Immigration FAQs

Answers to your most commonly asked questions about immigrating to the United States

You may be eligible to get a green card after entering the United States without inspection if you were the beneficiary or your parent or spouse was the beneficiary of a family or employment based petition that was filed on or before April 30, 2001. You may also obtain an I-94 through a process called “parole in place” if you have an immediate relative who is a member of the US armed forces. Another option is to file an I-601A Provisional Waiver demonstrating extreme hardship to US Citizen or Permanent Resident spouse or parent so you can travel to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad to consular process your Immigrant Visa. Additionally, if you have been in the United States for at least 10 years, have been a person of good moral character, and your US Citizen spouse, parent or child would suffer exceptional and extremely unusual hardship if you were removed, you can apply for Cancellation of Removal during Immigration Court proceedings, which results in obtaining a green card.

An admission to the US under a fake passport or passport that is not your own is considered an admission by fraud, for which there is a waiver. To obtain a waiver for fraud, you must demonstrate extreme hardship to your US Citizen or Permanent Resident spouse or parent.

Whether you are a male or female, if you married a US Citizen or Permanent Resident you may apply for a green card on your own under the Violence Against Women’s Act (“VAWA”) if you believed you were entering into a legally valid marriage, you married in good faith (not just to get a green card), you lived with your spouse, you suffered abuse and you are a person of good moral character. You may make this application up to 2 years after divorcing the abusive spouse, provided that you have not remarried. If you have been in the United States for at least 3 years, have demonstrated good moral character for that period and were abused by a spouse or intended spouse who is a US Citizen or Permanent Resident, you may also apply for Cancellation of Removal in Immigration Court proceedings, which results in obtaining a green card.

If you were never married to the abuser, or if the abuser is not a US Citizen or Permanent resident, you may obtain a U visa and after 3 years apply for a green card if you have reported the abuser to the authorities and you cooperate in an investigation against the abuser. Cancellation of Removal in Immigration Court proceedings is also an option to obtain a green card if the abuser was your intended spouse, who was a US Citizen or Permanent Resident, you have been in the United States for at least 3 years, and you demonstrate good moral character for that period.

You may be eligible for asylum if you fear persecution in your home country because of your race, religion, national origin or membership in a particular social group (such as sexual orientation). One year after winning your asylum case you can apply for a green card.

If you were the victim of certain crimes or of human trafficking, you suffered mental or physical abuse, and you cooperate with law enforcement, you may apply for a T or U visa. After having a T or U visa for 3 years, you may apply a waiver of inadmissibility together with her green card application.

You can only file a fiancée visa if you are a US Citizen and you are not yet married and will not marry until your fiancée comes to the United States. After your fiancée is admitted to the United States, you must marry within 90 days and must then apply for the his/her green card. If you are not yet a US Citizen, you are already married, or you plan to marry the person before he/she comes to the United States, your only option is to file an I-130 spouse petition after you marry. If you are a US Citizen, the timing for your significant other to come to the United States is similar whether on a fiancée visa or spouse petition.

If you have a criminal record and would like to apply for a green card, there may be options to vacate (eliminate) your prior conviction or reduce your conviction if you accepted a plea deal and your rights were violated during the plea bargain process. Vacating or reducing the conviction may make you eligible for a green card even if the original conviction prevented you from applying for a green card. Also, a waiver may available if the crime took place more than 15 years ago or you can establish extreme hardship to a US Citizen or Permanent Resident spouse or parent. As for drug related offenses, only a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana may be waived, so it is very important to speak to an attorney about the option to vacate drug convictions.

Most naturalization applicants must have been Permanent Residents for 5 years before being eligible to naturalize. Spouses of US Citizens and people who obtained green cards as abused spouses under VAWA are eligible to naturalize after having their green cards for 3 years. If you honorably served in the US Armed Forces for 1 year, you may be eligible to apply for naturalization after such service. USCIS allows applicants for naturalization to file their applications 90 days prior to reaching the required time frame, so for example, if you are applying under the 5- year rule, you may submit your N-400 Application after 4 years and 9 months as a Permanent Resident.

To apply for US Citizenship, you must establish good moral character during the period of time prior to your application to apply for naturalization, whether 1, 3 or 5 years, and should not have any criminal convictions during that period. USCIS may look at conduct beyond the 1, 3 or 5- year period to determine whether you have demonstrated reform. If you were ever convicted of murder or if you were convicted of an aggravated felony after November 29, 1990 you are permanently barred from naturalization. It is important to speak with an attorney about any arrests or criminal conduct you committed and the option to vacate your convictions.

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