Immigration Attorney - Proofs of Real Marriage - Prove Your Marriage is Real

10 Ways to Prove Your Marriage Is Real to Immigration

You’re in the process of filing the I-130 immigration petition for your spouse and you’re stuck on one tricky part. Exactly how do you prove that your marriage is real? Here are 10 types of evidence you can submit that will help get your I-130 approved.

WARNING: If you’re considering entering into a marriage solely for the purpose of getting an immigration benefit, don’t do it. Marriage fraud has brutal consequences (including criminal consequences), for both the potential immigrant and the U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

1. Who Qualifies for a Family-Based Visa

Once you’re married, you’ll need to submit taxes together. Showing that your finances are intermingled is a great signal that your life is intertwined.

If your marriage is less than one year old, you might not have yet filed joint taxes. That’s fine, just keep it in mind for the future. Also, if your marriage is new, remember that you will need to file Form I-751 to remove the conditions on your residency.

2. Proof of Shared Living

Proving that you live together is another great signal that your marriage is real. Submit your lease if you’re renting. Submit your mortgage if you bought a home. In either case, it’s better if both names are on the document so keep that in mind if you’re searching for a place to live now.

Even if you are living with a relative or a friend and there is no formal agreement, you can still prove you are living together in other ways. For instance, you can submit proof that you each receive important mail at the same address, or a notarized statement from a landlord stating under penalty of perjury that to his knowledge you both live there together.

3. Joint Bank Accounts

Shared finances are a big sign of commitment. Joint bank accounts are excellent proof of this. Note that it’s not enough to simply have an account in both partners’ names if it’s just sitting there idly. You want to show that both partners are depositing money into the account and using money from the account to show that it’s active.

4. Insurance

Proof of insurance is another great form of evidence. This could be car insurance, life insurance or health insurance. For example, perhaps one partner is a beneficiary of the other’s life insurance. Or, one partner is on the other partner’s health insurance plan through their employer.

5. Joint Utility Bills

Utility bills in both partners’ names prove that you live together and that both partners contribute to household finances. Even if you split the utilities (for example one partner pays gas and the other electric), you can still submit those bills as proof of shared financial responsibility and shared living. It’s helpful to submit any official documents that show you have the same address.

6. Affidavits from Family & Friends

These affidavits from family and friends are essentially letters written under oath that testify to the validity of your relationship, shared life, and love for one another. These are especially great for new couples that may not have a lot of evidence otherwise.

Your friends and family can talk about how they know you, how they met you, how they see you together at events, and how they think about you as a couple. It’s really important that these letters are unique and from the heart. You don't want everyone saying the same thing; you want the letters to be personal. These letters should come from U.S. citizens and residents, and you should include proof of that person’s citizenship (ie copy of passport) or permanent residency (copy of green card) as well as contact information. Affidavits do not need to be notarized; however, notarizing an affidavit can add credibility which will allow the officer to give it more weight when looking at the entirety of the case.

7. Photographs

This is the fun part. Pictures, pictures, pictures of your relationship. Photographs should span the entirety of your relationship, from the beginning until now. Stay away from sending the same selfies in different clothes. Try to submit photographs that show where you are and that include other people to prove that you present yourselves as a couple to the world.

8. Social Media Posts

Another great way to prove that your relationship is public is to submit evidence from social media. This can be photographs (with the date posted and comments from friends), relationship status, or any other kind of communication that’s public.

Immigration often does look into applicants’ social media accounts. In this case, I think it's an asset. It shows that you are public with the nature of your relationship and love for one another.

9. Children

Kids! Proof of having children together is the strongest evidence of a real marriage. If you have a child together, definitely submit evidence of this (a birth certificate with both parents’ names listed).

If you don’t have a child together but one partner has a child from a previous relationship, this can still be an excellent sign of shared life. For example, if you partner has a strong relationship with the stepchild and you have photographs together, that’s a great signal of a happy, blended family.

10. This Is Not a Checklist

This is not a checklist and you shouldn’t use it like one. Every relationship is unique and you are going to have different evidence that proves your marriage is real. The bottom line is that you want to prove your relationship is loving, public and committed. Use any evidence that you think does this.

For example, if you don’t have a shared bank account but you have done a lot of travelling together, submit evidence of your trips. If you attended events together like weddings or conferences, submit evidence of that. If one partner is learning English to help them acclimate to their new, shared life in the U.S., submit evidence of English classes. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box! If you're thinking of submitting any other type of evidence not mentioned here, please comment below.

What Happens After the I-130?

Now you know exactly what type of evidence you need to submit to prove that your marriage is bonafide. But what about immigrating? This family-based I-130 petition doesn’t get you an immigrant visa. You also need to know what immigration process you’ll take to become a lawful permanent resident. To help you figure this out, I've written a FREE guide just for you. Note that this ebook is not a substitute for a legal consultation, but it will give you a helpful overview of the process.

If you have any questions about your marriage-based visa, I'd be happy to help. I’m Sharon Abaud, a dedicated and passionate immigration attorney, fluent in English and Spanish, located in the Los Angeles area . Call (310) 803-3040 or visit https://abaudlegal.com/appointment/ to schedule an appointment

I have never met a person as determined and focused to help her community, as Attorney Abaud

I have never met a person as determined and focused to help her community, as Attorney Abaud. She cares about every single detail of any case. It was a pleasure and honor to work with her for many years. I learned a lot from her.

