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Frequently Asked Questions - Immigration
Frequently Asked Questions
The following information includes frequently asked immigration questions. The answers stated are general in nature and are not intended to apply to every immigration matter. Each case is different and carries its own set of circumstances that must be taken into consideration by competent legal counsel. Please get legal advice specific to your case.
How can I become a permanent resident of the US?
You must go through a multi-step process to become an immigrant. First, the DHS must approve an immigrant petition for you, usually filed by an employer or relative - (certain applicants such as investors or workers with extraordinary ability can petition on their own behalf). Second, the State Department must give you an immigrant visa number, even if you are already in the United States. If you are outside the United States, you will be notified to go to the local U.S. consulate to complete the processing for an immigrant visa. The following is a list of some of the most common ways, although not exhaustive, used to apply for permanent residency:
- Immigration through Family Member
- Immigration through Employment
- Immigration through Investment
- Adjusting to lawful permanent resident status as an Asylee or Refugee
- Immigration through the Diversity Lottery
Can I immigrate to the US if one of my family members is already there?
Yes, you can. Immigration through a family member who is a US citizen or permanent resident is the most common way of gaining US residency. If you want to become a lawful permanent resident based on the fact that you have a relative who is a citizen of the United States or a lawful permanent resident, you must go through a multi-step process. First, the DHS must approve an immigrant visa petition Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative filed by your relative (sponsor) and accompanied by proof of your relationship to the requesting relative.
Second, the Department of State must determine if an immigrant visa number is immediately available to you even if you are already in the U.S. When an immigrant visa number becomes immediately available to you, it means that you can apply to have one of the immigrant visa numbers assigned to you. If already in the U.S., you may apply to change your status to that of a lawful permanent resident after a visa number becomes available for you. If outside the U.S. when an immigrant visa number becomes available for you, you must then go to the U.S. Embassy or consulate in your country to complete the process.
How can I sponsor a family member?
To be eligible to sponsor a relative to immigrate to the United States you must be a citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. and be able to provide documentation proving your status. You must also prove that you can support your relative at 125% above the mandated poverty line. If you are a lawful permanent resident you may petition for a husband or wife or unmarried son or daughter. If you are a US Citizen you may petition for the following foreign national's relatives:
- Husband or wife
- Unmarried child under 21 years old
- Unmarried son or daughter over 21
- Married son or daughter of any age
- Brother or sister, if you are at least 21 years old
- Parent, if you are at least 21 years old
How can I bring my spouse to the US?
There is a three-step process for your spouse to become a legal immigrant. First, the DHS must approve an immigrant visa petition that you file for your spouse. Second, the State Department visa bulletin must show that a spouse immigrant visa is available to your spouse, based on the date you filed the immigrant visa application. Third, if your spouse is outside the United States when your visa petition is approved and when an immigrant visa number (if required) becomes available, your spouse will be notified to go to the local U.S. consulate to complete the processing for an immigrant visa.
Can I visit the US to marry a citizen?
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides a nonimmigrant visa classification, "K-1", for aliens coming to the United States to marry U.S. citizens and reside in the U.S. A U.S. citizen must file an I-129F petition with DHS for the issuance of a K-1 fiancé visa to the alien fiancé. Both the U.S. citizen exercising this option and the fiancé must remain unmarried until the arrival of the fiancé in the U.S. The alien fiancé and U.S. citizen must have met personally at least once in the two years before the petition was filed. The marriage between the U.S. citizen petitioner and the fiancé must take place within three months of the fiancé's arrival if the alien fiancé is to remain in status.
I want to be a student in the US. What type of visa do I need?
The Immigration and Nationality Act provides two nonimmigrant visa categories for persons wishing to study in the United States. The "F" visa is reserved for nonimmigrants wishing to pursue academic studies and/or language training programs, and the "M" visa is reserved for non-immigrants wishing to pursue nonacademic or vocational studies. You must first apply to the school you want to attend.
- Student must be enrolled in an "academic" educational program, a language-training program or a vocational program
- School must be approved by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
- Student must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution
- Student must be proficient in English or enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency
- Student must have sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study
- Student must maintain a residence abroad which he/she has no intention of giving up
The purpose of my visit is to work in the US temporarily. What should I do?
If you will be working in the US your prospective employer or agent must file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, and the appropriate supplement with the Immigration and Naturalization Service accompanied by the required payment, and initial evidence or documentation. In some cases, your employer must get a certificate from the Department of Labor prior to filing the I-129.
Once your petition is approved, your employer or agent is sent a Notice of Approval, Form I-797. Approval of a petition does not guarantee a visa. After the I-129 has been approved and notice has been sent to the consulate in your country, you must file a visa application with the consulate. Some aliens may be visa exempt. In those cases, the I-129 approval notice is sent to the port of entry (POE) where you intend to apply for admission.
What are the categories for acquiring immigrant status through employment?
There are four categories for granting permanent residence to foreign nationals based on employment skills. If you are an employer and are unsure which employment category applies to the foreign national you wish to sponsor, or if you are a foreign nationals and want more information on which category matches your particular situation, these are the categories:
EB-1 Priority workers: Foreign nationals of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics
- Foreign nationals that are outstanding professors or researchers
- Foreign nationals that are managers and executives subject to international transfer to the U.S.
EB-2 Professionals with advanced degrees or persons with exceptional ability: Foreign nationals of exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business
- Foreign nationals that are advanced degree professionals
- Qualified alien physicians who will practice medicine in an area of the U.S. that is underserved.
EB-3 Skilled or professional workers: Foreign national professionals with bachelor's degrees (not qualifying for a higher preference category)
- Foreign national skilled workers (minimum two years training and experience)
- Foreign national unskilled workers.
EB-4 Special Immigrants: Foreign national religious workers
- Employees and former employees of the U.S. Government abroad
What are the requirements for immigration through investment?
Permanent resident status based on EB-5 eligibility is available to investors, either alone or coming with their spouse and unmarried children. Alien investors must do the following to qualify for immigration based on investment: Demonstrate that a "qualified investment" is being made in a new commercial enterprise located within an approved Regional Center; and Show, using reasonable methodologies, that 10 or more jobs are actually created either directly or indirectly by the new commercial enterprise through revenues generated from increased exports, improved regional productivity, job creation, or increased domestic capital investment resulting from the pilot program.
What is the United States Asylum Program and who can benefit from it?
Asylum is granted to people who are already in the U.S. and are unable or unwilling to return to their home country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The legal foundation for this program comes from the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Rules published in the Federal Register explain the eligibility requirements and procedures to be followed by applicants and the government to ask for and decide on asylum. If granted asylum, you will be allowed to live and work in the United States. You also will be able to apply for permanent resident status one year after you are granted asylum.
Take Action to Protect Your Rights:
If you need a visa, wish to immigrate, are facing deportation or removal for any reason, or want to help bring a family member or employee to the United States, call Immigration Attorney Edgar P Lombera at (909) 915-0181.
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