Despite The Obstacles Ahead, Don’t Stop Believing In Yourself . . .
Living And Working Legally In The U.S. May Be Closer Than You Think
It may not be easy.
But who told you that living and working in the U.S. is impossible?
- If you’ve been told by friends that you’ll never qualify for a green card, it’s in your best interests to discuss your case with a lawyer . . .
- If you’ve been told by other attorneys that you’re not eligible for permanent residency, it’s in your best interests to seek out a second opinion . . .
You should never believe the worst – about your chances for immigration family unity success until and unless you have exhausted all of your possibilities to earn legal residency.
You owe it to yourself . . . and your family . . .
. . . to find out more about what options may exist for your immigration success.
- You do not want to be separated, perhaps forever, from your husband or wife
- You do not want your children growing up without both of their parents
- You do not want to see your dreams of a better life – a secure home, a better job, freedom to travel – destroyed
You owe it to yourself . . . and your family . . .
. . . to keep believing in your family’s goals of a better life tomorrow.
What Is A Green Card?
The term “Green Card” refers to the document given to immigrants who have become lawful permanent residents – that is, who have been granted the right to live and work legally in the United States.
“Green Card” is not the formal name of the document, but it is commonly used – even though the card is not green. The formal government name for the card is Alien Registration Receipt Card.
The Family-Based Permanent Resident Process
Winning permanent residence through a family member is a two-step process.
Filing an immigrant family petition is the first step to earning permanent resident status.
Once the petition is approved, the immigrant is given a priority date.
At that point, immigrants must wait until it’s their turn to go to the second step of the immigration legalization process for family members. How long is the wait? It varies from immigrant-to-immigrant.
The second requirement is filling out an application to become a permanent resident.
After the permanent residency paperwork is reviewed by the government, a green card interview is arranged.
Although the forms may appear simple, there are various common miscues which trip up immigrant families seeking marriage-based permanent residence and family-based green cards.
Two Roads To A Green Card: Adjustment Of Status And Consular Processing
Where will your appointment be scheduled? In the U.S. or in your country of birth?
Some immigrants qualify for green card interviews in the United States. This is known as adjustment of status. Simply stated, this means you are trying to change your immigrant status to a legal resident.
To qualify, immigrants must be present in the United States and have been admitted through a lawful entry or legally equivalent inspection process.
Adjustment of status interviews take place at a local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office.
Other Immigrants are required to attend an interview in their home country. This is called consular processing.
Consular processing is the procedure of applying for permanent residence through a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in an immigrant’s home country.
If the immigrant lives outside the U.S., consular processing is the only path for immigrating to the United States.
But If the applicant is living in the U.S. and does not meet the requirements for adjustment of status, he or she must also use consular processing.
For those who have resided in the United States without permission for more than 180 days, the return home for the consulate interview requires them to file for an I-601 family unity hardship waiver, which, if granted, allows them to legally reenter the United States.
This frequently happens when a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident files for a spouse who entered the country without inspection and does not have immigration documents to live here.
Only a small number of immigrants are eligible for both adjustment of status and consular processing.
However, green card applicants are not allowed to seek both consular processing and adjustment of status at the same time. Rather, they must choose only one or the other option.
Are There Any One-Step Adjustment Of Status Green Card Applications?
However, some immigrants can submit both the family visa petition and the permanent residence application at the same time. This is known as “concurrent” filing and is often referred to as “one step” filing.
To qualify, an immigrant must be the “immediate relative” of a United States citizen.
Only the following immigrants are classified as an immediate relatives:
- Spouse of a U.S. citizen
- Child of a U.S. citizen
- Parent of a U.S. citizen, if the citizen is 21 years or older
Visas are always available for immediate relatives. This means once the family-based petition is approved, the second step, filing an the application to adjust your status to permanent resident, can begin. These cases move quickly.
In some instances, if an immigration office is extremely busy, there may be a delay of several months. But in general, these cases move faster than other types of green card applications.
Visas vs Green Cards: What Is The Difference?
Since “visas” and “green cards” have similar meanings, it’s easy to get confused over their differences.
Here’s a tip.
Consider the example where an immigrant is coming into the United States.
In this situation, the immigrant does not become a permanent resident (“a green card holder”) until he receives an immigrant visa and uses it to enter the United States.
Likewise, if you’re applying for permanent residence from inside the U.S., you cannot become a permanent resident until a visa number is allotted to you.