Angela P. , Los Angeles, CA

Family-Based Petition I-130 Visas And Petitions What You Should Know in 2019

There is a lot you should know about the I-130 family-based petition before you start with this process. There are a lot of questions to answer before you get started. This article gives you an overview of the most important things you need to know: who qualifies; where and how to apply; and how long you can expect to wait for your green card.

It’s extremely important that you educate yourself on the process before you submit any paperwork. There are many small details that may or may not make you eligible, and could cause your application to get denied. Under the current administration, applications are getting denied more frequently. Even worse, beneficiaries are being referred to immigration court for removal proceedings, something that in most instances could have been prevented with the right legal advice and representation. For these reasons, I always recommend that applicants get legal advice about their particular situation before starting the I-130 visa paperwork. I’ve also created a FREE ebook resource to help you understand your immigration options.

Who Qualifies for a Family-Based Visa

The first thing to understand about the I-130 family-based petition is that the owner of the application is the U.S. citizen or permanent resident, NOT the person trying to immigrate. This person is called “the petitioner” and the person trying to immigrate is called “the beneficiary.”

Qualifying relatives of U.S. citizens:

  • Spouse of a U.S. citizen
  • Unmarried child under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen
  • Parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old
  • Unmarried son or daughter of a U.S. citizen and 21 years old or older
  • Married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen
  • Brother or sister of a U.S. citizen


Qualifying relatives of U.S. permanent residents:

  • Spouse of a lawful permanent resident
  • Unmarried child under the age of 21 of a lawful permanent resident
  • Unmarried son or daughter of a lawful permanent resident 21 years old or older

Who Can Get a Visa Immediately and Who Has to Wait

The next thing you need to know is whether your relationship qualifies you to have a visa immediately available or if you’ll have to wait.

Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens do not have to wait for their green card and will receive permanent resident status as soon as their application is approved. This includes:

  • Spouse of a U.S. citizen
  • Unmarried child under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen
  • 31Parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old


If you are not considered an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, than you will have to wait for a visa. The wait time varies depending on your visa preference category and chargeability country. Different categories have a different number of visas available each year for varying countries and this, along with the current backlog, determines the processing time. It can take anywhere from a few months to several years to receive your green card.

If you are not considered an immediate relative, you can check your wait time using the visa bulletin, after a I-130 has been filed for you.

Who Can Immigrate in the U.S. and Who Has to Leave the U.S.

Before you begin the I-130 application process, you should determine whether you qualify to immigrate here in the United States, or if you are required to travel abroad to a Consular Office or an Embassy and immigrate from there. Not everyone has the option to remain in the United States while their paperwork is being processed—but if you can, it’s a much better option.

The most important reason to try to stay in the U.S. is that it’s safe. You're not being exposed to the possibility of not being let back into the country when you approach CBP and seek inspection. Also, if you apply from within the United States, you qualify to have a work permit while your case is pending. People traveling abroad go through much more costly and lengthy processes.

The applications which you are required to file also change depending on whether you file through adjustment of status (within the U.S.) or consular processing (outside the U.S.). If you have to travel abroad, then all you file to begin with is the family-based petition.  If you can immigrate from within the United States, then you can file multiple applications at the same time: the I-130, the I-485 application to adjust status or other immigrant visa application, and the I-765 application for a work permit (other forms may be needed). It's much faster that way.

To determine which path is right for you, it’s a good idea to get legal guidance. I’ve also created a FREE ebook resource to help you understand your immigration options. However, I repeat, this does NOT replace a proper one-on-one consultation.

This ebook is a simple, fast way to help you understand what your options may be for immigrating to the United States. Along with doing research like reading this book, I always recommend getting a legal consultation before you start any immigration paperwork. There are many issues that may make you inadmissible and could jeopardize your case. While this ebook is a great tool to help educate you on ways you may be eligible to immigrate in the United States, it does not by any means substitute a legal consultation with an experienced immigration attorney.

Immigration Help: Family-Based Petition or Form I-130

If you have any questions about family-based petition or form I-130, I'd be happy to help. I’m a dedicated and passionate immigration attorney, fluent in English and Spanish, located in the Los Angeles area. Call (310) 803-3040 or visit https://abaudlegal.com/appointment/ to schedule an appointment.

 

Sharon Abaud is truly a rare find. Work with her if you can. 🙂

Sharon is compassionate, knowledgeable, personable, and professional. Work with her if you can. 🙂 Having her on our team has made my husband and I feel at ease during the immigration process and excited about our next chapter. Her guidance has been a huge gift in our lives and we are so grateful!

Sharon Abaud is truly a rare find. Work with her if you can. 🙂

Britt H. , Los Angeles, CA

Adjustment of Status: What You Should Know about Immigrating from Inside the US

The process of applying for a U.S. green card can be overwhelming. This article walks you through seven necessary steps (including required forms) that all applicants must complete. The green card process explained here is for immigrants who are able to apply for an immigrant visa from within the United States, a process called “Adjustment of Status.”

Ready to start the green card process now? Before you file any paperwork, I highly recommend that you have your case reviewed by a licensed immigration attorney. Immigration is complicated and there may be aspects of your case that could lead to your application being rejected or denied. An immigration attorney can help.

#1 Form I-130, Family Petition

In my YouTube video, I discussed the family-based immigration petition Form I-130. As I explained, Form I-130 is not an application for a visa in and of itself, but rather it is a part of the family-based immigration process. If you want to immigrate based on a family, you will need to have the I-130 application approved.

The I-130 petition proves that you have a qualifying relationship with an individual who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. In some cases, it is possible to submit this application and be able to remain in the United States while it is being processed by the USCIS—a process called “adjustment of status.” Depending on your family relationship, you may be able to submit the I-130 application and I-485 application at the same time.

