Category Archives for Green Card

Immigration Attorney in Los Angeles What to Do If Your Family-Based Immigrant Visa Was Approved Overseas

What to Do If Your Family-Based Immigrant Visa Was Approved Overseas

The family-based immigration process is long and unpredictable. That makes it difficult to plan a move to the United States. Oftentimes, applicants want to take some time to arrange a move to the U.S. after they’ve been approved for a permanent resident (green card) visa. But, they’re unsure of exactly how much time they have. Here’s the answer to that common question.

Once my visa is approved, do I have to move to the U.S. immediately or can I wait?  

The short answer is no. 

You have only approximately six months from the time of your approval at the interview to go through the residency (green card) process at the border. I say approximately because here is the thing: You should come to the US and apply for admission in the United States no later than the expiration date printed on your visa. 

An immigrant visa is usually valid for up to six months from the date of issuance, but if your medical examination expires sooner, this may make your visa valid for an even shorter time. 

The key is to look at the visa expiration date. 

It works like this. 

1. You attend the visa interview and receive a decision on your application.

 After you submit the required applications and wait for them to be processed, you’ll attend your scheduled visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. In most cases, this is where you will find out whether you are approved or denied for a visa. However, even if you are approved you are not considered a resident yet. Technically, you have one more checkpoint to go through before you become a resident—approval at the U.S. border by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

2. Travel to the U.S. and receive final approval at the border.

It’s a common misconception that once you are approved for an immigrant visa you will be allowed to enter the United States. However, United States Customs and Border Patrol has the ultimate discretion whether or not to allow people to enter. That means your visa isn’t fully approved until you are admitted to the United States; not until that moment does your residency start.

After you receive the approval for your visa at the visa interview, you will receive your visa. You will be instructed by your specific embassy on making arrangements to receive a visa and sealed packet in the mail. You will be directed to NOT open this envelope. This envelope is for the US Customs and Border Patrol. They will review these documents when you travel to the United States and ultimately decide if you are allowed to enter the country.

3. You enter the United States and are officially a permanent resident.

Customs and Border Patrol approves you to enter the country. It is not until this moment that you are a lawful permanent resident of the United States.

What happens if I wait too long to travel to the U.S.? 

From the time of the interview to the date of your entry, you only have about six months to enter the United States (it could be a lot less time depending on the expiration of your medical exam). After that, all your paperwork, everything you did, will be considered expired and you will have to begin the process from scratch

I do not recommend that you begin the immigration process until you are sure you want to move to the United States. It's a lot of money and it's time consuming. If you're not quite ready, I would suggest that you wait until you have a more solid timeframe of when you want to live in the United States. At the same time, also be aware that the processing time is long and plan accordingly for that. If you want to live here tomorrow, that's not going to happen. 

If you are going to embark on this immigrant visa journey through a family member, you should be sure that you want to live in the U.S. and that you understand that there is not going to be a solid timeframe for this process. It’s impossible to know the exact date of when you will be able to come live in the United States.

Immigration Help: Family-Based Visa Application 

If you have any questions about your family-based visa application, I am 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 to schedule an appointment.

Immigration Attorney in Los Angeles - Becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident Through US Citizen Child

Can You Become a Lawful Permanent Resident Through Your US Citizen Child?

So, you think you can become a U.S. resident because your child is a U.S. citizen? Not so fast! Before you file any paperwork, be sure that you understand the entire process and all the requirements involved. 

If you have a U.S. citizen child who is 21 years old or older, this relationship does qualify your child to file a I-130 family-based petition.. But, having a qualifying relationship is by far not the only thing you need to qualify for a family-based green card

Green card applicants must also meet a set of requirements that deems them “admissible to the United States.” If you apply and you do not meet these requirements—if it’s determined that you are inadmissible to the United States—then you could face serious consequences. The worst one? A permanent bar from entering the country. 

Before you file any paperwork, it’s extremely important to understand all the requirements and potential consequences. 

Do You Really Qualify for a Green Card?

Qualifying for U.S. permanent residency is really a two-step process. Step one is a qualifying relationship for a family-based petition. Your son or daughter is a U.S. citizen 21 years of age or older? Great! You meet the requirement for step one. 

