Do You Qualify For A Visa, Green Card, Or Citizenship Through Family Members?
This year the government will deport over 300,000 immigrants.
You do not have to suffer a similar fate.
If you follow the news, you’ve probably heard stories about the cold-hearted claws of ICE clamping down on good, honest, hard-working immigrants.
Many of them had U.S. citizen husbands or wives, sons or daughters, mothers or fathers, brothers or sisters. Good-paying jobs. Community and church ties. Children in high school and college.
They were torn apart from their family and sent back to their home countries. You worry the same disaster could happen to you or your loved ones.
You’re searching for a solution.
We’re here to help you find it.
Family Immigration: From Visa To Permanent Residence And Citizenship
Family immigration has long been a foremost principle of United States immigration law.
The process of bringing family members together, known as the family unification process, enables U.S. citizens and permanent residents to sponsor relatives for green card status and the opportunity to later apply for U.S. citizenship.
What Is The Family Immigration Process?
Here is a brief summary of the steps involved.
Your first step is to file an immigrant family petition for your relative. Once the petition is approved, your relative must wait for a visa to become available, at which time he or she can move forward to the next step.
The second step happens when your family member can file his or her application for permanent residency. Sometimes the wait for a visa to become available takes place right away and sometimes it takes many years.
Step 3: Citizenship And Naturalization
The third and final step is when your family member applies for naturalization after having resided in the United States for the required number of years.
However, the full range of family immigration law encompasses relationships which follow different requirements from the standard family unity procedures. These cases, discussed below, include immigrant fiancés, abused spouses, and adopted children.
Moreover, immigration family unity defense often requires challenging government denials of immigration petitions, visas, permanent residence, and citizenship applications.
Family Unity For Immigrants: Battles We Fight, Problems We Solve
Don’t be fooled. Bringing and keeping families together is not a simple process.
Too many people lose their cases because they made mistakes that could have been avoided, that should have been avoided.
As a result of losing, immigrants could be sent to immigration court to face deportation charges. Husband and wife, parent and child could be separated, forever.
This is why your family immigration lawyer must be ready to take care of many different type of issues which frequently stand between immigrants and their dreams of winning permanent residence and becoming naturalized citizens.
A few examples of such problems include:
- Reviving Old And Pending Immigrant Relative Visa Petitions
- Overcoming Divorce And Separation Before The Green Card Process Is Completed
- Surmounting Citizenship And Naturalization Obstacles With Residency
Reviving Old Immigrant Family Petitions
Many clients who visit our offices had family and relative petitions for immigration benefits filed on their behalf a long time ago. They often do not know the status of the paperwork. They do not know if the family petition has been canceled.
They do not know if their paperwork is still valid and if they can still apply for their green cards. They do not know if they must start over again.
If this is your situation, you may be in luck. Sometimes, your old family petition can help you qualify for a green card today.
When Should You File A New Immigration Family Petition?
Maria, age 23, is curious about her immigration status. Papers were filed by her lawful permanent resident father several years ago. Because she is now an adult, friends have told she has to wait longer to get an interview.
Maria is engaged to a lawful permanent resident. If she gets married, she wants to know if this will help her get a green card sooner. She also wants to know if she has to start the immigration process over again. Confused about what action to take, Maria decides to call our San Diego immigration attorney office for help.
Her inquiries are not simple. To assist her, there are still many questions to be answered. For example, when did her father file papers? What papers, exactly, did her father file? Is her father still a lawful permanent resident or has he became a U.S. citizen? Will she have to return to her home country for her immigration interview? How did Maria enter this country – with or without permission?
To help Maria, Carlos tells her that she should try to find the old papers. He needs to analyze them. He can then explore all options open to her – instead of merely guessing – which will enable her to make an intelligent decision about the best way to become a lawful permanent resident.
On the other hand, in some situations, the older petition might harm your chances to earn a green card through a new application.
Whether you’re the spouse, child, parent, brother, or sister who has been sponsored in a past or a pending family immigrant visa petition, you should not take careless risks and assume there aren’t any problems lurking in your immigration past.
Careless risks can destroy all your hopes and dreams of living together as a family with your spouse and children here in the United States.
You don’t want that to happen.
Overcoming Divorce And Separation
Some clients experience a divorce or separation after the family immigration petition has been filed. Many are afraid. They believe there is no possibility of going forward. They fear being deported.
This worry may or may not be warranted. Do not assume the worst. Instead, you should have your circumstances thoroughly analyzed before deciding to give up.
When you were married, when you were separated, when you were divorced, why your marriage fell apart, and when your papers were filed are all important facts in assessing if and how you can avoid future problems and still obtain your green card.
For instance, maybe you’re a marriage-based conditional resident.
This means if you were married for less than two years when your permanent residence was approved, it was only approved on a conditional basis. Your green card is only valid for two years.
Before the time is up, you must apply to remove the condition with your spouse, allowing you full permanent residence status. If you are no longer married, this is not possible.
You will need to prove you qualify to remove the conditions on your green card by yourself.
But there are only a few circumstances under which you can file without your spouse, and all require high standards of evidence.
If you are facing this type of situation, here’s the key point. Do not give up until you talked to a green card attorney, experienced in family immigration matters.
Avoiding Residency Problems Caused By Travel Outside The U.S.
Earning permanent residence is an important milestone for all immigrants.
But . . .
Winning a green card should not be the end of your success story.
Your residency status is neither as permanent or durable as citizenship. Your green card can be taken away far more easily than naturalization, and it grants you less privileges.
Real protection against deportation and family separation only occurs when you become a citizen of the United States.
You reach the finish line – after passing the naturalization test and being being sworn in as an official U.S. citizen – when you turn to your spouse or family member who sponsored you for a visa and green card, give them a big hug, and thank them for transforming your life.
