Immigration Questions: (954) 382-5378
POSTING DATE: February 11, 2019
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Questions & Answers
This Week's Immigration News
Question: I have a question about getting my green card. My mother filed for me and my husband way back many years ago and we just got a letter from a visa center about paying some bills for our interview at the embassy. The problem is that we have been here in florida since 2005 and our visas expired in 2006. My husband says that we should pay the fees and go to the interview, but I am hesitant and want to make sure that before we pay any fees, I know that its safe for us to go to Jamaica for our interview to get our green card. Thank you for your input.
Answer: Unfortunately, under current law, unless you and your husband were inside the U.S. by December 2000 and your mother filed the I-130 Family Petition for you before April 30th of 2001 (245i eligible), you cannot obtain your Green Card in the U.S. since you are not in legal immigration status. Similarly, now that the time has come to immigrate (your Priority Date is current in the F3 immigration category for married children of U.S. Citizens), if you leave the U.S., you will be denied your immigrant visa at the Consulate and “barred” from re-entering the U.S. for ten years, since you have been in the U.S. out of legal status for over a year. Its important to know that I-130 petitions filed by relatives do not provide any immigration or employment benefits for immigrant family members. If you pay the National Visa Center fees, your money will be wasted and you will not be able to get a refund. For now, you and millions of other Immigrant currently in the U.S. without legal immigration status will need to wait for the Congress to act on Immigration Reform. I hope that was helpful to you.
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How Do I Know If My Old Criminal Case Will Cause Me Problems With Immigration?
Secrets To Success In Getting An Infopass Appointment At Your Local USCIS Office
The common belief among many Residents (green card holders) is that old criminal convictions that occurred many years ago no longer matter and they will not affect his or her immigration status. However, in reality, this is far from true and this misunderstanding often leads to Residents being taken into ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) custody, detained and in some cases, deported, over seemingly insignificant past crimes.
Criminal Immigration attorneys warn Residents with criminal backgrounds to take certain precautions to avoid having the USCIS revoke their green card for convictions which occurred after the green card was obtained and ways to safeguard against being taken into custody as part of Trumps aggressive Immigration enforcement policies.
Getting Your Original Documents Back From USCIS
Once an immigration case has been filed remains pending too long, or an interview has been completed and no decision has been made on the case for 90 days or more, an Infopass appointment at your local USCIS can be a very convenient way to obtain additional information.
As is often the case, Immigrants who have been in the U.S. for many years and filed immigration applications or were sponsored by family members at some point, have lost vital documents pertaining to those cases and in some instances, don’t fully remember what their immigration status is or what immigration requests might have been filed on their behalf. As the years go by, families move and documents get misplaced or lost, leaving some immigrants unable to know whether they qualify for legal immigration status or not. Some who applied for asylum or other benefits many years ago swear that they never got an answer on their case, only to later realize that an order of deportation was issued by an immigration court against them, which they were never aware of.
When filing immigration applications with the USCIS, Applicants should NEVER send original documents, since the USCIS will not return them. The only time originals should ever be sent to the USICS is when the officer specifically requests them, for instance in cases where original certified Court Dispositions and Police Reports are required when criminal issues are involved.
Mistakenly sending originals is particularly urgent when a Petitioner sends an original Naturalization Certificate as proof of U.S. Citizenship, when sponsoring a family member. In such cases, obtaining a duplicate Naturalization Certificate can be quite costly ($555) and take quite a bit of time.
Benefits Of Filing A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request To Obtain Immigration Documentation On Your Case
Tips On Downloading Your Arrival Record, Replacing Your I-94 Card & Obtaining Your Travel History
An I-94 is a small slip of paper which until 2013 was issued to all international visitors and visa holders entering the U.S.. Officially called the Arrival/Departure card, the I-94 contained the date of entry into the U.S. as well as the date by which the individual must depart from the U.S.. Often, individuals do not understand how important this little card is until it is too late. In order to change immigration status inside the U.S. to any other immigrant or non-immigrant visa status, immigration regulations require that a copy of the I-94 be included with the application to establish eligibility.
