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How Does a Visitor Visa Overstay Affect Future Immigration?Most U.S. immigrants have family members who come to the U.S. on temporary visas for vacation or to attend school. However, if those family members overstay their required departure date, they could find themselves in trouble with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Some visa overstays can render a person legally inadmissible to the U.S. for several years and unable to qualify for an immigration visa, although a waiver of inadmissibility may be possible in some cases. 

How Do I Know If I Overstayed a Visitor or Student Visa?

If you arrive in the U.S. by airplane or ship, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official will stamp your passport with your admission date and required departure date, shown as the “admitted until” date. If you arrive by land, Customs will issue you a paper Form I-94/Arrival/Departure Record showing your required departure date. You can also look up your arrival/departure information online by your passport number, name, and birthdate.

Students with F1 visas will see “D/S” — duration of status — on their passport or I-94 form instead of a date. This means you can stay in the U.S. as long as you remain enrolled as a full-time student in an approved school that has submitted the required documents to Customs. When you graduate or otherwise complete your program of study, you must depart the U.S. within 60 days.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Voluntary-Departure-Deportation.jpgIf you have received a Notice to Appear (NTA) in immigration court, it means that some agency under the Department of Homeland Security has started deportation/removal proceedings against you and that you are at imminent risk of being deported from the U.S. You probably have many questions.

How Do I Find a Lawyer Who Can Help Me in a Particular Immigration Court Location?

The law requires that you receive an NTA at least 10 days before a scheduled hearing, which may not give you a lot of time to get prepared. The NTA will provide the location of the hearing. There are currently 400 immigration judges in 63 immigration courts across the country.

If you have not worked with an immigration attorney before, look for one near where you live and near the court where you have been ordered to appear. For example, if you have been ordered to appear in immigration court in Hartford, Connecticut, and you live in a city in Fairfield County such as Darien or New Canaan, a Stamford attorney will be able to appear with you in court. Other nearby immigration courts are located in New York City and Napanoch, New York. An attorney who serves Westchester County clients can help you there.

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How Can I Sponsor My Niece or Nephew for U.S. Immigration and Permanent Residency?There are several ways that an American citizen can help a niece or nephew immigrate to the U.S. and obtain a green card, also known as lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. Unfortunately, there is no immediate relative or family preference visa category that allows you to directly sponsor their immigration. Rather, you must consider one of these more circuitous routes:

1. Adopt an orphaned niece or nephew under age 16, making them an immediate relative.

The immediate relative (IR) category allows for the quickest path to immigration, as there are no annual limits on the number of IR visas. The IR category is available to the following relatives of a US citizen:

  • Your parent;
  • Your spouse;
  • Your unmarried child under age 21; or
  • An orphan under age 16 whom you have adopted outside the U.S. or will adopt once they reach the U.S.

2. Sponsor the parent of your niece or nephew for a family preference visa.

The family preference visa category allows U.S. citizens age 21 and older to sponsor the immigration of their siblings, subject to an annual quota of 65,000. The sibling petition can include the sibling’s spouse and minor children under age 21. 

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New Canaan asylum application lawyerYou may be granted asylum in the United States if you have suffered persecution in your home country due to your race, nationality, religion, political opinions, or membership in a certain social group, or if you have a “credible fear” of such persecution if you return to your home country.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) makes a distinction between the terms asylee and refugee. If you are applying for asylum from within the U.S. or at a port of entry, USCIS considers you an asylee or asylum seeker. If you apply from a location abroad, you are considered a refugee applying for admission. This article will only address the issues of asylum seekers.

How a Person in the U.S. Can Apply for Asylum 

If you have already entered the United States, you may be allowed to remain if you meet the criteria for asylum and are deemed admissible to the U.S. You must file Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, within one year after entering the U.S. The assistance of an experienced immigration attorney is recommended, because even a minor error in your application can result in processing delays or outright denial of your request for asylum.

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New Canaan deportation defense lawyer cancellation of removalNavigating the U.S. immigration system can be difficult and expensive at the best of times. However, if you entered the United States illegally or overstayed a visa, you are now in a particularly tough situation. Even if you have lived in the U.S. for years, got married, worked, and had children here, you could be caught by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at any time and find yourself facing a deportation order. If you find yourself in this type of situation, you must seek help from an experienced and trustworthy immigration attorney. 

In recent months, there have been many news reports of undocumented residents who have been deported and of others who have successfully fought their deportation. What makes for a successful deportation defense?

One option is called Cancellation of Removal

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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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Darien CT immigration citizenship attorneyU.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been dealing with a record number of applications for U.S. citizenship by naturalization during the past few years. As a result, it is taking much longer for naturalization applications to be processed.

Growing Demand for U.S. Naturalization

The annual number of applications for naturalization received by USCIS rose from 783,000 in fiscal year 2015 to nearly one million in FY 2017, a 25 percent increase. Final figures are not yet available for FY 2018 (the 12 months ending on October 8, 2018). The first week of October marks the end of each USCIS fiscal year.

As a result of this increased demand for naturalization, it took an average of 10.2 months for an application for naturalization to be processed in FY 2018. This is nearly double the average processing time of 5.2 months reported in FY 2014.

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Darien immigration deportation attorneyIn 2017 and 2018, the U.S. news media focused a lot of attention on the deportation efforts of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). But do the statistics actually support the idea that the average documented immigrant awaiting permanent resident or citizenship status should be seriously concerned about the possibility of being deported?

ICE Administrative Arrest Statistics for 2018

In fiscal year 2018 (the 12 months ending on October 8, 2018), ICE made 158,581 administrative arrests, meaning that the arrested individual had committed a civil violation of U.S. immigration laws. However, most of these individuals were not merely in violation of immigration laws; they were also guilty of criminal violations. 66% were convicted criminals, 21% had pending criminal charges, and 3% had previously issued final orders for deportation. Only 10% of these arrests involved people who had committed only a civil violation of immigration laws, such as overstaying a visa or entering the country illegally.

The total number of administrative arrests increased from 110,104 in 2016 to 158,581 in 2018, an increase of 44 percent over two years. The increase in arrests was heavily skewed toward the category of people who had pending criminal charges, indicating that ICE has stepped up enforcement against individuals who have been charged with a crime but not yet convicted. However, many of these people had prior criminal convictions. Among the most common crimes committed by arrestees were driving under the influence, drug possession, and assault. 

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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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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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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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