Thus, when you hear about visas, it normally means an immigrant has the right to a green card – but does not have the actual green card yet.
Now let’s put it all together. When a priority date becomes current, the waiting period is over. A visa is available for the immigrant. Now, the immigrant can apply for a green card. This means he is seeking to become a lawful permanent resident.
What Is A Priority Date?
The priority date is the date on which the first set of paperwork for permanent residence is received by immigration authorities. For family-sponsored cases, this is the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative.
The priority date is important for immigrants who are classified as a beneficiary under one of the categories of the family preference system.
The preference classes of immigrant beneficiaries are:
- First Preference: Unmarried sons or daughters, 21 years of age or older, of U.S. citizens
- Second (2A) Preference: Spouses and unmarried children, under 21 years of age, of lawful permanent residents
- Second (2B) Preference: Unmarried sons or daughters, 21 years of age or older, of lawful permanent residents
- Third Preference: Married sons or daughters, of any age, of U.S. citizens
- Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens
Why Is The Priority Date Important?
Unlike immigrants who qualify as immediate relatives, family preference immigrants are allotted a restricted number of visas per year.
Due to these limits, they must wait a longer period of time before they are eligible for file their permanent resident applications and their interviews are scheduled.
Priority dates set the place in line of family preference beneficiaries for immigrant visas.
Within each preference category, the green card process is built on a first come, first served basis.
Priority dates work like the tickets given to individuals when they go to an urgent care medical center. When the doctor has finished taking care of those who arrived earlier, their ticket number is called.
Similarly, when an immigrant visa is available for you, based on your priority date, you can go to the second step of the green card process and file your application for permanent residency.
As a general rule, the higher your category, the sooner a visa will become available. In other words, a First Preference beneficiary will normally be able to file a green card application before a Fourth Preference immigrant.
Children Of Your Spouse: Family Preference Derivative Beneficiaries
What if your spouse has immigrant children from a previous marriage?
If you have filed a marriage-based visa petition for your wife under a family preference category, you can immigrate her children as derivative beneficiaries – as long as the child qualifies under one of the preference classes.
In a strange twist of law, there are no derivative beneficiaries of immediate relative immigrants.
To immigrate the children of spouses who are classified as immediate relatives, a U.S. citizen needs to file a separate petition for them as stepchildren.
Looking for more information about permanent residency? Check out our permanent residence resources page.
After You Win Permanent Residency
For some immigrants, earning permanent residence status is the end of the road.
If you were granted permanent resident status less than two years after your marriage, you will need to file a petition to remove the conditions on your green card.
You many want to become a naturalized citizen. In general, if you are 18 years or older, you can begin the quest to naturalize once you have been a lawful permanent resident for five years.
However, if your green card was based on a petition filed by a U.S. citizen spouse, you only need to wait three years after the date permanent residency was granted.
To learn more about the naturalization process, here is our guide to winning citizenship, the final step of your immigration journey to live and work in the United States.
What Happens When Your Green Card Application Is Pending?
For immigrants in certain family preference classes, the delay for a green card interview can take 10, 15, 20 years or longer. This puts them at risk, while waiting, for being picked up by immigration law enforcement officers. They might be sent to immigration court to face deportation proceedings.
In the past, immigration officials indicated they would not pursue deportation or removal of certain immigrants who have petitions for immigrant family visas already filed. This policy has shifted under the Trump administration and the amount of immigrants who qualify has been drastically reduced..
In most cases, to qualify for this lenient treatment, immigrants will need to be eligible for an immediate green card interview. This means if your interview for permanent residence status is coming up in the near future, you may still be able to avoid the immigration court process.
What If Your Permanent Residence Application Is Denied?
There is also the possibility your effort to become a lawful permanent resident is rejected at your green card interview.
The government may, at that point, decide to send your case to immigration court to face deportation charges. If this happens, you can renew your application in proceedings.
You are given 30 days to challenge the USCIS denial by filing a motion to reopen or a motion to reconsider the negative decision. During this period, your case will not be referred to the immigration court.
Rules for motions to reopen or reconsider are complicated. You will likely need the assistance of an immigration appeals attorney..
Likewise, if your matter is referred to immigration court, these cases are far too risky to handle on your own. You are strongly encouraged to seek the help of an immigration expert on deportation defense in such situations.
Ready to take a serious and honest look at the strengths and weaknesses of your immigration case? Let’s get started with a personalized strategy and planning consultation . . .