You can often find out the status of a pending immigration case, confirm that documents requested by a USCIS officer has been received, or even get a temporary U.S. Residency stamp or sticker while waiting for your Green Card to be replaced or renewed. But more often than not, actually getting an Infopass appointment scheduled can be quite a challenge at some busy local USCIS offices, causing extreme frustration and anxiety. The repeated message “Currently, there are no available appointments. Please check again tomorrow.” can be so frustrating, so here are a few tips:
-Appointment are only available for two weeks in the future
-Persistence breeds success – visit the site often during the day, since other customers may cancel their Infopass appointments, opening a slot for you
-Login to the Infopass during off-peak hours, early in the morning and late at night
If repeated attempts to make an appointment at your local office fail, in many circumstances you can make an appointment at another field office within a reasonable distance
-Once you are successful in making your Infopass appointment, make sure you print out a copy of your confirmation to present at your appointment. If you need to reschedule or cancel an appointment, you can do so using the “Manage an Appointment” option.
It’s important to know that your Infopass appointment will be with an immigration services officer (ISO), not an adjudications officer, meaning that the ISO won’t be the one working on your case, but can access some information about your case in the computer. If your case has been pending over the normal processing time, you can ask the ISO to request action or status update on your case, then make another Infopass appointment to see if any action was taken on the matter in 30 days.
If your case is not pending at the local USCIS and is instead being processed at the National Benefits Center or another Service Center, you can call National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 to request a status update or file an ERequest to get status on cases which have been pending over the normal processing time. In such cases, an Infopass appointment can be a waste of time.
The USCIS is in the process of phasing out Infopass appointment self-scheduling nationwide, however the option does currently remain available for many jurisdictions, including Florida.
For immigration which have been dragging on for extended periods of time and your Infopass inquiries have not yielded positive results, you can always contact your local Congressional office to request assistance. You will be asked to complete and sign a form and an inquiry will be made on your behalf. You can normally expect a response from the Congressional office within about 30 days, in a letter telling what the USCIS status is. A word of caution: many cases which have been pending for long periods of time have been singled out for supervisory review, often because there are doubts about an Immigrant’s eligibility. For instance, a marriage immigration case which has been pending for several years following one or more interviews and no decision has been made. In such a case, if the couple has since split up, the case will likely to be denied and rushing the adjudication can result in a quick denial and Notice to Appear (NTA) in immigration court before a judge and eventual deportation. Similarly, making inquiries a residency case filed by an Immigrant with a criminal record or by an applicant who is not in legal status which is pending for review before a final decision can be made may yield a quick denial and NTA. In some circumstances, having a bad case take a long time for adjudication is a good thing, allowing the Immigrant to continue to live and work in America, while leaving open the possibility for some kind of immigration reform in the future. Rushing a bad case, often has bad consequences. Good to know!
So in these turbulent times, with constant government threats against even legal immigration, it’s more important than ever for immigrants to fully understand their immigration status and have possession of any immigration documentation they may need to help determine whether or not they are eligible to obtain residency through a family member or by other means. In these cases, filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with federal immigration authorities can be very useful to obtain critical information on an individual’s immigration history and even some documents to prove legal entry, when the I-94 card or old passport has been lost over the years.
FOIA requests do not trigger any kind of negative action on an immigrant’s case, but they can often take many months to process. The key to success is to provide full and complete information to enable the agency to locate the file and any related case information pertaining to the applicant. Depending on an immigrant’s particular case, documentation may sometimes be held by various government agencies, including: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Department of State (DOS), the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), and, for some, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). In these cases, a separate FOIA must be requested from each agency separately.
Until recently, a FOIA request could be made using a cell phone or mobile device, by filing a request online, or through a free mobile application called “eFOIA”, from an Android or Apple phone. However, the mobile application is currently no longer available.
Before undertaking a FOIA request, it is important to understand that not all documents are available under FOIA, including requests to obtain duplicate approval notices or original documents submitted to the USCIS. Typically, documents which can be obtained are copies of Immigration case filings, including supporting documents. This is particularly important when an immigrant has lost a copy of a vital document such as an I-94 which was previously submitted to the USCIS as part of an Immigration application.
We can make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on your behalf,
just give us a call at: 954-382-5378.
Question: I have a green card and want to know about my son’s case. I filed for him a few years ago and got the confirmation letter from immigration. He is single now, but told me last night that he wants to get married to his longtime girlfriend. My question is whether adult children of green card holders have to only be single at the time of the application or do they need to stay unmarried during the entire time. I am worried that if he gets married it will delay his case. Can you please tell me if it will?
