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*IMMIGRATION LAW INFORMATION

Removal (Deportation)

Legalization

Student / Work Visa


Removal (Deportation)

Can my green card be taken away?
Yes, if you are convicted of certain crimes anywhere in the world. The definition of conviction for immigration purposes is different than in the state or federal courts. This is an area where the record of the court proceeding must be examined by a competent immigration lawyer before an answer can be given concerning convictions.

If you are absent from the United States for more than one consecutive year, you may have abandoned your status and could be denied re-entry into the USA after a trip abroad. You may have a right to appear before an immigration judge to contest the allegation of abandonment.
   
How can I stop a deporation?
You may have to appear in front of an immigration judge to determine if there is any relief available. In some instances there may be waivers available. You may be entitled to voluntary departure. This is an area where specific facts of your situation must be examined by a competent immigration lawyer before an answer can be given.

When can I return to the U.S. after deportation?
Depending upon the reason for the removal, you may be barred permanently or for up to 10 years. You will need to apply for a visa from the U.S. Consulate closest to your residence abroad.

Legalization 

How do I obtain a green card?
You must file an application with Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS). Generally speaking, one needs a family or employer sponsor, or be a successful applicant in the Diversity Visa Lottery

There are four categories for family sponsorship for U.S. Citizen sponsors:           

  1. Immediate relatives (parent, spouse, children under 21 years of age);
  2. Family First Preference: unmarried sons and daughters over age 21;
  3. Family Third Preference: married sons and daughters (including the son-in-law/daughter-in-law and any unmarried child under 21 years of age of that marriage); and
  4. Family Fourth Preference: siblings.

A lawful permanent resident (green card), over 21 years of age, can petition under Family Second Preference for a spouse, an unmarried child under 21 years of age, or an unmarried son or daughter over 21 years of age.

There are limited numbers of visas in each category. A wait for immediate relatives will vary between six months and a year. Siblings may have to wait for 12-15 years before a visa becomes available. 

There are five employment based categories, depending upon education, skill and ability. In most instances an employer may first have to file for a "labor certification" from the Department of Labor before filing with CIS. One category, the "investor visa," requires an investment of either $500,000 or $1,000,000. The definitions for each category are technical and the process more difficult than in the family based filings.

Each year the Department of State operates a Diversity Lottery for 50,000 visas, with a detailed web-based application process. Beware of fraudulent notices that appear to be issued by the Department of State.

Once I get my green card, how long do I have to wait before I can apply for citizenship?
If one obtains a green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen, 33 months; if as a result of any other category, 57 months from date of approval of the green card.

How do I obtain a green card if I am married to an American citizen?
If you are in a valid status in the U.S., you and the U.S. citizen file a series of applications with Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) and then are interviewed at a local CIS field office. If you are overseas, the U.S. citizen spouse first files an application with CIS in the USA. Once approved, the application is sent to the Department of State for processing at a U.S. Consulate closest to where you reside.

If I divorce my American citizen spouse, can I keep my green card?
Assuming you entered into the marriage in good faith, and you had been married for at least two years as of the date of approval, yes. Barring fraud, divorce would be immaterial. 

However if you were married less than two years as of the date you were approved, you would have been granted a conditional status. You would then be required to file an application to remove the condition on your status between 21-24 months after the grant of confidential status and only after that would you be granted an unconditional green card. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) would then take a second look at the validity of the marriage. In that instance, the facts surrounding the divorce may be relevant

Student / Work Visa

I have a work visa, but would like a green card. Can I apply through my employer?
Unless you are an individual who is a person of extraordinary ability, or meet some other specific category like a university teacher, and your green card will be based upon employment, you must have an employer as your sponsor, who must first obtain a certification from the Department of Labor that there are no ready, willing or able U.S. employees who meet the employer's minimum job requirements.

Can I still get my green card if I change my employment?
In some instances you can change employers and still maintain eligibility for a green card depending upon several factors, such as whether the new employer will assume the rights and liabilities of the initial petition, the employment based category, the status of the application, the length of time it has been pending and whether the new position is in the same or similar occupation as the original employer's position.

Can an individual on a student visa get a green card?
No, not alone as a result of being a student. See "How do I get a green card" above. 

How long will my student visa last?
There are three types of student visas: an M for vocational/non-academic students; an F for attendance at degree-granting colleges/universities and J for international exchange visitors. 

  • An M visa is generally limited to one year, terminating on a specific date, but in some instances can be extended for a period up to three years.
  • An F visa is valid for the duration of studies until completion of studies, with no specific end date.
  • There are several sub-categories for the J visa, each of which has its own requirements, such as foreign medical graduates coming for graduate medical training to short-term scholars or recipients of scholarships like a Fulbright.

*These answers do not constitute legal advice and are written for general information purposes only. Individuals should consult with a lawyer for specific legal advice.

 

 




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