Frequently Asked Questions

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Want to find out more about immigration in the United States? What questions to ask an immigration lawyer? How long does it take? How much does it cost? The answers to these and more can be found below.

Immigration Attorney

How to choose an immigration attorney?

Often word-of-mouth is the best way to choose an immigration attorney. Success is the best evidence of attorneys who can win cases. Be sure to make sure the attorney isn’t just knowledgeable with regards to the law; make sure they are communicative and support of clients’ needs.

Other possible sources are the local bar association or the local chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

More info

What questions to ask an immigration attorney?

How long have you been practicing immigration law? How familiar are you with my type of case? Can you provide references? How long does my type of case normally take? How much does this process cost? How many steps are normally involved in this type of case?

What does an immigration attorney do?

An immigration attorney will analyze the facts in your particular situation to determine what immigration benefits are generally available to someone with the same or a similar type of case. The attorney will advise you of all risks involved and how to minimize those risks, if possible. Finally, the attorney will advise of all the information necessary to complete your case as well as documents and costs.

What is the cost for an immigration attorney?

This will vary depending on the benefit sought and the market. There could also be additional costs in the case of an attorney with more experience. Some attorneys may be willing to take a case at no cost in the event of extenuating circumstances. Expect to pay between $200 and $300 per hour in most cases.

What questions will an immigration attorney ask me?

An immigration attorney will ask you questions about your entries into the United States, your criminal background, information about family members and their immigration status, if you have ever been granted immigration benefits in the past, and other similar questions.

What should I tell an immigration attorney about my case?

You must be as honest as possible with the attorney as possible. Failure to do so could cause any benefits you seek to be delayed or denied. It is important to know that telling the truth might lead the attorney to conclude that nothing can be done in your case, but to move forward under such circumstances can create could lead to serious consequences, including deportation.

Immigration Basics

What is a biometric screening?

The process for many immigration benefits, including obtaining a green card or citizenship, involve a criminal background check. At your biometrics appointment, a technician will take your fingerprints and photo, and that information, plus your name, will be run against various criminal information databases to determine if you have ever been convicted of a crime.

What is the Visa Bulletin?

The Visa Bulletin is essentially a waiting list onto which a visa applicant’s name is placed to wait for a visa to become available. Minor children, spouse and parents of United States citizens are not placed on this list.

What is a Green Card?

This is a document, about the size of a credit card or state ID, that provides evidence of one’s lawful immigrant status in the United States. It is also called a Lawful Permanent Resident, Legal Resident, or Legal Alien card.

Learn more about Green Cards

What is a lawful permanent resident?

Lawful Permanent Residents are still citizens of their native countries but are granted permission to live and work indefinitely in the United States as long as they respect the terms of their status. They can apply for citizenship 5 (or 3) years after obtaining permanent residence in most cases.

What is conditional permanent residence?

Conditional permanent residence is given to alien spouses of US citizens who have been married less than two years. It is one way the government ensures that people marry for love and not to circumvent immigration laws. Within 90 days of expiration, an application can be flied to have those conditions removed.

Green Cards

Why would a green card application be denied?

Green Card applications are typically denied because the applicant is inadmissible for some reason. The most common grounds of inadmissibility are unlawful presence and criminal activity. There are waivers for some grounds of inadmissibility.

Can I work in the U.S. while waiting for my Green Card?

It is possible to apply for a work authorization during the adjudication of a green card application.

How do I renew a Green Card?

It is done with the form I-90, which can be filed online or via USPS.

How do I get a Green Card through marriage?

If you are married to a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident, your spouse can file a visa petition on your behalf; however, just being married to a citizen or resident doesn’t guarantee you will get a green card. You must be otherwise admissible as well.

If my Green Card expired, can i still travel?

This is not recommended. It would be better to apply to have the green card renewed and request temporary evidence of permanent residency.

I lost my Green Card, what should i do?

File the Form I-90 to get a replacement green card.

When should I apply for citizenship after getting a Green Card?

