Individuals & Families.

 

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Permanent Residence (green card) Through Marriage.
Buzgova, Meneses & Wellington Smith, LLP Immigration thru marriage‏ immigrationlawtxMarriage to a citizen or permanent resident (green card holder) of the U.S. is one of the most common ways for foreign-born individuals to acquire permanent resident status in the United States. It is important to remember, however, that marriage does not automatically convert someone to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and anyone seeking permanent residence must be admissible.

For individuals currently in the U.S., in many cases it is possible to complete the process of acquiring permanent residency or “adjusting status” in the United States without leaving. Some individuals, however, must process through an embassy or consulate abroad. An interview is required either abroad or at an office in the United States.

To learn more about permanent residence through marriage, contact us to schedule a consultation.

If you have been married for less than two years at the time your green card is issued, you will be a Conditional Resident and will be issued a green card valid for two years. Couples who continue to reside together after two years must submit additional proof of their on-going relationship in order to be issued a green card valid for ten years. In some cases, an interview is required.

If your marriage ends before two years, it may still be possible to remove conditions if certain conditions are met.

For help removing conditions of your two-year green card, contact us for a consultation today.

Same-sex Couples.  U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services now recognizes legal same-sex marriages for purposes of petitioning a foreign-born spouse for permanent resident status.  Contact us to help!

Waivers.
In order to enter the United States, or to become a lawful permanent resident (green card holder), you must be “admissible.” If you are inadmissible, you are disqualified for permanent residence or entry to the U.S. Individuals may be inadmissible due to unlawful presence, criminal activity, lack of required vaccinations, violating the terms of a visa, or other reasons.

Waivers exist for most inadmissibilities. Which waiver you need may depend on the reason or reasons you are inadmissible, when the incident causing your inadmissibility occurred, and the effect of a denial on your family members who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent resident.

Depending on an individual’s circumstances, some waivers may be filed in the United States and will never require travel abroad. Some individuals must leave the United States before filing a waiver and remain abroad until the waiver is approved. In other cases, an individual may file a waiver while in the United States and is not required to depart the country while that waiver is pending, but once the waiver is granted, must depart to be issued a visa at an embassy or consulate abroad. Whether you must the leave the United States and for how long will depend on the circumstances of your case.

One of the most common waivers forgives inadmissibility based on prior unlawful presence in the United States for individuals applying for permanent residence based on marriage to a U.S. citizen or green card holder. Prior to 2013, individuals seeking to waive inadmissibility based on unlawful presence had to leave the U.S., file their waiver and remain abroad until the waiver was approved and a visa was issued.

In 2013, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services created the I-601A Provisional Waiver for spouses of U.S. citizens who are inadmissible for unlawful presence and for no other reason. The I-601A Provisional Waiver allows eligible individuals to file a waiver while they are in the United States, and does not require them to depart until the waiver is granted, at which time they must have an appointment at an embassy or consulate abroad. The I-601A waiver greatly reduced the amount of time qualified applicants must spend abroad. In Nov. 2014, President Obama announced that the I-601A Provisional Waiver would be available to a larger group of individuals. To determine if you qualify for an I-601A Provisional Waiver, contact us for a consultation.

Sometimes the best strategy to overcome inadmissiblities doesn’t involve filing a waiver at all. We can help find the best solution for you and your family- contact us today.

Fiancé(e) Visas.

Fiancé(e) VisasIf the love of your life is living abroad, contact us to discuss filing a fiancé(e) petition.  Fiancé(e) visas are issued at consulates and embassies abroad.  Once your fiancé(e) enters the United States, you must get married within ninety days.

After you are married, your new spouse must file for Adjustment of Status to be issued a green card.  In some cases, you and your spouse will be asked to attend an interview.

Your spouse will be issued conditional residency, valid for two years.  After two years, your spouse will need to remove conditions to be issued a green card valid for ten years.  To learn more about removing conditions, check out “Permanent Residence (green card) Through Marriage” on this page.

We can help you through every step of the process to bring your fiancé(e) to the United States.  Contact us to schedule a consultation.

Immigration through Family‏.

Citizens and permanent residents of the United States are eligible to petition for certain members of their families, enabling those family members to become permanent residents in the United States, too.  The citizen or permanent resident who petitions his or her family member is called the “petitioner” and the family member who is the subject of the petition is called the “beneficiary.”  In some cases, the beneficiary’s immediate family members may also be included on the same petition.  The beneficiary’s included family members are called “derivative beneficiaries.”

 The date on which a petition is received for processing is called the “priority date.”  The status of the petitioner, the type of familial relationship, and in some cases the age of the beneficiary, will cause the petition to fall into one of several visa categories.  The U.S. Department of State publishes and updates the Visa Bulletin each month, which shows the availability of immigrant visas (green cards) for each visa category by priority date and beneficiary’s country of birth.  Once the priority date is current for the visa category, the beneficiary may continue the process to adjust status inside the United States, or must complete visa processing at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.

