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Darien family immigration lawyer immediate relative visaCaring for one’s parents is a commitment from the heart for many people, and a moral duty for others. In any case, most people want to have their parents close to them throughout their lives. If you have chosen to make the United States your permanent home, you may wish to sponsor your parents for immigration through an immediate relative visa.

One of the stated goals of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is “to secure America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by uniting families.” USCIS makes it relatively easy for you to bring your spouse and children to join you in the U.S., and bringing parents over is also fairly easy.

Who Can Sponsor Parents for an Immediate Relative Visa (IR-5)?

If you are a U.S. citizen currently living in the United States, and you are at least 21 years of age, you can sponsor your mother and father for immigration using the IR-5 visa category. You will need to demonstrate that you have enough income and/or assets to support the immigrant(s) you are sponsoring. You will be required to accept legal responsibility for their financial support by signing an Affidavit of Support. You will also need your birth certificate proving your parent-child relationship.

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New Canaan immigration green card lawyerIf you are considering marriage as a way to obtain permanent resident status in the U.S., also known as getting a green card, you must be very careful to avoid being accused of fraud. Applications for marriage-based visas, which permit the immigration of fiancés and spouses of U.S. citizens, are closely examined by U.S. immigration officials because of the relatively high incidence of fraud. You would be wise to consult an experienced immigration attorney to ensure that you do not make any mistakes in the application process.

Avoiding Marriage Fraud

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been involved in the investigation and prosecution of numerous marriage fraud schemes in the past few years. It is instructional to review a few of these cases to understand what was done wrong:

In 2017, eleven people were found guilty of immigration-related marriage fraud in two separate but related schemes in Texas. They had been paying U.S. citizens to enter into fraudulent marriages with Nigerians who had entered the United States on tourist visas and then preparing fraudulent applications for the Nigerians to obtain permanent resident status. One of the ringleaders, an American citizen, was sentenced to two years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised parole. Other defendants were sentenced to 12 to 18 months in prison or a term of probation. Several of the defendants are not U.S. citizens and will face deportation proceedings upon their release from custody.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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