Answer: That is a very critical question and the answer is one that many immigrants simply do not know. The law requires that the adult children of U.S. Residents sponsored in the F2B immigration category remain single during the entire immigration process. If a child marries after the I-130 petition is filed but before a U.S. Resident parent becomes a U.S. Citizen, the I-130 is automatically cancelled, even if the adult child later divorces. The reason is that immigration regulations do not have a Family category for married children of U.S. Residents, only single ones. So in your son’s case, if he marries before you obtain your U.S. Citizenship, his case will be cancelled. If you get naturalized, then he can get married, but his case will be significantly delayed. Right now the waiting line for single adult children of U.S. Residents is about 6-7 years. If you naturalize and he marries, the waiting time goes up to 12+ years. It might be more prudent for him to remain single, immigrate to the U.S. in several years, then once he has his green card, get married and file to sponsor his wife, which currently takes about two years. I hope this is helpful to you.
Question: Hi I`m a resident and got my ten years green card through my parents 3 years ago. My girlfriend is from the Bahamas and comes to visit me or I go visit her. Its getting hard to be apart so we decided to get married. What we want to know is the fastest way for her to get a work card so she can stay here in florida and work while we are waiting for her papers. We don’t know if we should get married here or do that in Bahamas and what is the process?
Answer: It’s really important to understand that spouses of Residents are not allowed to stay inside or work in the U.S. (unless they are on another legal visa). If they do, they will be ineligible to obtain a Green Card. There is a big difference between the rights spouses of citizens have compared to those of residents. Residents cannot petition fiancées, whereas U.S. Citizens can.
In your situation, once you get married, you should have a spousal case filed on her behalf as soon as possible so that she can get her place in the “visa line”. The visa line for spouses of Residents is now about two (2) years, so the sooner you get her in the line, the better. There is no way for her to legally stay in the U.S. during that time, unless she is eligible on her own for a work, student or other visa. However, be aware that once the spousal case is filed, she may not be eligible to obtain some types of work or student visas at the U.S. Consulate. Let me know if you want us to handle her residency case so that it is filed and processed properly so that she does not have to wait any longer than is necessary.
However, when originals are mistakenly provided to the USCIS via mail, you can make a request for them to be returned by completing and filing form G-884, Return of Original Documents and submit to the USCIS office where your case is pending or where the last action was taken on your case. There is no filing fee required to make this request, but receiving your original document(s) can take up to one year.
One of the most common ways that a Resident with a criminal background finds themselves in Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) custody is when they travel internationally and then re-enter the U.S. only to find that they face interrogation and possible detention and deportation due to a past criminal conviction, no matter how many years ago it occurred. Another common way that a Resident can be taken into Immigration custody is after an even minor traffic offense for which they were arrested. Finally, Residents with a criminal background who file for Naturalization can be referred to Immigration Court and not only be denied U.S. Citizenship, but lose their Green Card and be deported as well
To avoid these nasty consequences, Residents with criminal conviction(s), no matter how “small”, should consult with an experienced criminal immigration lawyer before traveling internationally and before filing for Naturalization. Those who do not plan on international travel or filing for Naturalization should also schedule a consult to have the lawyer review their criminal record and provide advice about any possible future risks and/or steps that can be taken to clear up any potential negative Immigration effects of criminal convictions, including getting a criminal case reopened and dismissed. This does not include getting a criminal case “expunged” which does not make it disappear for Immigration purposes and may only make it more difficult to provide required documentation in a future immigration case.
Foreign nationals must prove that they entered the U.S. legally and were inspected by an immigration officer in order to qualify to file for immigration status in the U.S.. Those who did not enter the U.S. legally are generally not entitled to obtain any new immigration status in the U.S., even when married to a U.S. citizen unless a Waiver is obtained.
If you entered the U.S. before 2013, you can’t download your Arrival/Departure record online and must instead obtain your I-94 card is lost, stolen or seriously damaged, you can apply to replace it by filing Form I-102, Application for Replacement/Initial Arrival-Departure Document. The USCIS filing fee is $445 and it generally takes about 60 -120 days or more to receive the I-94 replacement card in the mail.
Under the new electronic I-94 system implemented in 2013, international visitors are no longer issued paper I-94 cards upon entry into the U.S.. Instead, individuals are provided with instructions on accessing their I-94 records online and printing the I-94 card out from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. You can visit the CBP site to print out your paper I-94 cards: