your immediate family. For some types of waivers, the relative must be a spouse or parent. For other types of waivers, the qualifying relative may be a spouse, parent, son, or daughter.

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Westchester County NY immigration visa denial attorneyMany people seeking entry to the United States have something in their background, such as a criminal conviction, which could cause U.S. immigration authorities to declare them “inadmissible,” which means their immigration visa will be denied. If this happens to you, the only way to get your immigration visa approved is to obtain a waiver of inadmissibility

Visa Applicants Must Be Honest About Their Criminal Record

When you apply for an immigration visa, you will be asked if you have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime, and you will be required to provide details. Even if your record was later expunged (cleared), you must still admit to any past crimes.

Not every crime will make you inadmissible, and even if you are initially declared inadmissible, you can appeal that decision.

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New Canaan immigration and deportation attorneyReceiving a Notice to Appear (NTA) in immigration court for removal (deportation) proceedings can be very frightening. An NTA means that you have been accused of breaking a law and that a judge is going to decide whether you should be deported from the United States. 

Be assured, however, that not every NTA results in a deportation. Here are three things to do if you receive an NTA:

1. Check the Accuracy of the Notice to Appear in Immigration Court 

The NTA will state:

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Posted on in Visas

New Canaan immigration visa enforcement lawyerAccording to a report issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in August 2018, more than 700,000 foreign visitors remained in the US beyond their required exit date in fiscal year 2017. This figure represents 1.3% of the 52.7 million individuals who entered the US via an airport or seaport and were expected to depart by September 30, 2017 (excluding land crossings from Canada and Mexico).

DHS defines an overstay as a nonimmigrant who was lawfully admitted to the United States for an authorized period but remained in the U.S. beyond his or her authorized period of admission. When a nonimmigrant arrives in the U.S., their allowed length of stay will be specified on their Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record.

Overstay Rates Vary Significantly by Country and Type of Visa

Countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) had an overall overstay rate of 0.5% compared to 1.9% for non-VWP countries. 

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New Canaan immigration visa attorney visitor visasGiven the long waiting times for U.S. family immigration visas, many people wonder if they can visit their family in the United States while their visa application is pending. The short answer is yes, but as explained below, visits require advance planning.

The Waiting Time for an Immigration Visa Can Be Months or Years

The estimated processing times for Form I-130 petitions for family immigration are currently:

  • Five to seven months for a spouse or child under age 21 of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or a parent of a U.S. citizen. 
  • 67 to 87 months for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident filing for an unmarried child over age 21.
  • 71 to 92 months for a U.S. citizen filing for a married child over age 21.

The wait is much shorter for the first category, because there are no annual limits on visas for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, while there are quotas for the other categories shown above. Wait times are for September 2018 at the Vermont USCIS service center.

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Darien spouse visa immigration lawyerAre you planning a wedding between an American citizen and a citizen of another country? If you intend to make your permanent home in the United States, the foreign citizen will need to apply for a visa to enter the U.S. There are two ways to accomplish this:

  • Apply for a K-1 fiancé visa, then marry in the U.S.
  • Marry abroad, then sponsor the foreign spouse’s immigration through an IR-1/CR-1 visa. 

Before deciding which path to take, consider the following:

Bringing a Fiancé to the U.S. on a K-1 Visa 

  • A K-1 temporary (nonimmigrant) visa allows a foreign-citizen fiancé to enter and remain in the U.S. for 90 days, during which time they must get married. 
  • The U.S. citizen must first file a petition for the visa by mail. Later, the foreign citizen must complete an online application form and attend an in-person interview that is intended to prove that a bona fide relationship exists. 
  • You must also provide proof (such as travel and hotel receipts and date-stamped photographs) that you and your fiancé have met in person at least once. 
  • While there is no annual quota limit on K-1 visas, processing can take six or more months. 
  • Once married, the non-citizen spouse can remain in the U.S. but must apply for an adjustment of status to become a lawful permanent resident. 

