Family Based Applications for Permanent Residence: U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents may be able to sponsor certain family members for an immigrant visa (i.e. the “Green Card”). Family based applications consist of two steps, the I-130 Immigrant Visa Petition, and then either an Adjustment of Status application or Consular Processing for an Immigrant Visa. To be eligible to sponsor a family member, the U.S. petitioner must establish they have a qualifying relationship with the foreign national relative, and sufficient financial means to support their sponsored relative(s). A U.S. Citizen may support their spouse, unmarried sons and daughters, married sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters for an immigrant visa. Lawful Permanent Residents may sponsor their spouses and children, and unmarried sons and daughters.
Fiancé(e) Visas: This visa allows foreign nationals to obtain a visa for the purpose of entering the U.S. to marry their U.S. citizen fiancé(e) and apply for lawful permanent residence. This is a two-step application process with the first step being filed in the U.S. by the U.S. citizen fiancé(e). After the first application is approved, the foreign national attends an interview at a U.S. consulate in their home country and obtains the visa to enter the U.S. To qualify for the fiancé(e) visa, the U.S. citizen petitioner and their foreign national fiancé(e) must establish, that they intend to marry within 90 days of the foreign national fiancé(e) entering the U.S., that they are lawfully able to marry in the intended jurisdiction in the U.S., and that the two have met in person within the last 2 years (unless they can demonstrate that meeting in person would create extreme hardship or violate strong and long established customs.) Ultimately, after the foreign born fiancé(e) enters the U.S. the couple is required to marry and file an Adjustment of Status application for the foreign born spouse.
Adjustment of Status vs. Consular Processing for Family Based Immigration: Applicants for family-based permanent residence (i.e., the “Green Card”) can apply for permanent residence in one of two ways: Adjustment of Status, or Consular Processing. Adjustment of Status occurs when the applicant applies for their immigrant visa (“Green Card”) from within the U.S., through United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Consular Processing occurs when the applicant applies for their immigrant visa in their home country. Those in the process of submitting the I-130 Immigrant Petition should consider these options – Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing – as soon as possible in the process. Individuals with approved I-130 petitions may also wish to revisit these options before applying for the final stage of permanent residence, as current processing times and personal factors may have changed since filing the immigrant petition.
B-2 Visitor Entry Visas: Individuals entering the U.S. for a limited time to visit (typically 90 days or less, but up to 1 year). These individuals must prove to consular and border officials that they are entering the U.S. temporarily for the purpose of visiting the U.S. (i.e. for a vacation, to visit friends and family, etc.). For visa issuance, the traveler will need to demonstrate that they maintain strong ties to their home country, sufficient funds available to pay for their trip, and will return to their home country at the conclusion of their visit. The B-2 visa holder is not allowed to engage in employment nor may they perform work as a freelancer or independent contractor. As an exception to the need for a visa, the Visa Waiver Program permits visitors from many countries who have qualifying passports to stay in the U.S. for up to 90 days without obtaining a U.S. entry visa. Canadian nationals are visa exempt.
U.S. Naturalization Applications: Individuals holding lawful permanent residence may apply to become a Naturalized U.S. Citizen after a period of three or five years. To qualify for U.S. citizenship, a permanent resident must be at least 18 years old and demonstrate that they are eligible for U.S. Citizenship. The applicant must also meet the permanent residence duration requirement, are able to communicate in the English language, and have knowledge of U.S. civics. The U.S. government does allow individuals to hold dual-citizenship with their home country, however many other countries do not have the same allowance. Thus individuals who do not wish to give up their home country citizenship should check with their home country prior to applying for U.S. citizenship to determine whether they will be allowed to hold dual citizenship.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival Applications: Some foreign nationals who arrived in the U.S. as children and do not have a lawful status may be eligible for Deferred Action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. Individuals who qualify under DACA may also be eligible for employment authorization. Deferred action is available to individuals who: 1) were under the age of 31 as on June 15, 2012; 2) arrived in the U.S. prior to reaching the age of 16; 3) have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007 to present; 4) were physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012 and at the time of request for deferred action; 5) entered the U.S. without inspection before June 15, 2012, or whose lawful status expired as of June 15, 2012; 6) are currently enrolled in school, or have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, or a GED, or are honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces; and 7) have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors or otherwise pose a national security or public safety threat.
Employment Authorization Document Applications: Certain individuals who are in the U.S. in nonimmigrant status may apply for an Employment Authorization Document to allow them to work in the U.S. Individuals eligible for an EAD document include (but are not limited to), spouses of L-1s, E-1/E-2/E-3s, and J-1s; individuals in F-1 status who meet certain requirements; beneficiaries of DACA applications, Temporary Protected Status holders; certain refugees and asylees; VAWA beneficiaries; eligible U and T status holders.
F-1 and J-1 Student and Exchange visitor Applications: Individuals seeking entry to the U.S. to attend school or participate in one of several J-1 exchange visitor programs. Individuals may obtain an F-1 visa or J-1 student visa to attend school in the U.S., provided acceptance by a U.S. institution, demonstrated ability to pay for education costs and living costs, and an intent to return to one’s home country following completion of the program. There are several J-1 categories in addition to the student classification that allow individuals to enter the U.S. to engage in designated programs and cultural exchange. Other J-1 categories include: Au Pair, Trainee/Intern, Physician, Professor and Research Scholar, Summer Work Travel, Government Visitor, and Camp Counselor.
Waiver and Admissibility Issues: It is common for individuals to have admissibility issues that need to be resolved to allow them to obtain a desired visa or status in the U.S. Often times this requires individuals to obtain a waiver from a U.S. or home country government agency. We review individual issues on a case by case basis, and advise accordingly.