Certain family members are considered to be “immediate relatives” and do not need to wait for their priority date to be current on the Visa Bulletin to receive an immigrant visa (green card).  Spouses or fiancées of U.S. citizens, parents of U.S. citizens over the age of 21, and the children of U.S. citizens who are unmarried and under 21 years of age are considered to have immigrant visas “immediately available.”  It is important to note that you cannot include derivative beneficiaries on petitions for which an immigrant visa (green card) is “immediately available.”

Changes in the status of the petitioner and the beneficiary can affect what visa category a petition is in, whether the beneficiary is subject to the visa bulletin, and whether the beneficiary may complete the process inside the United States or through an embassy or consulate abroad.  Some of the many factors that can affect visa availability are the legal status of the petitioner, the marital status of the beneficiary, the age of the beneficiary, whether the beneficiary is married to someone of a different nationality and even whether another petitioner filed a petition for the beneficiary, the beneficiary’s spouse or the beneficiary’s parent in the past.

Immigration through family can be complicated, but we can help you and your family members through every step of the process whether you will be processing abroad through a U.S. embassy or consulate, or adjusting status inside the United States.  Don’t wait, changes in the age of the beneficiary or derivative beneficiary can affect processing times dramatically.  Schedule a consultation to find the best options for your family.

For Military Families‏‏.

In recognition of the unique sacrifice and stress of permanent residents and U.S. citizen in our military, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services has extended certain discretionary benefits to the spouses, parents and children of active-duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces, individuals serving in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, veterans of both the U.S. Armed Forces and the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, and enlistees to the U.S. Armed Forces or the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve.  These benefits recognize that military preparedness can suffer when service-members are concerned about the immigration status of their family members, and that our nation’s commitment to veterans includes a commitment to their families as well.

Benefits to military family members are available on a case-by-case basis and may include eligibility for permanent residence (green card), deferred action, or relief from deportation.

If you are an active-duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces or Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, a veteran, or an enlistee with a family member who is undocumented, has over-stayed his or her visa, or is facing deportation, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.

Citizenship for servicemembers.  If you are serving in the U.S. Armed Forces and are not yet a U.S. citizen, you may benefit from expedited eligibility for citizenship.  Contact us to see if you qualify.

Deferred Action (DACA & DAPA)‏ .

DACA immigrationlawtx“Deferred Action” is a type of prosecutorial discretion in which the government agrees to defer (postpone) action against an individual for a certain period of time, or indefinitely.  There are many types of Deferred Action dating back to the 1960s and the term “deferred action” has been used in the immigration context since 1975.  Some grants of Deferred Action are part of formalized programs, and others are individualized.  Some recipients of Deferred Action are eligible for work authorization and some are eligible to request special permission to travel outside the United States and return legally.

DACA- Deferred Action for DREAMers. Today, one of the most common type of Deferred Action is DACA- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, of Deferred Action for “DREAMers”.

To be eligible for DACA, an individual must meet the following requirements:

      1) Be born after June 15, 1981

      2) Have entered the United States before his or her 16th birthday

      3) Lived continuously in the United States since at least June 15, 2007

      4) Have been physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and be undocumented our out of status on that day

      5) Meet certain education or military service requirements

      6) Not have more than three non-traffic misdemeanors, a “serious” misdemeanor, or a felony conviction

DACA recipients are granted Deferred Action for 2 years, and are eligible for work authorization.  Recipients with valid employment authorization may request a valid Social Security card, and in most states, a valid driver license.  In certain circumstances, DACA recipients may be eligible for Advanced Parole, which allows a recipient to return legally to the U.S. after travel abroad.

DACA recipients should renew their DACA 120-150 days (3-4 months) before it expires.  If you have questions about DACA, or would like to renew your DACA, contact us for a consultation.

DACA Expansion. On Nov. 20, 2014, President Obama announced an expansion of the DACA program that would remove the requirement that an applicant be born before June 15, 1981, and would require that applicants have lived in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2010 instead of June 15, 2007.  Currently, that expansion is delayed by pending litigation.  If you think you would benefit from the DACA expansion, contact us to be notified when the new DACA requirements take effect.

Remember, the delay of the DACA Expansion does not prevent applicants from applying for the original DACA program, or from renewing their DACA.  Questions?  We can help.  Contact us.

DAPA- Deferred Action for Parents of U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents. DAPA was announced by President Obama on Nov. 20, 2014.  It would benefit certain individuals who lived in the United States since at least Jan. 1, 2010, were physically present in the U.S. on Nov. 20, 2014, and had a child of any age born on or before Nov. 20, 2014 who was a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (green card holder) on that day.  Additional program requirements are expected.