If you qualify for adjustment of status, I strongly advise that you immigrate this way. It’s preferable over the other option, “consular processing,” for a few very important reasons.

  1. First and foremost, adjustment of status allows you to remain in the U.S. with your family and provides you with a work permit while your case is being processed. Consular processing requires that you leave the U.S. and complete the process abroad.
  2. Adjustment of status can sometimes be less costly and faster than consular processing.
  3. Adjustment of status means you can become a permanent resident without having to leave the United States. Leaving the U.S. is always risky. There is always a chance that your application will be denied and you will be stuck abroad, potentially indefinitely.

Want to Know if YOU Qualify for Adjustment of Status?
Read this Ebook


#2 Form I-485, Adjustment of Status

The I-485 application is the application to change your immigration status to permanent residence. While the I-130 petition is filed by the U.S. relative, the I-485 application is filed by the person who is actually seeking a green card.

If you are applying for permanent residence through a U.S. citizen immediate relative, you have a big advantage. These applicants are allowed to file both the I-485 and the I-130 petition at the same time. This can save a lot of time! Immediate relatives are:

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens
  • Unmarried children under the age of 21 of U.S. citizens
  • Parents of U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years old

If you are filing through a relative other than an immediate relative you will not have a visa immediately available. This means that you cannot file the I-130 at the same time as the I-485. However, you may be able to file the I-485 before your visa is available. See my video on this topic to learn more. You can also find information on your visa priority date by checking the visa bulletin.

WARNING: Travel with Pending I-485 Is Not Advised

I strongly advise my clients not to travel when they have a pending immigration application. As I said before, it is always a risk to exit the United States as there is a chance you will not be readmitted upon reentry. If you absolutely must travel, you should get permission from the USCIS before leaving. In order to do so, you should apply for a travel document (Form I-131). Do not travel without permission granted.

Another reason not to travel is that you may receive an appointment notice from the USCIS while you’re abroad. In most cases, the USCIS does not give you much time to appear for an appointment (a few weeks, not months) so it may be difficult to appear if you are abroad. Failure to appear for your interview can have devastating results. Worst case: your entire case gets denied and your case is referred to immigration court for removal proceedings.

#3 Apply for a Work Permit

It’s possible to apply for permission to work in the United States when you file your I-485 adjustment of status application. This is a big deal and one of the major advantages of filing for permanent residence within the United States. The application for a work permit is Form I-765.

#4 Form I-864, Affidavit of Support

One of the final steps in the green card process is finding a sponsor. In this case, I am talking specifically about a financial sponsor, someone who lives in the U.S. who promises to financially support you in case of difficult times. This is something the U.S. requires of all immigration applicants. The sponsor will have to make a minimum yearly income.

The I-130 petitioner in your case will need to fill out Form I-864, even if their income doesn’t qualify them to be a sponsor. If this is the case, you can request another person sponsor you (a “joint sponsor”), who will complete a separate Form I-864.

#5 Medical Exam

All permanent residence applicants are required to get a medical exam. In October 2018, the guidelines for this requirement changed. Now, all medical exams have a 2-month validity period. This means that you must get your medical exam no more than two months before your interview. If the exam took place more than two months before your interview, it is considered expired and the USCIS will not accept it.

You have the option to submit the medical exam with the initial filing OR present at interview. I highly recommend presenting the exam at interview. If you submit the medical exam with your initial application, it’s likely that it will expire before your interview and be invalid.

Note: It’s important that you keep the document sealed—don’t open the envelope!

#6 Pay USCIS Filing Fees

The I-485 application is the application to change your immigration status to permanent residence. While the I-130 petition is filed by the U.S. relative, the I-485 application is filed by the person who is actually seeking a green card.

You will need to submit payment with each application you file. Here’s a breakdown:

  • I-130, Petition for Alien Relative                                                                            $535
  • I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status        $1,140 
  • I-765, Application for Employment Authorization                                               $410      

Note that immigration filing fees are always subject to change. Please check the USCIS website for the most up to date filing fees.

#7 Prove that You are Not Inadmissible to the United States

This is the most important step! You need to prove that you are not inadmissable to the United States for any reason. There are many reasons a person could be inadmissable, some they may not even be aware of. If it turns out you do have issues of inadmissibility, you certainly want to know about it before you present your case to immigration to ensure you are well prepared to address such matters. This is why I highly, highly recommend consulting with an immigration attorney before you proceed with your case so that they can screen you and make sure there are no issues of inadmissibility. There are many instances where an attorney can help you with these issues, for example by requesting a waiver, when possible.

Immigration Help: U Visa

If you have any questions about your I-485 application I'd be happy to help. I’m a dedicated and passionate immigration attorney, fluent in English and Spanish , located in the Los Angeles area. Call (310) 803-3040 or visit https://abaudlegal.com/appointment/ to schedule an appointment.

 


I have never met a person as determined and focused to help her community, as Attorney Abaud

I have never met a person as determined and focused to help her community, as Attorney Abaud. She cares about every single detail of any case. It was a pleasure and honor to work with her for many years. I learned a lot from her.

Angela P. , Los Angeles, CA
Immigration Attorney in Los Angeles - The 5 most FAQ in 2018

U Visa – Top 5 FAQ’s of 2018

Throughout 2018, I was asked these five questions regarding the U Visa over and over again. Here are the answers.

1) I lived with an abusive partner, but we were never married. Am I eligible to file for a U Visa?

