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Westchester County immigration interview lawyerFrom the moment you decide you would like to immigrate to the U.S. until the moment you become a United States citizen, you will go through at least two in-person interviews with U.S. immigration officials. 

When Interviews Are Required During the Immigration Process

Many people first come to the U.S. on non-immigrant visas, such as F1 visas for college students or H1-B visas for skilled workers. In order to get those visas, the applicant must appear at a U.S. consulate in their home country for an in-person interview. When such individuals decide they would like to convert their temporary status to lawful permanent resident (green card) status, they often find an employer willing to sponsor them for an employment-based immigration visa, most commonly an EB-2 or EB-3 visa. An in-person interview is again required prior to issuance of an EB visa. 

Other people are able to become lawful permanent residents via a family-based immigration visa, often sponsored by a family member (parent, spouse, child, or sibling) who is already a lawful permanent resident or citizen of the United States. An in-person interview is required prior to the issuance of immediate relative (IR), family preference (F), and fiancé (K) visas.

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Stamford citizenship naturalization attorneyIf you have recently become a naturalized U.S. citizen, there are several steps you should take within a month or two of receiving your Certificate of Naturalization. 

Update Social Security With Your Citizenship Status

You should already have a Social Security number and card, because these are required to work in the U.S. When a lawful permanent resident (LPR) becomes a naturalized citizen, you must inform the Social Security Administration (SSA) of this change in status. To do this, take your Certificate of Naturalization to the nearest SSA office. It is recommended that you wait about two weeks after naturalization to do this.

There are several reasons why it is important to update your Social Security record. First, if you changed your name at your naturalization ceremony, you must officially inform the SSA of your name change. This is necessary to ensure that all of your employment records under different names remain linked together. 

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Westchester County NY citizenship and naturalization lawyerMost people assume that a naturalized citizen of the United States has the same rights and permanent status as a citizen by birth. In most cases, that is true. However, there are some situations in which a naturalized citizen can be denaturalized and deported from the country. 

Grounds for Revocation of Naturalized Citizenship

According to section 340 of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, there are four situations in which a person’s naturalized citizenship may be revoked: 

1. Person concealed or willfully misrepresented a material fact. 

Put simply, this means that a person deliberately lied or withheld information on their application or in their interview for naturalization, and USCIS found out about it later. The lie must involve a “material fact,” meaning that the information could have influenced the USCIS decision on naturalization.

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New Canaan citizenship attorneyMany immigrants arrive in the U.S. with limited formal education. Other immigrants arrive with multiple degrees but are not fully fluent in speaking, reading, and writing English. Still others are well-educated and fluent in English but are age 50, 60, or older and have not had to memorize information for a test in many years. Any of these situations can leave an immigrant nervous about passing the English and civics tests necessary to qualify for U.S. citizenship by naturalization

If you are at all nervous about these particular requirements, you need not be. The tests are actually quite simple, and study aids are readily available to help you prepare. Some applicants may even be exempt from these requirements.

Exemptions From Test Requirements

You do not need to take the English test, but must take the civics test in the language of your choice if:

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New Canaan naturalization lawyerAfter overcoming many hurdles to achieve your status as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the United States and accumulating the required time—usually five years, you may be interested in applying for U.S. citizenship by naturalization. This can be a difficult step for some people, as it means giving up your loyalty to your old country in order to take up your new role as an American citizen. However, it is necessary if you want to enjoy all of the benefits of citizenship, such as freedom from the risk of deportation in all but the rarest of circumstances. 

If you are planning to become a U.S. citizen, there is just one more step to take before contacting an immigration lawyer and preparing your application for naturalization. You must make sure there are no remaining barriers that could cause your application for naturalization to be denied.

