Immigration Resources – Frequently Asked Immigration Questions
Table Of Contents
Request A Free Consultation
The Davis & Associates Difference
Family Immigration Resources
Common Marriage Green Card Questions
A Fiancé Visa is for a U.S. citizen’s fiancé who is a foreign citizen currently living outside the United States. Many U.S. citizens have traveled and developed a relationship with a foreign individual whom they hope to marry. At present, these individuals may request a K-1 Fiancé Visa to allow their intended spouses to come to the United States to marry.
Permanent residents (green card holders) may not petition for a Fiancé Visa. These individuals, however, may choose to marry abroad and would be eligible to petition for their new spouse to move to the United States.
It can take between 10 and 38 months to get a green card through marriage. However, every case is different – and it depends on whether you’re married to a U.S. citizen or green card holder. If you’re married to a citizen, your attorney can use concurrent filing; if you’re married to a green card holder, you must wait for the U.S. government to approve your Form I-130 before your lawyer can file your Form I-485.
It also depends on whether you currently live in the U.S. or abroad. If you live abroad, you’ll have to go through consular processing, which can take longer because the National Visa Center must process your petition before sending it on to the U.S. Department of State.
Green cards through marriage are available to spouses of U.S. citizens and green card holders. When applying for adjustment of status and establishing if you’re eligible for a green card you have to provide proof of:
- Your nationality. You can use a copy of your birth certificate and your passport’s photo page, or other proof that’s widely accepted as proof of nationality.
- Your lawful entry to the United States. You can use a copy of your I-94 travel record and a prior U.S. visa, such as a K-1 visa.
- A medical examination performed by a USCIS-approved physician.
- Your spouse’s ability to financially support you. Generally, you’ll need Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, and supporting documentation (like your spouse’s pay stubs and tax returns).
Sponsors must certify that their income levels are at least 25% above the existing Federal Poverty Guidelines. If the sponsor is on active duty in the U.S. Military and wishes to sponsor a Green Card applicant, the income must be at least equal to these federal guidelines.
You and your immigration attorney will work together to put together an adjustment of status packet that contains all the documentation and forms necessary to get a green card. The documents you need include:
- Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
- Form I-130 and I-130A only apply to immediate relative spouses.
- Form I-864, Affidavit of Support
- Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (this form is optional) Form
- I-131, Application for Travel Document (this form is optional)
There are fees associated with filing some of these forms, which are subject to change. Your attorney will let you know what the filing fee is for each document, or you can check yourself on the USCIS website.
Because the USCIS official interviewing you has to make sure your marriage is valid, you may have to answer questions about your relationship during your green card marriage interview. If you’re in a bona fide marriage, the interview will probably not be an issue for you – the questions aren’t incredibly complicated, but they do require you to know enough about your spouse to prove that you’re together as a couple.
You’ll want to provide the USCIS officer with proof of your “togetherness,” such as receipts for rent or mortgage payments, bills with both of your names on them, pictures of you two together, and other evidence that you have.
If the official handling your case doesn’t believe that you’re in a genuine marriage, he or she may ask questions about your relationship in what’s known as a Stokes Interview. Those types of interviews include things like:
- When and where did you meet?
- How often do you go out to eat?
- How is your living room set up?
- What does your spouse eat for breakfast?
- What kind of nightly routine do you have before you go to bed?
- What kinds of entertainment do you both enjoy?
- What cell phone provider does your spouse use?
To become a U.S. citizen through naturalization, you must:
- Be 18 or older
- Be a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least five years*
- Demonstrate continuous U.S. residence for 5 years at the time of application
- Prove that you have been physically present for a minimum of 30 months (out of 5 years) at the time of application
- Prove at least 3 months of residence in your state or district of application**
- Be a person of good moral character
- Read, write, and speak English at a satisfactory level
- Pass a U.S. government and history (civics) test
- Respect and adhere to the U.S. Constitution’s “principles and ideals”
- Be willing to swear an oath of allegiance to the United States
*Those foreign nationals married to U.S. citizens only need to hold a green card for three years before becoming eligible for naturalization.