Yes! The U Visa eligibility requirements do NOT require the victim to have been married to their abuser. Actually, their relationship doesn’t matter at all. The U visa is intended for victims of crimes, no matter if they had a relationship with the abuser or not.

Often times, people confuse the U Visa with a different immigration benefit called VAWA. VAWA, short for the Violence Against Women Act, also helps victims of domestic violence. However, to qualify, you must have been married to the abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. Unlike the U Visa, if you were not married, you do not qualify for VAWA.

2) My attorney filed for a work permit along with my U Visa application. Is this work permit valid? 

Yes! If you were approved for a U Visa, you also qualify for a work permit. In some cases, attorneys decide to file a work permit application at the same time as the U Visa application. Doing so often allows the applicant to work sooner than they would be able to otherwise. In this scenario, the work permit is absolutely valid, even if the applicant has not yet received their U Visa.

Before there was high demand for the U Visa, the U Visa processing time was only about six months. However, since then (the last four years), the visa backlog has grown significantly and the processing time is much longer. It’s now common for there to be a significant waiting period (several months) between the time when the U Visa is approved and when the applicant actually receives the visa. If you apply for the work permit at the same time as the U Visa, you actually may receive the work permit before receiving the U Visa. Many attorneys file applications in this manner so that their clients have the ability to legally work as soon as possible.

3) I filed my U visa application on [date]. When am I getting my visa?  

This is by far the most commonly asked question of 2018! I know there's a lot of frustration and confusion regarding processing times and I completely understand. Unfortunately, even if I wanted to, I can’t tell you exactly when your visa will arrive or speed up the immigration process. However, what I can do to help is explain how you can check the approximate processing time for your application and stay up to date on it. This will give you the best idea of when to expect your visa.

You might be wondering, “Sharon, why can’t you just tell me when it will come?” First, I get asked this question so often that I simply don’t have the time to calculate the approximate visa processing time for each person that asks. Second, these are approximations, meaning they can change and often do change over time. If I was to check your approximation date today and it was four years away, I could check again next year and find out that the wait time changed to five years. It’s frustrating and awful, but unfortunately that’s the way it is.

How do you check your visa processing time and keep track of your case? Click here to watch a video tutorial and subscribe to my channel to receive more helpful information regarding the U Visa. I recommend you check on your case once every month or so. This will give you a more accurate idea of how long you will have to wait.

4) I was the victim of a crime in the United States, but I have since left the country and am living outside the United States. Can I apply for a U visa?   

Yes! Please do not think that because you left the country you missed your chance to get a U Visa. You can absolutely apply for a U Visa from abroad. However, in order to qualify, the crime must have occured in the U.S. or a U.S. territory. Crimes that occurred abroad do NOT qualify.

If the crime occurred in the United States, you cooperated with law enforcement to the best of your abilities, and you meet all the other requirements—then you can certainly file for a U visa. Applying abroad will change the application process slightly. Most significantly, you will have to wait abroad while the application is being processed, which can take several years.

What if I have a dependent relative that lives abroad? Can I include them on my U Visa application? 

Yes! Even if your dependent relative does not live in the U.S., you can include them on your U Visa application. If you are under age 21, you may petition on behalf of your spouse, children, parents and unmarried siblings under age 18. If you are 21 years of age or older, you may petition on behalf of your spouse and children.

5) I was never physically injured. Am I eligible to apply for a U Visa?  

Yes! You do NOT have to have been physically injured in order to qualify for a U Visa. Being a victim of a serious crime can result in physical injury as well as significant psychological or emotional trauma. The USCIS takes into account all types of trauma when processing U Visa applications. Qualifying crimes that may not have resulted in physical injury to the victim include stalking, criminal threats, and homicide.

Immigration Help: U Visa

If you have any questions about the U Visa, I'd be happy to help. I’m a dedicated and passionate immigration attorney, fluent in English and Spanish , located in the Los Angeles area. Call (310) 803-3040 or visit https://abaudlegal.com/appointment/ to schedule an appointment.

 

Sharon was very professional, knowledgeable and very informative...

My husband and I had the best experience working with Sharon. I HIGHLY recommend her. She helped us with our immigration process and made us feel at ease every step of the way. Sharon was very professional, knowledgeable and very informative whenever we needed questions answered she was there from the very beginning until the very end, making sure we were prepared. Words can't explain how grateful my husband and I are. We would definitely not hesitate to contact her for any future services.

Karem S. , Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles Immigration Attorney - U Visa Waiver - Waiver of Inadmissibility

How To Qualify for a U-Visa Waiver

The U Visa Waiver allows a person to qualify for a U.S. green card through the U Visa, even if they are inadmissible to the United States. If you have a criminal history or have committed immigration violations, you may qualify for this waiver .

What Is the U Visa?

The U Visa is a special visa for victims of certain crimes. U Visa applicants also have access to more waivers than most, making it a good opportunity to immigrate for people who may otherwise be inadmissible to the United States. To be eligible for a U Visa, you need to be a victim of a qualifying crime and you need to be able to prove that you cooperated with law enforcement.

U Visa Qualifying Crimes

In order to qualify for a U visa, you need to have been a victim of one of the below crimes.

U.S. immigration law specifically designates 28 crimes that qualify for a U Visa: abduction, abusive sexual contact, blackmail, domestic violence, extortion, false imprisonment, female genital mutilation, felonious assault, fraud in foreign labor contracting, hostage-taking, incest, involuntary servitude, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, obstruction of justice, peonage, perjury, prostitution, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, slave trade, stalking, torture, trafficking, witness tampering, unlawful criminal restraint, and other related crimes.