Bringing a Spouse Married Abroad to the U.S. on an IR-1 Visa

  • Before planning to marry in another country, check that country’s specific requirements for marriage. For example, you may need to establish residency in that country for a certain period of time. 
  • When a Connecticut citizen is married in a foreign country, the state will recognize the marriage as valid as long as both parties would be legally allowed to be married in Connecticut, and the marriage is legally valid in the country where the marriage occurs. 
  • When applying for a spouse immigration visa (IR-1/CR-1), you must provide a copy of your marriage certificate. You must also submit “clear and convincing evidence” that you have a bona fide marriage and that you “entered into the marriage in good faith and not for immigration purposes.”
  • If you have already been married for at least two years, the non-citizen spouse will receive an IR-1 (immediate relative) visa, which is good for ten years.
  • If you have been married for less than two years, the non-citizen spouse will receive a CR-1 (conditional residence) visa, which is good for two years. During the ninety days prior to the expiration of the CR-1 visa, you must apply jointly to remove the conditional status, converting the CR-1 to an IR-1. 
  • While there is no annual quota limit on IR-1/CR-1 visas, visa approval can take six to twelve months. Once the visa has been issued, the immigrant must enter the U.S. within six months.

Consult a Fairfield County Spouse Immigration Attorney

If you want to bring your foreign-citizen partner to the U.S., Gonzalez Law Office, LLC can help you decide which type of visa to apply for and work with you to navigate the complex immigration process. Attorney Hector Gonzalez,  a Stamford, CT family immigration lawyer, has been serving the immigration needs of families for over 15 years. Contact us at 203-323-1440.

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Darien, CT naturalization attorneyIf you immigrated to the United States in the past year or two, you may not have given any thought to the naturalization process yet. You may not even be sure if you want to become a naturalized citizen of the United States. 

You have some time to decide. Under current laws, you must be a lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the U.S. (that is, a green card holder) for five years before you can apply for citizenship through naturalization, or three years if you are married to a U.S. citizen. 

Still, you should understand the benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen. Once you understand these benefits, you may want to pursue naturalization sooner rather than later.

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Westchester County immigration visa denial attorneyWhen a U.S. citizen wants to help other family members immigrate to the United States, being denied a family-based visa can be heart-wrenching. This bad news can be difficult to bear after the months spent waiting for approval and fearing the possibility of denial. The good news is that an initial denial can often be overcome.

Common Reasons for IR and F Visa Denial 

Insufficient documentation to prove the required spousal, parent-child, or sibling relationship is a common reason for denial of a family-based visa.

For an Immediate Relative (IR) visa, the sponsor must be a U.S. citizen, and the applicant must be the sponsor’s spouse, unmarried child under age 21, parent, or an orphan being adopted. 

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Darien immigration attorney immediate relative visaThere are many paths by which a foreign national may immigrate and become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. The Immediate Relative (IR) visa is one of the easier paths, because there is no limit to the number of IR visas that may be issued by the U.S. government each year.

A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) may sponsor the following Immediate Relatives for immigration:

  • Your legally-wedded spouse (visa type IR-1). The definition of a “spouse” includes a same-sex spouse, and it may include a common-law spouse, depending on the laws of the country where the common-law marriage occurred. It excludes people who were merely living together and polygamous spouses other than the first legally-wedded spouse. 
  • Your unmarried children under age 21 (IR-2).
  • A child you are adopting from another country (IR-3 or IR-4).
  • Your parent(s), as long as you (the U.S. citizen sponsor) are at least 21 years old (IR-5).

Requirements to Sponsor Immediate Family Members as Immigrants

If you want to sponsor the immigration of immediate relatives, you must fulfill three critical requirements:

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New Canaan immigration attorney medical requirementsApplicants for immigration to the United States may be anxious about the medical exam that is required as part of the visa application process, particularly when seeking multiple visas for family immigration. Applicants must satisfy a long list of physical health, mental health, and vaccination requirements before their immigration visa can be approved.  

You may be relieved to learn that very few health conditions are grounds for denial of a U.S. immigration visa. The following details are current as of August 2018, but be aware that they are subject to change over time:

Medical Reasons for Denial of a Visa

The Immigration and Nationality Act, section 212(a), spells out four health issues that make a person ineligible for a U.S. visa:

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Stamford deportation defense lawyerBeing stopped by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents can be a scary experience, because you may feel as though your life in the United States is being put in jeopardy. It is true that a lot can be on the line during these encounters. That is why it is important for you to understand what your rights are and what the best course of action for you will likely be. Follow these steps to minimize your risks of deportation during interactions with ICE agents.

If You Are a Citizen of the United States

ICE officers are not authorized to detain U.S. citizens, but that does not mean it does not happen. From 2007 to 2015, more than 1,500 U.S. citizens were improperly detained by immigration officials, according to National Public Radio. 

If you are a citizen, you should always inform immigration authorities of that fact. A citizen can be detained if they are unable to immediately prove their citizenship through documentation, such as a passport, birth certificate, or voter ID card.

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