In most cases, you can apply for citizenship 90 days prior to your five-year anniversary of becoming a resident, as long as you are otherwise eligible. Those married to and living with a US citizen can do so after 3 years.

Can I get green card if my child was born in USA?

As long as you are otherwise eligible.

Does my status expire when my green card expires?

Generally your status does not expire if your green card expires. The exception to this is the case of conditional residents, who are spouses of USCs or LPRs. Conditional residents’ status expires at the end of 2 years unless they apply to have the conditions removed.

How long before my conditional green card expires should I apply to have conditions removed?

File to have the conditions removed no sooner than 90 days prior to the expiration date on your green card.

Can I apply for a green card in the United States?

Under certain circumstances, it is possible to apply for a green card in the United States. Generally that means a lawful entry and having a petition filed by a US citizen who is your spouse, your parent (if you are under 21), or your child (if your child is over 21).

Fiancé Visa

Should we apply for a fiancé (K-1) visa or a spouse visa (K-3)?

If you are not married, then you will apply for the K-1 visa. If you are already married, you can apply for a K-3, or you can apply for an immigration visa. Which you choose will depend on factors such as cost and time involved. K-1 and K-3 visas generally mean a quicker arrival in the US, but only as a lawful non-immigrant. It will take another 6-8 months to get your green card. An immigrant visa takes longer initially, but it costs less because it included less steps, and you enter the US as an immigrant, so you can get your green card immediately.

How does a fiancé visa work?

Your US citizen fiancé first must petition for you. Once the petition is approved, you attend a visa appointment in your home country at a US embassy or consulate. Once the visa is approved, you can travel to the US as a non-immigrant. Once you are in the US, you must marry your fiancé within 90 days. Then you can apply for a green card.

How long does the K1 fiancé visa process take?

Typically it can take anywhere from 8-10 months. Again, this will only allow you to enter the country as a non-immigrant. You must marry your USC fiancé within 90 days and then apply for a green card.

How much does a fiancé visa cost?

Government fees for a fiancé visa are about $2000.

Can i work on a fiancé visa?

You generally cannot work on the visa itself. When you apply for your green card, you can apply for a work permit at the same time.

When can I apply for citizenship with a fiancé visa?

First you must get your green card. That will be about six months, depending on how quickly after entry you marry and apply for the green card. Typically you can apply for citizenship three years after that.

How long after I arrive in the United States can I apply for my green card?

Once you are married to your US citizen fiancé, you can apply for the green card.

What happens if I don’t get married after arriving in the United States?

If you don’t marry within 90 days, then you cannot get your green card through the fiancé visa process. If you never marry, then you must leave the US.

Family Immigration

How long does family based immigration take?

Anywhere from a few months to over twenty years, depending on the status of the petitioner, the relationship between the petitioner and the intending immigrant, and the intending immigrant’s country of origin.

Can a family member sponsor an immigrant?

US citizens can file petitions for their children and their spouses, as well as their parents and siblings. Permanent residents can file petitions for their spouses and unmarried children.

Can I sponsor an immigrant that is a non family member?

Not through family-based immigration. There could be options through employment-based immigration.

Can a US citizen sponsor a non family member?

Not through family-based immigration. There could be options through employment-based immigration.

Can parents of US born child stay in US?

Parents of US-born children can immigrate lawfully to the US as long as they are otherwise eligible.

How can I legally immigrate to the US?

Most commonly, people immigrate through family members. US citizens can file petitions for their children and their spouses, as well as their parents and siblings. Permanent residents can file petitions for their spouses and unmarried children.

It is possible to immigrate through an employer as well.  There are also benefits for victims of crime and domestic violence. To find out which options are best, consult with an immigration attorney.

Can a US citizen sponsor his brother?

Yes.

For which family members can a lawful permanent resident help immigrate?

Permanent residents can file petitions for their spouses and unmarried children.

For which family members can a citizen help immigrate?

US citizens can file petitions for their children and their spouses, as well as their parents and siblings.

Adjustment of Status

How long does it take to adjust my status?

It can take anywhere from six to eighteen months, or even longer, depending on where you live in the United States.

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Hector E. Quiroga
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