You reach the finish line – when you begin to travel without fear, when you start to seek better paying jobs, when you buy a home that you’ve longed to give your wife and kids for a long, long time.
Yet, as with all immigration applications, achieving citizenship is not a leisurely stroll in the park. In spite of winning residence, naturalization is not guaranteed.
Under some circumstances, maintaining your green card status and benefits is wiser than gambling on winning citizenship.
For instance, soon after they win permanent residency status, many immigrants begin to travel back and forth to their home country. If they stay there for more than six months during a 12 month period, their visits could lead to the denial of their citizenship applications.
Even 20 years after citizenship is granted, it can be stripped from you. Through a legal process known as denaturalization, if you have concealed important information in your visa and green card filings, you can lose your status many years later.
If you face any of these situations, don’t gamble with your future.
Before you file an application for citizenship, seek legal advice to ensure your hard-earned right to live and work in the U.S. will not be lost.
Alternate Paths To Winning Family Immigration Cases
Not all family immigration cases start with a immigrant relative petition.
- Immigrant Adoptions
Pre-Marriage Fiancé Visa Petitions
Many immigration clients are citizens or permanent residents who want to marry someone who does not have valid immigration papers to live in the United States.
Sometimes the immigrant is already living in the United States. In these cases, the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident need to file family-based immigrant visa petitions for their spouses.
Other times the immigrant seeking to become a lawful permanent resident is still living in his or her home country. If you’re a U.S. citizen, but have not yet married your soon-to-be immigrant spouse, you may have the option to choose to apply for a Fiancé Visa petition.
You owe it to yourself and your spouse to figure out which path offers you the best opportunity.
When Is It Safer To Immigrate Your Future Spouse Under A Fiancé(e) Visa?
John, a U.S. citizen, plans to marry Louisa, who lives in Brazil. They have arranged for Louisa to visit John next month on a visitor visa. John wants to file papers to immigrate her as soon as they get married. To avoid making any mistakes, John called our Riverside immigration office for an appointment to discuss his case.
A key concern, Carlos informs John, is Louisa’s knowledge. Does Louisa already know about John’s intentions? If she knows about John’s ideas, and she plans to stay in the United States and get married, her visit is probably a bad idea. The U.S. government may interpret her entry as immigration fraud – since she was intending to stay, not just visit, in the United States.
Carlos advises John a safer course is to file a fiancée visa. This means canceling their current plans. This means a longer period of separation right now. But he explains, once Louisa arrives, they can live together happily ever after in the United States.
On the other hand, if Louisa had been here on a valid visitor visa before John suddenly decided to get married, they may be able to immediately file her immigration paperwork. She could complete the documents for her green card here without going back to Brazil.
Although most immigrants are in a hurry to legalize their status, it’s often the hare, not the tortoise who wins the race to immigration success.
VAWA Self-Petitions For Abused Immigrant Spouses And Children
Unfortunately, some immigrant marriages involve spousal and child abuse. The abuse may be physical, mental, emotional, or financial.
One spouse, a U.S. citizen, controls, mistreats, or harms the immigrant spouse, who does not have immigration documents. The abuser threatens to call the police to deport his spouse if she tells anyone about the abuse or violence.
In these types of cases, it is often able to help the spouse who is being abused obtain green card benefits and permanent resident status under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a special program which allows immigrants to self-petition without the abuser.
If you’re trapped in an abusive or violent relationship, don’t wait until the situation gets worse. Seek legal help immediately. Your immigration paperwork is kept confidential – immigration officials will not contact your abuser.
Under VAWA the road to your physical safety is the same as the one to your immigration freedom.
. . . And although VAWA is normally viewed as protecting abused spouses, it also offers relief for immigrants abused as children, in same sex relationships, and male victims of domestic violence.
Sometimes a citizen or permanent resident wants to adopt the child of a relative or friend who does not have immigration documents to live in the U.S.
As a former family law attorney, Carlos provides a special combination of knowledge and skills for such matters – experience in handling both immigration cases for families and experience in handling adoptions in state courts and abroad.
Are There Any Age Limits On Sponsoring An Adopted Child For Permanent Residency?
Jenny, a U.S. citizen, wants to file papers to immigrate her nephew and niece. Her sister abandoned them several years ago. Jenny has raised them since her sister disappeared.
The oldest child, Hector, is 15 years old and will turn 16 in about eight months. Jenny knows she has to adopt them before she is allowed to immigrate them. Worried about Hector, Jenny scheduled an appointment with Carlos at our San Bernardino immigration law office.
Carlos warns Jenny that she does not have much time. Hector’s adoption has to be completed by the time he turns 16. The adoption process takes at least six months. In this case, it might take longer. Jenny must notify Hector’s parents that she plans to adopt them. Yet, Jenny has no clues where Hector’s mother and father have lived for almost ten years.
Carlos emphasizes there is no time for delay. There is no room for mistakes. If Jenny is going to take action, he advises her, she has to take action quickly.
Family Immigration Defense: Challenging Visa, Green Card, And Citizenship Denials
Not all family unity decisions are favorable.
What happens if your immigrant relative visa petition, permanent residence application, or citizenship application is denied?
In some cases you may need to file a motion to reopen or motion to reconsider the denial, specialized form of appealing the government’s immigration decision. In others you may need to show up at immigration court to defend yourself against deportation charges.
Generally, you must act quickly, within 30 days or less, to protect your rights to fight back.
The danger of doing nothing . . . or taking too long . . . is separation from your family, perhaps forever.
That’s not the path to family unity and immigration success.
If you’re serious about discovering how to bring or keep your family members together, with fresh eyes in a comprehensive manner . . .
Let’s schedule your Strategy And Planning Session today.