Cooperation with Law Enforcement

You will also need to prove that you cooperated with law enforcement. You need to be able to prove that you reported the crime and did everything you were asked to do to help solve the crime. The key is that you shared your contact information with the police and were willing to cooperate, even if the police never sought assistance.

What Is the U Visa Waiver?

In order to qualify for a U Visa, you must be either admissible to the U.S. or request a waiver of inadmissibility. There are several reasons why a person may be inadmissible to the United States, including various health, criminal, security, or other grounds.

What makes the U Visa different from other immigration applications is that most grounds of inadmissibility can be waived, except for participation in Nazi persecution, genocide, or committing any act of torture or extrajudicial killing. If you are inadmissible because of illegal entries into the United States, time spent unlawfully in the United States or even if you have a final order of removal against you—you would likely still qualify for a waiver.

How to Qualify for a Waiver of Inadmissibility

To request a waiver, you will need to file Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant, along with your U Visa application. You will need to prove that it is in the public or national interest for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to grant this waiver. In general, this means showing that there are lots of positives to you staying in the United States such as your helpfulness to cooperate with law enforcement, ties to U.S. family members, community engagement, or any hardship you might suffer if you are forced to return to your country of origin.

Immigration Help: U Visa

If you have any questions about when to file your U Visa Application and Waiver, I'd be happy to help. I’m a dedicated and passionate immigration attorney, fluent in English and Spanish, located in the Los Angeles area. Call (310) 803-3040 or visit https://abaudlegal.com/appointment/ to schedule an appointment.

 

Sharon Abaud is truly a rare find. Work with her if you can. 🙂

Sharon is compassionate, knowledgeable, personable, and professional. Work with her if you can. 🙂 Having her on our team has made my husband and I feel at ease during the immigration process and excited about our next chapter. Her guidance has been a huge gift in our lives and we are so grateful!

Sharon Abaud is truly a rare find. Work with her if you can. 🙂

Britt H. , Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles Immigration Attorney - U-Visa, Process, Processing Time, Benefits

U-Visa: Process, Processing Time & Benefits

The U Visa is a special visa for victims of crimes. This visa is an opportunity to qualify for a green card, particularly for people who may be otherwise inadmissible to the U.S. for reasons such as illegal entry. This article goes over the process for getting a U Visa, visa benefits, and the current processing time.

Before we get into the details, I’ll give you an example of one of my clients who I advised to pursue a U Visa even though she was married to a US citizen.

My client was planning to file for Lawful Permanent Residency in the U.S. through her U.S. citizen spouse. As we began discussing her case, I discovered that she had multiple grounds of inadmissibility that made her ineligible for Lawful Permanent Residency status. Mainly, she had left the United States after having accumulated more than one year of unlawful presence in the U.S., and then she re-entered the U.S. illegally a few weeks later. In simple terms, all of these actions triggered the “permanent bar,” meaning she must wait 10 years outside before she can even apply for a waiver for unlawful presence.  Had she immigrated through her husband she would have been denied for this reason and likely placed in removal proceedings following the denial.

I began to ask her questions to see if she would qualify for a process that would avoid this situation. I learned that she was the victim of domestic violence in a previous relationship and that she had pressed charges against her abuser. This qualified her for the U Visa. This way, we could apply to waive the 10 year/permanent bar. Through this process, she could eventually obtain Lawful Permanent Resident status without having to wait 10 years outside to apply for a waiver.

U Visa Benefits

There are three amazing benefits of the U Visa.

1. The U Visa Gets You a Green Card

First and most important, the U Visa is a path to permanent residence. Unlike other immigration statuses like Temporary Protected Status (TPS), it’s not something you have to renew eternally. The U Visa ultimately leads to a green card and even U.S. citizenship.

2. Help Your Family Immigrate

Second, with the U Visa you can help your family immigrate. If you have children, a spouse, parents or siblings that you want to sponsor for immigration, the U Visa gives you a path to do so. When you apply for your U Visa, you can include these relatives on your application. They can receive U visa derivative status and all the same benefits as the principal applicant. The ages of the relatives and your relationship to them will determine whether or not they are eligible. It’s a good idea to consult with an attorney if you are considering this option.

3. Waiver for Grounds of Inadmissibility

Third, the U Visa waives many of the grounds of inadmissibility that other immigrant visas do not. If you entered the U.S. without inspection (illegally) multiple times or have a final order of removal (deportation) against you, you may still be able to apply for a waiver that allows you to obtain a U Visa.

 

U Visa Process

Let's talk about some of the requirements for a U-visa and the process for getting one. In order to qualify for a U Visa, you need to be a victim of a qualifying crime and you need to have cooperated with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. Here’s a breakdown of those requirements.

U Visa Qualifying Crimes

U.S. immigration law specifically designates 28 crimes that qualify for a U Visa: abduction, abusive sexual contact, blackmail, domestic violence, extortion, false imprisonment, female genital mutilation, felonious assault, fraud in foreign labor contracting, hostage-taking, incest, involuntary servitude, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, obstruction of justice, peonage, perjury, prostitution, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, slave trade, stalking, torture, trafficking, witness tampering, unlawful criminal restraint, and other related crimes.

In order to qualify for a U visa, you need to have been a victim of one of the above crimes.

