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Ten Essential Questions Every Immigrant Should Understand

By Carlos A. Batara

A few weeks ago, I was invited as an immigration attorney in Escondido to serve as the guest speaker at a community event.

I was asked to address issues often overlooked or minimized by immigrants facing deportation or removal from the United States.

Here’s my top ten list.

(1) Has your application for permanent residency been denied?

Some clients confuse the government’s request for more evidence as a denial notice.

Actually, the government does clients a favor when it requests more evidence. It gives clients a second chance. The request usually lets clients know what the government wants from them. At times, clients will need assistance responding to these requests because the evidence is not easy to locate or find.

Even when a client’s application is denied, the client should not give up hope. The client should get advice from a lawyer or other qualified professional. Perhaps the client can correct the problems with a second filing.

For instance, if the client has been issued a notice to appear in Immigration Court to face removal from the United States, the efforts to become a lawful permanent resident can often be revived in court.

(2) Was your date of entry more than 10 years ago?

Clients often ask about getting papers under a 10 year program.

There is no such program.

However, for various types of applications, it is important how long you have lived in the U.S. One example occurs when immigrants are apprehended by immigration officials because they lack proper documents to live here. In this situation, if they have been here 10 years, they have met the first requirement to ask a judge to grant Cancellation of Removal.

Note the 10 years is just one requirement, not the only requirement.

(3) Do you have proof that you entered the United States with inspection?

How you entered is an issue which can make a HUGE difference in your immigration case.

For example, if you want to become a lawful permanent resident, the answer to this question may determine if your interview will take place in the U.S. or your home country.

If you entered without inspection, you may be entitled to pay a hefty penalty which allows you to stay here for your interview. But if you have to leave for your interview, you may have to prove immigration hardship and other issues.

(4) Did you enter the U.S. and then leave – before gaining your permanent resident status?

Perhaps there were papers filed on your behalf. Afterward you left the United States. This departure could cause problems for your permanent resident application.

The same is true if you are facing deportation and need to show you have lived here for ten straight years.

Departures are also an important issue for lawful permanent residents who file papers to become U.S. citizens.

(5) Are you a victim of domestic violence, human trafficking, or persecution?

If you fall into any of these categories, you might be eligible to apply for immigration benefits under special provisions of law.

As with most immigration programs, there are time limitations. This makes it important to consult a qualified professional as early as possible.

Even if you have already filed papers under a different area of law, you might still want to pursue benefits under one of these programs.

(6) Have you been arrested and convicted of a crime while a lawful permanent resident?

Some clients think that since they have already been granted a green card, their prior convictions are not important. This is a wrong viewpoint.

Even if a person has renewed their green card, after the date of their conviction, this does not guarantee they will have the same good fortune the next time.

Over the past several years, the law has become stricter regarding criminal convictions for acts committed by lawful permanent residents, including acts from more than 10, 15, and 20 years ago.

(7) Does your family tree include parents, grandparents, siblings, or children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents?

Surprisingly, there are several U.S. citizens who have a hard time proving they are U.S. citizens. This is why it is important to know a client’s family tree.

If you are facing this type of problem, begin to collect evidence about your family. Gather birth certificates, school transcripts, rent receipts, home ownership deeds, social security and tax records, and anything else which helps to show where and when your family members lived in the United States.

(8) When was your friend or relative placed in custody, pending deportation?

If your friend or relative plans to fight deportation, you have to move quickly. Don’t take too long to hire an attorney to meet with him, or else he may be tempted to give up.

He may sign papers for voluntary departure and forfeit his rights to fight back.

The worst part? He may have had a strong deportation defense case.

Fighting deportation in immigration court is rarely a do-it-yourself project. Even though nobody can guarantee a successful outcome, an experienced lawyer can help you to put together evidence to convince the judge that you deserve being granted a green card.

(9) Can you fight back if you lost your case in Immigration Court?


You will need to do what is known as appealing the decision.

If you decide to challenge a decision by the Immigration Court, there is not much time for delay. A notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days after the decision.

Not just anything can be challenged. There are limits about what you can challenge and what you cannot challenge.

Appellate law is quite technical. Be sure to choose an attorney who has experience in appeals. Since appeals are mostly handled by writing, you can work with an attorney who practices in any state. You are not required to hire a local attorney.

Given that this may your last chance, you want to look carefully, but quickly, to find an immigration appellate specialist.

(10) Are you willing to be persistent and determined to win?

Too many immigrants want a quick solution. Such impatience can harm their cases.

An immigration battle can be long and costly. You might be forced to spend a lot of time, money, and energy. A successful outcome often depends on attorney and client persistence as much as, if not more than, the law itself.

Typically, immigrants will face rules which restrict various actions. To prepare ample supporting evidence and present witnesses, materials, and documents, clients must be willing to not give up at the first sign of government or judicial opposition.

Many times, this ability to stay the course spells the difference between winning and losing.

Before closing, I strongly encourage you to remember these ten questions if you ever need legal help. You’ll be far ahead of most other immigrants and closer to immigration success.