DAPA was scheduled to become available on May 20, 2015, however pending litigation has delayed this program’s implementation.  If you think you might be eligible for DAPA, contact us to schedule a consultation and to be notified when the DAPA program becomes available.

Renew your Green Card.

Renew your Green CardAlready a permanent resident?  Be sure to keep your resident alien card (green card) current.  If your green card expires in the next six months or has been lost or stolen, contact us to right away to request a renewal or replacement green card.

Did you know that permanent residents (green card holders) are required to notify U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services within 10 days of changing their address?  It’s the law!  Contact us for help updating your address.

Are you eligible for naturalization?  Naturalization is the process by which a permanent resident (green card holder) becomes a U.S. citizen.  Most permanent residents will be eligible to naturalize five years after receiving their green cards, or faster in certain circumstances.  Long-term residents, the elderly, or disabled applicants may be eligible for waivers of the English-language requirement.  Check out our “Citizenship & Naturalization” on this page.  Contact us to schedule a consultation if you are a permanent resident interested in naturalization.

Citizenship & Naturalization‏.

U.S. citizenship has considerable benefits.  U.S. citizens are able to petitions for family members quicker and with fewer restrictions than permanent residents (green card holders).  U.S. citizens are able to spend indefinite periods of time abroad without risking losing their status.  U.S. citizens are eligible to vote and cannot be deported.  Under certain circumstances, the children of U.S. citizens born abroad automatically acquire U.S. citizenship, too.

The three main ways that foreign-born individuals become U.S. citizens are by naturalizing, deriving citizenship through a parent who naturalizes, or by acquiring citizenship at birth through a U.S. citizen parent.  Naturalization is a process through which an individual applies to be granted U.S. citizenship.  Citizenship through acquisition or derivation happens automatically when certain conditions are met- if you have acquired or derived citizenship you must then apply to have your citizenship recognized by either U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, or a consulate or embassy abroad.

Naturalization. Are you a permanent resident?  Depending on how long you have had your residency and how much time you have spent abroad, you may be eligible to naturalize and become a U.S. citizen.  If you became a permanent resident through marriage to a U.S. citizen, you may be eligible to naturalize in as little as three years.  Most permanent residents who obtained their status through other means will be eligible to naturalize in five years.  If you are serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, you may be eligible to naturalize even sooner- even if you have not yet become a permanent resident.

When you apply to naturalize, an officer from U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services will interview you and review your immigration file.  Depending on your age and the length of time you have been a permanent resident (green card holder) you must also pass a civics exam and a test of your ability to speak, read and write in English.  Waivers of some of these requirements are available for individuals based on age or disability.

Contact our office to see if you are eligible for naturalization, or a waiver of the English or civics requirements.

Individuals with a criminal record are strongly encouraged to consult an attorney before applying to naturalize.  Contact us to discuss whether it is advisable for you to apply to naturalize.

Acquired Citizenship.  If one or both of your biological parents was a U.S. citizen when you were born abroad, you may have acquired citizenship at birth.  Factors that can affect whether you acquired citizenship at birth include the year you were born, whether one or both of your parents was a U.S. citizen or national when you were born, how many years your parent lived in the U.S. prior to your birth, whether your parents were married at the time of your birth, and whether your citizen or national parent was your mother or your father.  If your parents were not married at the time of your birth, and citizen parent was your father, it is also important to determine if various legal steps were taken prior to your 18th birthday.  Importantly, some people acquire U.S. citizenship through parents who didn’t know they were U.S. citizens!

Many individuals are unaware that they acquired U.S. citizenship at birth.  If either of your parents was born in the United States, or if any of your grandparents were born in the U.S. and your parents lived in the U.S. before you were born, you may have acquired U.S. citizenship.  Contact us to schedule a consultation to find out.

Victims of Crime‏.

Victims of Crime‏U visa. Some crime victims who assisted in the investigation or prosecution of a crime may be eligible for a special type of visa, called a “U” visa.

Before an individual may apply for a “U” visa, a member of law enforcement, prosecutor or judge must certify that the crime occurred, that victim possesses information about the crime, and that the individual has or will be helpful to the investigation or prosecution in the future.

If a crime victim’s helpfulness is certified, the victim may then apply for “U” visa status.  By law, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services may only issue 10,000 “U” visas per year, so if the quota has been reached for the fiscal year, applicants may be granted Deferred Action until their “U” visa is available to be issued.  “U” visas are typically granted for four years, and the recipient is generally eligible to apply for permanent residency (green card) after three years in “U” visa status.

If you are the victim of a serious crime, contact our office to discuss your eligibility for a “U” visa.

VAWA. If you were subjected to serious physical or mental abuse by a family member who is or was a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (green card holder), you may be eligible for an immigration benefit known as VAWA.

Schedule a consultation to learn more.