Second, you need a certificate signed by a law enforcement official that proves you cooperated with law enforcement to the best of your abilities. The certificate can be from any designated law enforcement agency including police, a prosecutor, or a judge. In cases of child abuse, my clients have gotten certificates from the Department of Child and Family Services. It’s a good idea to talk to an immigration attorney about the best agency from who to request a certificate. Remember that the police aren't the only ones who can submit it, especially if the crime occured in a state where the police are not obligated to give responses.

Cooperation with Law Enforcement

You will also need to prove that you cooperated with law enforcement. Many applicants get confused about this requirement so I will provide a couple examples.

In some cases of domestic violence the victim will return to her abuser and then drop the charges. Because the charges were eventually dropped, this does not qualify as cooperation and you would not be able to apply for a U visa or obtain the police certificate that way.

Another question many applicants have is if they are victims of unsolved crimes. For example, if you were robbed or assaulted and the police never found the assailant. You need to be able to prove that you reported the crime and did everything you asked to do to help solve the crime. The key is that you shared your contact information with the police and were willing and able to cooperate at all times, even if the police never sought assistance.

Proof of Physical, Emotional or Psychological Damage

To apply for the U Visa, you are required to show how you suffered physical, emotional or psychological damage as a result of the crime. This will come in the format of a declaration that you sign. It also can be proven with evidence of pictures or a medical report, letters from witnesses who saw the crime occur, or letters from a therapist or counselor. This kind of evidence demonstrates the hardship suffered. In your declaration, you should also include how your suffering will get worse if you are not permitted to stay in the United States.


U Visa Processing Time

The U Visa processing time is long, but there are benefits along the way.

If you were to file a U-visa application with today with today's date, in a couple of weeks you'll likely get your appointment to take your fingerprints and then you may not hear from immigration for several years. As of October 2018, immigration is only reviewing cases from October 2014. That means it's taking almost four years just to review a case.

While your case is under review, you don’t qualify for any benefits. But, the moment a decision is made on your case, the moment that it’s approved, you qualify for a work authorization. At this point, you may have to wait about one more year for your actual visa to be issued, but you can apply for a work permit and you will receive a Social Security number in the meantime.

It’s extremely important to know that you cannot file for residency any later than the fourth year.  Once you get your U-visa, be sure to mark the three year anniversary on your calendar and remember to apply for a green card through adjustment of status at that moment. If you don’t, you will lose your ability to become a resident and you likely will not be able to get a U-visa again.

How To Check Your Processing Time for the U Visa

Many clients ask when they will get their visa. It typically takes several years for a U Visa case to be processed. However, the amount of time is dynamic and can change depending on a few factors including the USCIS backlog. Here’s how to check the current processing time for your case. This approximation is updated monthly by the USCIS so it’s important to stay on top of it.

Immigration Help: U Visa

If you have any questions about the U Visa, I'd be happy to help. I’m a dedicated and passionate immigration attorney, fluent in English and Spanish, located in the Los Angeles area. Call (310) 803-3040 or visit https://abaudlegal.com/appointment/ to schedule an appointment.

Sharon is an amazing immigration lawyer.

Sharon is an amazing immigration lawyer. I had her help me out with a couple of immigration issues. A couple of friends of mine have been able to establish residency because of her. She is very affordable and offers an incredible service to all of her clients. I'd recommend her to everybody!

Esteban , Los Angeles, CA

Can I Travel while I Wait for Adjustment of Status?

While it’s possible to travel with a pending adjustment of status application, it is risky. This article goes over the situations in which you can apply for a travel document, how to apply, and the risks involved in travelling with a pending I-485 application.

First, let’s define adjustment of status. If you are applying for a green card from within the United States with Form I-485, then you are applying through the adjustment of status process. In this process, you are not required to leave the country to attend a visa interview. This article refers to these applicants only.

While your I-485 case is pending, you are not yet a resident of the United States. Unless you have a visa that allows re-entry, if you leave the U.S. with a pending application, you risk not being allowed reentry. If you need to travel abroad, you can apply for an Advance Parole Travel Document using the USCIS application I-131. This document gives you permission to leave the country for a specific period of time, for a specific reason.

In general, I don’t recommend travelling while you have a pending I-485 application. No matter the reason for your travel and regardless of whether you have a travel document, there’s no way to guarantee that you’ll be allowed to reenter the country. Here’s an example that demonstrates this risk.

A colleague of mine filed for an Advance Parole Travel Document on behalf of his client. They were granted the document and the client left to his home country. While he was abroad, the attorney and the client's address in the U.S. received a Request for Evidence (RFE) regarding his I-485 application. He had two months to respond.

The RFE required that the client submit a different version of his birth certificate with his I-485 application. The client went to obtain this document and found out that it would take six months to get. However, the USCIS required he submit the evidence within two months.

There's the problem. The attorney may be able to save the case. Depending on the situation, they may be able to ask for an extension for the RFE. However, it’s more likely that immigration won’t offer an extension, resulting in a denial of the I-485 application. The client won’t be able to reenter the United States and will be forced to apply for his green card from abroad. In all, this could cause him to spend years outside of the United States while waiting for the new application to process.

Because he travelled abroad, he put his case at risk. Was it worth it? I don't know what the situation was that caused him to travel abroad, but it’s important to be aware of the risks when you make this decision.

It’s also relevant to note that in our current political climate, people are getting denied entry to the U.S. at the port of entry more frequently. Even with a valid Travel Document and nothing happening to your pending I-485 application while you’re abroad, you could still be denied entry into the country. Being admitted into the United States is ultimately at the discretion of the border patrol officer who is inspecting you. If they determine there is a reason you shouldn’t be admitted, then they have the authority to deny you entry into the country. Every time you travel, you take this risk.