**Students can apply for naturalization either in their home state or where they attend school, if these differ. Students must still depend on their parents for financial support to apply in their home state.
Once you have applied, you will be required to partake in an interview, pass English and civics tests, and declare your allegiance to the U.S.
If you’re a green card holder, you’re not eligible to apply for a K-1 visa on your fiancé’s behalf. You may have other options, though, so it’s a good idea to get in touch with a family immigration attorney who can help.
A green card you obtain through marriage is nearly the same as any other green card; the key difference is that it comes with conditions attached. You can still live and work anywhere in the United States with a green card – you’ll be a conditional permanent resident. The conditions apply to people who have been married for fewer than two years. (If you’ve been married for longer, you won’t have conditions attached to your green card.)
All this really means is that you’ve been married for fewer than two years – and once you’ve been married for two years, the U.S. government can remove the conditions. You must petition the government to remove the conditions by using Form I-751, which your immigration attorney can fill out and file for you. Timing matters; your lawyer must file your I-751 during the 90-day window before your conditional permanent residency expires. If you file too early, the government will return your petition, and if you file too late, it’ll reject it entirely (unless you can explain valid reasons why it’s late).
The form is a joint petition, which means both you and your spouse will have to sign it. You’ll also need to include evidence that you’re in a bona fide marriage, which means that you’re in the marriage for valid reasons (rather than simply married to obtain an immigration benefit, which can get you deported). By the time you file your I-751, you’ve been married for more than two years, so USCIS expects there to be real evidence of your marriage, such as:
- Photos of you and your spouse together
- Joint financial documents
- Leases or mortgage statements with both of your names on them
- Children’s birth certificates
Other types of proof are also acceptable, and your Dallas immigration attorney can talk to you about what needs to accompany your petition.
It’s really important to note that even if you’re a conditional permanent resident, you have all the same rights and responsibilities that any other permanent resident has – you just have to petition the government to remove the conditions after you’ve been married long enough. If you don’t remove the conditions on your permanent residency, you’ll be “out of status.” That means you can be removed from the country because as soon as your conditional permanent residency expires, you’re in the United States illegally.
Green card holders are usually unaffected by a divorce when they file another application or petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) if they are already a lawful permanent resident with a 10-year green card.
If a person obtained their green card by marrying a U.S. citizen and their marriage was less than 2 years old at the time of approval, then getting a divorce might cause some complications. In cases where the marriage was less than 2 years old at the time of approval, USCIS will issue a conditional green card that is valid for two-years. During the 90 days prior to the expiration of the green card, the Permanent Resident must file an application to remove the conditions (Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence) as well as supplemental evidence to prove the bona fides of the marriage. This application should be filed jointly with the spouse through which the residency was obtained. In cases of divorce, the green card holder cannot file jointly and must file with a waiver request.
Green Card Resources
Commonly Asked Green Card Questions
A green card is an identification document that indicates that a person is a lawful permanent resident of the United States. A person who has a green card can live and work in the U.S. without restrictions, so it provides a great deal more freedom than a visa would. Still, green card holders don’t enjoy all the same rights and responsibilities that U.S. citizens (naturalized or natural-born) do.
Not everyone is eligible for a green card. In order to be eligible, you must meet certain requirements – and those requirements vary based on the immigrant category you’re applying under. Those categories include green cards through:
- Special immigrant status
- Refugee or asylee statusPhysician National Interest Waiver
- Human trafficking and crime victim programs
- Abuse victim programs
- Other categories
Green Card How-To Topics
You can check your case status online or call the USCIS Contact Center to find out where your Form I-485 is on its journey through the application process. You’ll have to provide your receipt number if you check your case status online. If you call, you may have to provide your receipt number, your A-Number, name and date of birth.
To apply for a green card, you’ll have to complete Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Most people have to complete other forms, as well, but don’t worry. Your attorney can complete them for you. In some cases, another person has to file forms for you, such as when you’re using:
- Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
- Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker
- Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition
- Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal
Getting Started with Citizenship and Naturalization
Common Naturalization Questions
A naturalized citizen of the United States is a foreign-born individual who has met all the requirements of becoming a citizen as established by the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) passed by the U.S. Congress. The process for immigrants to become United States citizens is referred to as naturalization.
Once you have been awarded citizenship, you can enjoy all of the rights and benefits of a natural-born U.S. citizen. The rights to vote and receive government benefits as well as the ability to work, own a home, and participate in the political process will become a part of your normal life.
Most applicants will be tested in English to show the USCIS official that they can speak and understand the language. They’ll also be tested in civics, which includes questions on American history and how the U.S. government operates. You must answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly to pass the U.S. citizenship test – and the test is required for you to become a naturalized citizen.
Note: Civics studies teach the naturalization candidate how the government works, representation and voting, as well as the responsibilities of local, state, and national government leaders.
The USCIS Citizenship Resource Center website provides information to help study for the tests, information sessions that you may attend, information to help you understand your rights and responsibilities, and naturalization resources for Spanish language speakers.
Although there are exceptions in specific instances to be mentioned later, the starting qualifications for an individual to become a naturalized United States citizen are that you must:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Be a lawful permanent resident, which means you have a green card
- Have lived in the United States as a lawful green card holder for at least 5 years
- Have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months during the 5 years after becoming a legal permanent resident
- Be a person of good moral character with no convictions for charges stemming from immoral actions
- Prove that you can speak, read, and write the English language
- Be able to prove by testing that you have a knowledge of U.S. government, American history and civics
- Be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America
Exceptions to the basic rules for naturalization include honorably discharged, foreign-born members of the United States military, as well as spouses, and children of U.S. citizens and U.S. military personnel.
In order to apply for citizenship, you’ll have to provide USCIS with certain documents. These are the three items you must include with your application:
- A photocopy of both sides of your permanent resident card
- A check or money order for the application fee and the biometric services fee (unless you pay by credit card)
- Two identical color photographs, if you reside outside the U.S., with your name and Alien Registration Number written in pencil on the back of each photo
There are other documents you may need to include, as well, such as:
- A completed form that shows an attorney is acting on your behalf (your lawyer will handle this one for you)
- Documents that show you’ve legally changed your name, if your current legal name is different from the one on your permanent resident card
- A marriage certificate
- Evidence that your spouse has been a U.S. citizen for at least 3 years, if applicable
- Proof of termination of prior marriages, if applicable
- Documents that prove your statements about your marriage, such as tax returns, leases or your kids’ birth certificates
- Proof of prior military service
- Criminal records that prove dismissal of charges or records of court dispositions
You will receive a notice regarding the date and time for your interview and testing. Arrive on time with the following documents:
- Interview appointment notice
- Your I-551, Permanent Resident Card
- State-issued identification, such as a driver’s license
- Any valid or expired passports and travel documents that show your absences from the United States since you became a permanent resident
Be prepared to give honest and straightforward answers to questions asked by the interviewer.
Although being a green card holder/lawful permanent resident lets you live and work freely in the U.S., you miss out on some of the rights reserved only for citizens.
As a U.S. citizen, you:
- Have the right to vote
- Get priority in sponsoring family members for green cards
- Can obtain citizenship for your children born outside the U.S.
- Can become an elected official
- Can travel with a U.S. passport
- Receive full protection from deportation
If you have passed all phases of the application process, you will be notified of your official Naturalization Ceremony with a Form N-445 that will advise you of a date, time, and location of the ceremony and Oath of Allegiance. Once you arrive, you will:
- Check in at the ceremony
- Return your Permanent Residency card
- Take the Oath of Allegiance
- Receive your Certificate of Naturalization, which officially designates you as a naturalized citizen of the United States
You won’t officially become a naturalized citizen until after you’ve taken the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. You’ll receive your naturalization certificate after your oath ceremony.
Request A Free Consultation
Common Deportation Questions
ICE deportation follows a certain process, whether it’s the typical process or expedited removal.
When ICE deports someone, the process typically goes this way:
- Expedited removal, if applicable
- Notice to appear
- Voluntary departure
- Bond hearing
- Master calendar hearing
- Merits hearing
- Order of removal
Under certain circumstances, a person may face expedited removal proceedings. During expedited removal, a person does not have a right to a hearing. This occurs during very specific occasions. Typically, such proceedings occur when an undocumented immigrant is apprehended within two weeks of arrival. Expedited removal may also occur if a person is found inadmissible when arriving to the U.S.
Individuals most at risk for removal are those who arrived without legal travel authorization or used forged documents to enter.
But there are several reasons that the U.S. government can use to deport someone who’s lawfully present in the country. Generally, a person is deportable from the United States if he or she:
- Was inadmissible when entering the country or when adjusting an immigration status
- Violated the terms of a visa, green card or other status
- Had conditional permanent resident status, but that status was terminated
- Helped smuggle an alien into the U.S.
- Committed marriage fraud
- Got married and divorced (or had the marriage annulled) within a certain time frame
- Was convicted of one or more crimes involving moral turpitude
- Has been convicted of domestic violence, stalking, child neglect or abuse, or child abandonment at any time after being admitted to the U.S.
There are several other reasons the U.S. government may choose to deport someone, as well, so if you’re facing removal proceedings, it’s typically best to talk to an attorney as soon as possible.
Undocumented Immigrants Resources
If U.S. customs officials discover that you have been unlawfully present in the United States, no matter how you came to the country, you can be barred from re-entry. While there are some exceptions, such as those for asylum applicants, battered women and children, and victims of severe human trafficking (as well as exceptions for minors), most people will be banned from coming back to the U.S. for at least 3 years.
3-Year Bar To Re-Entry
Aliens who were unlawfully present in the U.S. for between 180 days and 1 year, but who left voluntarily, are subject to a 3-year bar to re-entry.
10-Year Bar To Re-Entry
Aliens who were unlawfully present in the U.S. for 1 year or more, but who left voluntarily, are subject to a 10-year bar to re-entry.
Permanent Bar To Re-Entry
Aliens who were unlawfully present in the U.S. for 1 year or more and were subject to a 10-year bar cannot try to re-enter the country illegally. If a person tries or succeeds at coming back to the U.S. illegally, he or she is subject to a permanent bar to re-entry.
In some cases, marrying a U.S. citizen can get you “immediate relative” status that makes you eligible for a green card. However, you can only take this route if you enter into a valid, bona fide marriage with a citizen – if you’re only marrying for the immigration benefit, U.S. Customs and Immigration Services will find out and you will be removed from the country.
Additionally, this option is only available to people who entered the United States legally on a valid visa. If you entered the U.S. illegally, your chance of being able to adjust your status is very slim.
Business Immigration Resources
Common Business Immigration Questions
Popular work visas in the U.S. include:
A substantial amount of capital depends on the case. It must be a monetary amount that:
- Is substantial in relationship to the total cost of purchasing an existing business or establishing a new business
- Is enough to ensure your financial commitment to the business’s success
- Is enough to support the likelihood that you’ll successfully develop and direct the business – and the lower the cost of the enterprise, the higher (proportionately) the investment must be for the U.S. government to consider it “substantial”
As outlined by USCIS, requesting sponsorship for an H-1B candidate requires a 3-step process:
Step 1: The employer begins by presenting a complete and accurate Labor Condition Application (LCA) Form 9035 to the Department of Labor. The application must be approved before submitting to the USCIS. Additionally, the employer must inform existing employees of the intent to hire a foreign worker in a public access notice. The LCA requires that the employer will not pay the international employee at a rate less than existing employees, may not be involved in a current labor stoppage, dispute or strike, and that union officials have been notified, where applicable.
Step 2: The employer files a completed Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with the USCIS. The application should also include the certified Department of Labor approval of the LCA.
Step 3: The prospective foreign employee applies to the Department of State at the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate. Here the individual will prove qualifications for the H-1B visa. Also, the individual will apply to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for admission under the visa.
An L-1A Beneficiary needs to have been employed in an executive or managerial position with the foreign entity for at least one year within the last three years.
- Managing multiple degreed professionals and other managers of the foreign business.
- Exercising wide discretionary authority over the operations of the foreign entity.
- Managing a branch or division of the foreign entity.
We generally like to see that L-1A managers/executives oversee at least 15-20 employees.
Employment for a year or more in a specialized knowledge capacity may also work in some instances, but the majority of L-1 New Office filings are generally more successful with managers or executives even though the law allows for “Specialized Knowledge” transfers.
Employers must have a Form I-9 on file for every current employee hired on or after November 6, 1986. All sections of the I-9 form must have been fully filled out, and all re-validations should be completed in a timely manner.
Please note that you never have to re-validate the employment authorization of a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (green card holder). Any changes (change of name) or corrections (fixing a mistake) should include the initials and date of the person making the change/correction, among other requirements.
I-9 forms for former employees must be kept for three years from the employee’s hire date or one year after their final date of employment. Such forms can be retained on paper or electronically.
In some situations, US$500,000 can be sufficient to qualify an investor for the EB-5 program. One approach is by setting up the investment business in an economically challenged area. For example, rural areas with less than 20,000 in population qualify as a Targeted Employment Area.
Another approach is for the investor to show that the area in which the investor will operate the investment enterprise is one of high unemployment, 150% of the national average. The data provided to establish sufficient unemployment must come from government sources.
The other approach is to invest with a Regional Center. A Regional Center is an investment company authorized by USCIS and other government entities to provide investment options to investors hoping for permanent residence through EB-5. The list of approved regional centers can be found at the following link: EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Centers
Request A Free Consultation
Common Asylum Questions
If you fear persecution upon returning to your home country, you may be eligible for political asylum in the United States. In order to qualify for political asylum however, the harm you fear must be based on religion, race, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. The persecution you fear must be either from a part of the government or an individual or group that the government cannot or will not protect you from.
In order to qualify for asylum, persecution must also be something more substantial, such as human rights violations, torture, unlawful or political detention, physical violence, or infliction of serious emotional distress. Sometimes, mere threats of harm can qualify as persecution if other individuals or groups similarly situated to you have experienced documented persecution.
Immigrants seeking asylum at the U.S. border must go through an initial screening called a credible fear interview after they have been taken into custody. During this interview, the asylum-seeker must prove there is a significant possibility that they could establish they have a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country.
Once you have submitted your asylum application, you must wait to be contacted by the USCIS about your interview date. Without a doubt, the interview is the most critical aspect of the entire asylum process. It is during this interview that applicants discuss their cases with a government official, known as an “asylum officer.” This official will talk with you and discuss the experiences that led you to flee your home and seek asylum in the U.S. While recounting such life events will likely be stressful and upsetting, it is absolutely necessary to convince the interviewer that you are a candidate for asylum.
You can prepare for the interview by readying the following documents and materials, which need to be brought to your interview:
I-94 Arrival Record(s)
Birth and/or Marriage Certificates
Passport(s), as well as any other ID/travel documents
A hard copy of your I-589 asylum application
If you submitted paperwork petitioning for a spouse or children, they should come to the interview with you. Additionally, they will need to provide any paperwork discussed above that is applicable, like their passport and ID. Additionally, if your travel, ID, and other documents/evidence are not in English, you will need to bring certified translations of those documents. You can read more about specific required documentation on the USCIS’s website.
Due to the complex nature of asylum proceedings and interviews, all applicants have the right to bring an attorney to their asylum interview. Before arriving, though, your attorney must submit form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative. Additionally, applicants also must bring an interpreter should one be necessary.
Immigration Appeals Resources
Frequently Asked Appeals Questions
A motion to reconsider and a motion to reopen are alternate remedies to appeals. With these motions, you ask the same judge to review his or her decision. You must file a motion to reconsider within 30 days of a judge’s decision, and you must file a motion to reopen within 90 days of an immigration judge’s or USCIS’s decision.
When your attorney files a motion to reconsider, he or she will use the facts of your case to show one of two things:
The decision was based on an incorrect or improper application of law or immigration policy
The decision was incorrect based on evidence presented in the case
When your lawyer files a motion to reopen a case, he or she will ask the government to consider new facts or changed circumstances (either of which has occurred since the decision was made).
In order to file an immigration appeal, you must be eligible to do so. Usually, you have 30 days from the date of the decision. If you wait longer, your request to appeal could be denied. In some cases, such as the revocation of the approval of a petition, you must appeal within 15 days of the decision. (If the decision is mailed to you rather than physically handed to you or your attorney, the court will give you an additional 3 days to appeal, which gives you 33 days if your petition was denied and 18 days if your approval was revoked.)
The court’s written decision will tell you how long you have to file an appeal, but remember, there is no way to extend the deadline.
The most obvious bar to immigrating to the United States is a criminal record. Not all crimes have immigration consequences, but any encounter with law enforcement will have to be documented before a green card would be granted. Any drug-related offense, other than one offense for simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana, is likely to result in a permanent bar to a green card.
Any offense deemed a “crime involving moral turpitude” may also result in a bar with the exception of a petty offense for a relatively minor misdemeanor. Other offenses that may result in a bar to obtaining a green card include prostitution, drug and people trafficking.
Non-drug related offenses that do not involve moral turpitude, such as disorderly conduct and strict liability crimes, or crimes of negligence, generally will not have immigration consequences. Under current law, driving under the influence or while intoxicated generally does not factor into a green card decision.
Also, attempts and conspiracy to commit crimes count as though they were the crimes themselves and potentially carry the same consequences. Finally, a plea of guilty or no contest and punishment are equal to a finding of guilt for immigration consequences, even if the criminal case is ultimately dismissed.
Beware of titles such as “Visa Consultant,” “Petition Preparer” or Notario or just Notary. These people may perform some functions, but they are not qualified to represent you in legal circumstances. Many of these do not watch out for your best interests nor are they qualified to advise you on immigration issues. These are quite often scams.
If you plan to apply for a U.S. visa, you will now be required to submit information about social media accounts that you have used in the past five years. As a result of the new State Department policy, the government will now have access to photos, locations, dates of birth, dates of milestones, and other personal data commonly shared by visa applicants on social media.
The requirement of collecting information about the social media accounts of visa applicants was part of President Trump’s executive order to the secretary of state, the attorney general, the secretary of homeland security, and the director of national intelligence; ordering them all to put in effect “a uniform baseline for screening and vetting standards and procedures. ”
On February 24, 2020, USCIS will start to implement the policy changes relating to public charge for immigration filings, including investment and employment-based options.
All applicants for Adjustment of Status, Form I-485, will be required to include Form I-944 Declaration of Self-Sufficiency with the I-485 Application. In that form, the government requires significant disclosures related to the following:
- Family Status – including household members
- Family Assets, Resources and Financial Status – including income, assets, personal balance sheet, credit report and score, and bankruptcy filings anywhere in the world
- Health Insurance – including disclosure of whether the person has or will obtain health insurance, how medical costs will be covered, including deductibles and premiums, as we as medical costs for uninsured persons
- Public Benefits – including SSI, TANF, SNAP, Section 8, and federally-funded Medicaid
- Education – including whether the applicant graduated from High School and all other post-High School education
- Skills – including certifications, licenses, other occupational skills, and language ability – which includes English
Gathering and reporting this information will be time-consuming and cumbersome. Additionally, failing to disclose any item or making misrepresentations on this form could result in denial or revocation if it is ever discovered. All applicants much do their very best to be honest and thorough with these disclosures to maximize chances for success.