May 14, 2019

Immigration FAQ

The immigration system is complex and confusing, and it only makes it more complicated when policies keep changing. The following are some frequently asked questions about immigration in the U.S. If you want to talk about your specific situation, do not hesitate to contact an immigration lawyer in Orange County directly.

How Can You Obtain a Family-Based Green Card?

Many people are able to obtain green cards because they have family members who are citizens or green card-holders who petition USCIS for their entry. If you want to sponsor a family member for a visa and, eventually, a green card, you need to submit the proper application and then, there will likely be a waiting period. There are specific rules regarding what types of family members you can sponsor and to be eligible to sponsor, you need to comply with certain financial obligations (or have a joint sponsor willing to join the petition).

What if You Want to Continue Working in the U.S. Indefinitely?

If you and your family members obtained visas that allowed you to work (and live) in the U.S., you may decide that you want to adjust your status to become a permanent resident. There are different ways to obtain employment-based green cards, and you should discuss your options based on your circumstances with an experienced attorney.

Is it Possible to Become a U.S. Citizen?

There is a specific process to apply for U.S Citizenship. The process begins with filing an application for Naturalization with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Generally, you must first hold a green card for at least five years, as well as meet other criteria. If you have been married to a U.S citizen for the last 3 years, you might be eligible to file for naturalization after 3 years.  If you are approaching the three/ five-year mark as a lawful permanent resident, consult with an Orange County immigration attorney to see if you can begin the citizenship application process.

What is considered illegal immigration?

Illegal immigration refers to the unlawful migration of individuals from their home country to another. In the context of U.S. immigration laws, illegal immigration can occur when individuals enter the U.S. without proper documentation, commit fraud to secure documentation, forge immigration documents, overstay their visas, or reenter the U.S. after deportation.

Who is allowed to enter the U.S. from a foreign country?

U.S. law provides four primary avenues for foreign nationals to enter the country legally: employment-based immigration, family-based immigration, refugee or asylee status, and the diversity lottery. Each category caters to different situations, with some allowing for temporary stays and others permitting permanent immigration.

Which family members can sponsor relatives for U.S. immigrant visas?

A U.S. citizen can sponsor a spouse, parent, sibling, minor child, or adult child for an immigrant visa. A lawful permanent resident (green card holder) can also sponsor a spouse, minor child, or unmarried adult child. The sponsor must meet specific income requirements and agree to support their incoming family member(s) legally.

How can a foreign national obtain lawful permanent resident (LPR) status?

A foreign national can become an LPR through sponsorship by a family member living in the U.S. as a citizen, lawful permanent resident, or by a U.S. employer with an open job in a specific category established by federal law. Other options include registering for the diversity lottery or applying for refugee or asylee status.

Are there other ways to legally enter the U.S. if a foreign national is ineligible for LPR status?

Foreign nationals may be able to enter the U.S. temporarily with a nonimmigrant visa, provided they meet the requirements for one of the nonimmigrant categories defined by federal law. These categories include visiting family members, traveling, receiving medical treatment, conducting business, enrolling in schools, participating in exchange programs, and seeking qualified temporary employment.

Can a spouse and/or child accompany a foreign national with a temporary work visa to the U.S.?

Yes, dependent spouses and minor children can accompany the visa holder to the U.S. However, they must apply and be approved for the appropriate type of nonimmigrant visa. It's important to note that these visas do not necessarily authorize the spouse to work in the U.S.

How can a foreign national extend their stay in the U.S.?

Many nonimmigrant visa categories allow for extensions. Foreign nationals must apply for an extension with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), have not violated any terms of their nonimmigrant visa, and have not committed any crime or violated any U.S. law.

What are deportable offenses?

Deportable offenses are actions that may result in a foreign national being forced to leave the U.S. and return to their home country. These offenses include using fraudulent documents to enter the U.S., committing certain crimes, posing a threat to national security, helping others enter the country illegally, overstaying a visa, and voting illegally.

What is the difference between a refugee and an asylee?

Both refugees and asylees have a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country. The critical difference lies in where the application for protection is made. Refugees apply for protection while outside the U.S. In contrast, asylees apply at a U.S. port of entry or after entering the U.S.

What is the Diversity Visa Lottery Program?

The Diversity Visa Lottery Program is a U.S. government program that grants up to 50,000 immigrant visas annually to individuals from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the U.S. The selection is random, and applicants must meet certain eligibility requirements.

What is a green card?

A green card, officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, allows foreign nationals to live and work permanently in the U.S. It's called a green card due to its historical green color. Green card holders can apply for U.S. citizenship after meeting specific requirements.

What is a visa?

A visa is a document that allows foreign nationals to enter the U.S. for a specific purpose and period. There are two main types: immigrant visas for those intending to live permanently in the U.S. and nonimmigrant visas for temporary visits such as tourism, business, or study.

What is a work permit?

A work permit, also known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), is issued by USCIS and provides proof that a foreign national is authorized to work in the U.S. It's often given to those waiting for a decision on an immigration application that would grant them work rights.

What is a travel document?

A travel document is issued to foreign nationals who can't get a passport from their home country. This document, also known as a Refugee Travel Document or Re-entry Permit, allows them to travel internationally and return to the U.S. Refugees or asylees often use it.

What is a Certificate of Citizenship?

A Certificate of Citizenship is issued by USCIS to individuals who acquired or derived U.S. citizenship through their parents. Unlike a naturalization certificate, given to foreign nationals who become U.S. citizens, a Certificate of Citizenship is for those who were U.S. citizens at birth but were born outside the U.S.

What is a Certificate of Naturalization?

A Certificate of Naturalization is a document issued by USCIS as proof of a foreign national having obtained U.S. citizenship through naturalization. It's issued at the naturalization ceremony and serves as evidence of the new citizen's status.

What is an I-94?

An I-94 is a record of arrival and departure. It's issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to foreign nationals when they enter the U.S. It includes information about the individual's immigration status and the date by which they must leave the U.S.

What is an alien number?

An alien number, also known as an A-Number or Alien Registration Number, is a unique seven-to-nine-digit number assigned to a foreign national by USCIS when they apply for immigration benefits. It's used to track the individual's immigration file.

What is a visa bulletin?

The Visa Bulletin is a monthly publication by the Department of State. It provides information about the availability of immigrant visas. It's crucial for those waiting for a visa number in the family-sponsored or employment-based preference categories.

What is a priority date?

The priority date is when an immigrant visa petition is first filed with either USCIS or the Department of Labor. It's important because it determines the individual's place in line for an immigrant visa. Generally, the earlier the priority date, the sooner the individual can apply for a green card.

Consult an Immigration Lawyer in Orange County Today

If you have questions about any aspect of the immigration process, Brudner Law can help. Please call 714.794.9366 or contact us online to set up your appointment today.

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