If it's not something urgent, I would strongly recommend that you wait until you become a permanent resident before you travel abroad. If it is an emergency, then I recommend you seek the advice of an immigration attorney before making a final decision.

Immigration Help: Travel Documents

If you have any questions about traveling while your I-485 application is pending, I'd be happy to help. I’m a dedicated and passionate immigration attorney, fluent in English and Spanish, located in the Los Angeles area. Call (310) 803-3040 or visit https://abaudlegal.com/appointment/ to schedule an appointment.

Sharon speaks Spanish very well and that helped us a lot!

Sharon is a very professional lawyer. She helped my mom with her Immigration process and everything went perfect! She also speaks Spanish very well and that helped us a lot! I highly recommend Her! Muchas gracias Sharon!

Cristina A. , Harbor City, CA
Los Angeles Immigration Attorney - Processing Times and Work Permit

U-Visa: Processing Times and Work Permit

As of October 2018, the current processing time for a U Visa, a special visa given to victims of crime, is four years. This article goes over the reason for the long backlog and guides you on how and when to can apply for a work permit while you wait.

What Is the U Visa?

The U Visa is a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa for victims of certain crimes who cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. The U Visa was created in October 2000 with the intention to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of aliens and other crimes, while also protecting the victims of these crimes. Congress allows for the issue of 10,000 U Visas each year.

How Long Is the U Visa Processing Time?

In the first years, the U Visa was not well known and so the processing time was short, only a matter of a few months. However, with time, the visa became better known by law enforcement agencies and within the legal profession, which in turn made it more popular among immigrants. More awareness led to more applicants, causing a backlog.

As the U Visa has become more popular, the number of visas issued every year has remained at 10,000. As of October 2018, they are only reviewing cases from October 2014. That means it's taking almost four years just to review a case.

In general, I don’t recommend travelling while you have a pending I-485 application. No matter the reason for your travel and regardless of whether you have a travel document, there’s no way to guarantee that you’ll be allowed to reenter the country. Here’s an example that demonstrates this risk.

Getting a Work Permit While Your U Visa Application Is Pending

In the time that your case is under review, you do not qualify for a work permit. Only when a decision has been made on your case, when it is approved, do you qualify. At this time, you will get a letter from the USCIS stating that your case was approved. However, because the USCIS only issues 10,000 visas each year, you will likely still have to wait for your visa.

While you wait for your visa to be issued, you will be in an immigration status called “deferred action.” This means that even though you do not technically have a legal immigration status, you are not a priority for deportation. It also means that you qualify for work authorization and can apply for a work permit with USCIS Form I-765.

A work permit allows you to get a social security number and begin a fuller life in the United States. It’s the same social security number you get to keep as a resident and later if you decide to become a citizen. It allows you to start forming your social security credit and is the one you will use on your taxes.

Immigration Help: U Visa Processing & Work Permit

If you have any questions about U Visa processing and work permits, I'd be happy to help. I’m a dedicated and passionate immigration attorney, fluent in English and Spanish, located in the Los Angeles area. Call (310) 803-3040 or visit https://abaudlegal.com/appointment/ to schedule an appointment.

Sharon was very professional, knowledgeable and very informative...

My husband and I had the best experience working with Sharon. I HIGHLY recommend her. She helped us with our immigration process and made us feel at ease every step of the way. Sharon was very professional, knowledgeable and very informative whenever we needed questions answered she was there from the very beginning until the very end, making sure we were prepared. Words can't explain how grateful my husband and I are. We would definitely not hesitate to contact her for any future services.

Karem S. , Los Angeles, CA
Immigration Attorney - Green Card Application

The Fastest Way to File Your Green Card Application

It’s no secret that the green card process is long. Many applicants spend years waiting to file their adjustment of status (I-485) application. However, there is a faster way to file that many applicants don’t know about. It can give you a work permit and a social security number while you wait for your green card.

This process is only for applicants who are eligible to file from within the United States through the “adjustment of status” process (Form I-485). Applicants who are required to leave the U.S. to attend a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, unfortunately, do not qualify.

Why Filing Earlier Matters

When you file for residency, by virtue of having a pending I-485 application, you automatically qualify to have a work permit. A work permit gives you a social security number. With both of these documents, you can really start a life in the United States.

How To File Your I-485 Early

The trick to this process is all about when to file your I-485. It is for applicants who have already filed the immigration petition (Form I-130) and are waiting in line for their visa to become current.

Knowing when your visa is current requires you to check the U.S. Department of State’s Visa Bulletin. Below is the visa bulletin for October 2018. Note that there are two separate charts. Chart-A is the “Final Action Dates for Family-Sponsored Preference Cases” and Chart-B is the “Dates for Filing Family-Sponsored Visa Applications.” Most people only look at Chart-A, but if you can file according to Chart-B’s dates, you will get the benefits of a pending I-485 application sooner. 

The USCIS determines every month which chart you are allowed to file under, depending on the number of visas that are available for that filing year. While Chart-A indicates the actual date your visa is current, Chart-B often indicates an earlier date on which you are allowed to file. Find out if you can file under Chart-B by checking the USCIS website

Here’s an example. Let's pretend that I'm a U.S. permanent resident married to someone from Mexico, and I petitioned for him today. First, I would look under the visa category “F2A,” because I'm a resident married and I'm petitioning for my spouse. Second, I would look under “Mexico.” Looking at the first chart, the date is August 1, 2016. Going by this chart, we’d have to wait about two years before we could file the I-485 application. But, if you look at the second chart, the date is December 1, 2017. That’s only a 14 month wait until we can file the I-485. That’s a lot sooner and after we file my husband will be able to legally work in the United States and get a social security number.