Checklist: 10 Reasons Naturalization Could Be Denied 

  1. Being unable to speak, read, and write basic English, unless you qualify for an age or disability exception.
  2. Being unable to demonstrate required knowledge of American civics, unless you qualify for a disability exception.
  3. Being unwilling to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. To become a citizen, you must renounce your allegiance to any other nation and swear your sole loyalty to the USA. You must also promise to support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States and to serve the country in military or non-military service when required.
  4. Failing to continuously maintain a permanent residence in the US for the required minimum time period (usually five years) since obtaining Lawful Permanent Resident status. This includes:
    • Taking a trip out of the U.S. that lasted for more than six months (more than 181 days) but less than one year (less than 365 days) and not being able to provide proof that the U.S. remained your permanent residence during that time.
    • Taking a trip out of the U.S. that lasted for one year or more since becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident and not meeting USCIS requirements for maintaining LPR status.
  5. Failing to meet the standard of “good moral character” during the required period of permanent residence. USCIS may also, at its discretion, consider your conduct prior to becoming a LPR. In addition to USCIS review of information provided on your application, the FBI will run your name and fingerprints against law enforcement databases. The definition of good moral character specifically excludes these categories of people (partial list):
    • Habitual drunkards
    • People who are currently on parole, probation, or suspended sentence for a criminal offense
    • People who have been incarcerated for 180 days or more
    • People who have admitted to or been convicted of prostitution or drug trafficking (other than a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana)
    • People who have at any time in their life been convicted of an aggravated felony, such as murder, rape, child pornography, or another crime for which the court imposed a sentence of imprisonment for one year or more
  6. Failing to file a U.S. tax return and pay federal taxes owed. Certified copies of your tax returns for each year of the required LPR period must be provided as part of your application for naturalization.
  7. Failing to financially support your minor children who do not live with you.
  8. Failing to register with the Selective Service System if you are a male who lived in the U.S. during ages 18 to 25.
  9. Being a member of or associated with any totalitarian political party or terrorist organization.
  10. Committing immigration fraud; that is, willfully misrepresenting or concealing a material fact in order to obtain an immigration benefit. Examples of immigration fraud include:
    • Lying or omitting material facts on both written applications and oral interviews related to immigration
    • Entering into a fraudulent marriage
    • Falsely claiming US citizenship on an I-9 form to obtain employment

Consult a Stamford, CT Naturalization Attorney

When you are ready to take your final step toward citizenship and apply for naturalization, consult an experienced Fairfield County citizenship and naturalization lawyer. Gonzalez Law Office, LLC will review all possible barriers to your naturalization with you to ensure that your path to citizenship is as smooth as possible. Contact us at 203-323-1440. 

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New Canaan family immigration attorney sibling visaMany people who have successfully immigrated to the U.S. wish to help their siblings immigrate as well. One option is the family preference visa program, specifically, the F4 visa category. However, be aware that only 65,000 F4 visas are available per year. Once the sponsor’s petition is approved, the immigrant (known as the applicant) may have to wait 10 years or more for an F4 visa to become available.

Requirements to Sponsor Siblings for U.S. Immigration

You must be an American citizen and at least 21 years old in order to sponsor the immigration of your brother or sister. Your sibling may be of any age. You must also have sufficient income and/or assets to support the immigrant.

To begin the process, you must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). On a single form, you can name your sibling along with his/her legal spouse and your sibling’s unmarried children under age 21. Along with this form, you must provide sufficient documentation to prove your citizenship and your sibling relationship.

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Fairfield County deportation removal defense lawyerReceiving a Notice to Appear (NTA) before a U.S. immigration court can be frightening for a non-citizen, because it is the first step in the deportation process, also known as removal proceedings.

Not everyone who receives a Form I-862 NTA will be deported. With the help of an attorney, you may be able to argue that the charges are not serious enough to require removal or that your deportation would create an extreme hardship for a family member who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. There are many other possible defenses as well.

Still, it is important to take an NTA seriously. You must determine exactly what you are charged with and start working on a defense strategy.

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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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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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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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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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