FAMILY-SPONSORED PREFERENCES

First: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens:  23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.

Second: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents:  114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, plus any unused first preference numbers:

     A. (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents:  77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;

     B. (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents:  23% of the overall second preference limitation.

Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens:  23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.

Fourth: (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens: 65,000, plus any numbers not required by first three preferences.

A.  FINAL ACTION DATES FOR FAMILY-SPONSORED PREFERENCE CASES

Family-
Sponsored
All Chargeability
Areas Except
Those Listed

CHINA-mainland
born

INDIA
MEXICO
​PHILIPPINES
F1

01JUN11

01JUN11

01JUN11

01AUG97

22DEC06

F2A

22AUG16

22AUG16

22AUG16

01AUG16

22AUG16

F2B

22NOV11

22NOV11

22NOV11

15MAY97

15MAY07

F3

15JUN06

15JUN06

15JUN06

22DEC95

08JUN95

F4

15FEB05

15FEB05

01MAY04

22JAN98

08JUN95

B.  DATES FOR FILING FAMILY-SPONSORED VISA APPLICATIONS

Family-
Sponsored
All Chargeability
Areas Except
Those Listed

CHINA-mainland
born

INDIA
MEXICO
​PHILIPPINES
F1

08MAR12

08MAR12

08MAR12

08OCT98

15FEB08

F2A

01DEC17

01DEC17

01DEC17

01DEC17

01DEC17

F2B

22MAR14

22MAR14

22MAR14

22JUN97

22JUN97

F3

08JAN07

08JAN07

08JAN07

22DEC98

01JUN97

F4

01JUN05

01JUN05

01MAY04

22JUN98

08APR96

Immigration Help: When to File Your I-485 Adjustment of Status Application

If you have any questions about when to file your adjustment of status application, I'd be happy to help. I’m a dedicated and passionate immigration attorney, fluent in English and Spanish, located in the Los Angeles area. Call (310) 803-3040 or visit https://abaudlegal.com/appointment/ to schedule an appointment.

Sharon is the best lawyer I've had the pleasure to work with!

Sharon is the best lawyer I've had the pleasure to work with. She was very professional, but also offered emotional support during sometimes tough episodes and harsh deadlines. Indeed, I would definitely recommend her. Thanks Sharon! Mallory, the kiddos and I appreciate all your hard work!

Eloy F. , Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles Immigration Attorney - Lawful Entry

Did I Enter the U.S. Illegally? Proving “Lawful Entry”

To qualify for a U.S. green card, in most cases, you need to have entered the country lawfully. It’s important to understand what exactly “lawful entry” means. For immigrants that otherwise qualify for a green card but may have illegally worked in the U.S. or failed to maintain lawful status, being able to prove lawful entry is important.

Visa Overstay

Many people enter the country on a visa and overstay. This still qualifies as lawful entry and can help you qualify for a green card. If you have a relative that is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or is serving in the U.S. military, you may qualify for a waiver that allows you to immigrate to the United States.

Lawful Entry without Documents

Entering the country without documents and without receiving a visa or proof of your entry can sometimes qualify as lawful entry. Here’s an example.  

You entered the country without a visa or other type of immigration document, maybe as a passenger in someone's car or walking through. In this case, the officer might have simply waved you in. You presented yourself for inspection and the officer admitted you into the country. Even though a formal inspection didn’t occur, under the law, this counts as lawful entry.

The hard part in these cases is proving it. Without a I-94 Arrival/Departure Record, a stamp in your passport, or a visa, there isn’t any documented proof of your entry into the country. You will need to present secondary evidence in the form of declarations. This can be tricky and I would recommend you seek the advice of an attorney if this is your situation.

Entering the U.S. with False Documents

It’s also possible to qualify for lawful entry if you entered the country with fake documents, depending on the type of document you used and when you entered the country. Here’s an example.

You hire a notario who gives you a fake residency card and enter the country with it. The officer looks at the card, inspects it, and you are let into the country. This is an immigration violation and does have a punishment. But because you were inspected and admitted, it can still qualify as lawful entry and later allow you to lawfully immigrate to the United States.

However, consequences vary depending on what type of document you used and when you entered the country. If you in any way pretended to be a U.S. citizen—whether with a fake U.S. birth certificate, fake U.S. passport, or simply in an oral statement—then you committed a serious crime under immigration law. If this occurred after 1997, then there is no waiver and you may not qualify to immigrate to the United States. However, if it occurred before 1997, then you can request a waiver.

In this case, you will need to file the waiver to forgive the use of false immigration documents. This waiver can be filed at the same time as the immigration petition or later. In the current political climate, however, I would recommend filing everything together and having an immigration attorney help with your case. 

Immigration Help: Proving Lawful Entry

If you have any questions about your entry into the United States, I'd be happy to help. I’m a dedicated and passionate immigration attorney, fluent in English and Spanish, located in the Los Angeles area. Call (310) 803-3040 or visit https://abaudlegal.com/appointment/ to schedule an appointment.

Sharon is an amazing immigration lawyer.

Sharon is an amazing immigration lawyer. I had her help me out with a couple of immigration issues. A couple of friends of mine have been able to establish residency because of her. She is very affordable and offers an incredible service to all of her clients. I'd recommend her to everybody!

Esteban , Los Angeles, CA
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