Step two is determining if you are admissible. To talk about this, let’s flip the question. What makes a person inadmissible to the United States

There are many ways a person can be inadmissible, so many in fact that you’d need a firm understanding of immigration law to know them all. Inadmissability is a very complex area of immigration law and even if you think you are not inadmissible, you should definitely speak to an immigration attorney before starting any paperwork. That being said, here are some common reasons a person would be determined inadmissible:

  • A criminal history with crimes involving violence, theft, or abuse
  • Violations of immigration law (including false claim to US citizenship which could result in a permanent bar)
  • Communicable diseases like tuberculosis
  • Mental disorders that could cause you to harm yourself or others
  • Drug abusers
  • Drug traffickers
  • A history of prostitution
  • Involvement in a terrorist organization or gang
  • Members of the Nazi party
  • People likely to become dependent on the U.S. government due to financial instability

A Common Scenario  

A common scenario for parents of U.S. citizen children is that leaving the country for their interview would trigger an unlawful presence bar. This bar is triggered when a person who entered the U.S. without inspection, accumulates 6 months to a year, or more than one year of unlawful presence, and then leaves the country. 

The 3-Year and 10-Year Bar 

A three-year bar occurs if the person spent more than six months but less than one year in the United States without legal status after having entered without inspection. A 10-year bar occurs if a person was unlawfully present for more than one year after having entered without inspection. 

What often happens is that this person leaves the U.S. to attend their visa interview in their home country thinking that they will only be gone a few weeks. Then, when they attend the visa interview, their immigrant visa is denied and only then do they learn of the 3-year or 10-year bar that was triggered when they left the United States to go to their interview.  This is a tragic occurrence for many families. 

The Waiver that Can Help You Avoid Being Barred from Entry to the U.S.   

There is a provisional waiver (I-601A) that if granted waives the 3-year or 10-year bar prior to leaving the U.S. for an immigrant visa interview. To qualify, the intending immigrant must have a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident Spouse or Parent. Thus, unless they have a family member who qualifies them, parents immigrating through their U.S. citizen children do not qualify for this waiver.

Immigration Help 

If you have any questions about your visa application, I am 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 to schedule an appointment.

Immigration Lawyer in Los Angeles - Immigration Through Family

Before You Immigrate through Family—Read this Ebook!

Michael is a U.S. citizen. Barbara is from Mexico but she has been living in the U.S. since she was 3 years old. She cannot remember being brought into the U.S. but she has been told she entered without status. Michael and Barbara have been married for 10 years and they have 3 U.S. citizen children, ages 9, 7, and 5. Michael and Barbara have been too scared to take any risks and so it took them a long time to decide to file for Barbara’s lawful permanent residency.

Finally, Michael and Barbara decided it was time and they wanted to save on a lawyer so decided to do it on their own. Michael filed an I-130 for Barbara. It was approved. Next, they just did what immigration told them to, which was to send paperwork and go to the interview in Mexico. Barbara went to the interview in Mexico promising her 5 year old she would make it back for her ballet recital. Unfortunately, in Mexico, Barbara learned she would not make it back to the recital or any of her kids’ events for several years. Barbara was told that since she had not filed for a waiver in the U.S. she would have to file for a waiver from outside the U.S. and wait for it abroad.

Only then did Barbara and Michael consult with an immigration attorney. There they learned that Barbara could not come to the U.S. until a waiver was filed and approved. Though she could ask for forgiveness from the 10 year punishment, she would still have to wait for the waiver to be prepared, filed, and approved, which could take years. Barbara didn’t even speak any Spanish and she didn’t have family in Mexico. Worst of all, she wasn’t going to be there for her young children.

This is a terrible situation to be in, especially if you did not see it coming. I strongly advise that you consult with an immigration attorney before you start and not just that—educate yourself.

People often come to me wanting to immigrate, thinking that simply because they have a qualifying U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative, they will be granted U.S. permanent residence. It is not that simple. There are many factors that can seriously complicate the process and it’s important to discuss your situation with an immigration attorney before you submit any application.

Before you begin the process of family immigration, it’s extremely important that you understand the risks. This article explains a huge consequence of family-based immigration when you’ve spent time unlawfully in the United States—and how to avoid it. 

There’s more to family based immigration than just having a U.S. relative.

There are two steps to family-based immigration. The first is having a qualifying relative petition for you. The second, an entirely separate process, is applying for lawful permanent residence based on this petition. It’s this second step that actually grants you a green card or permanent resident visa. It comes with its own set of qualifications, beyond your relationship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. This second step comes with a lot of risks too, especially if you’ve spent any time unlawfully in the United States.

The most important thing to consider before starting the immigration process is understanding if you have any “grounds of inadmissibility.” What exactly is a ground of inadmissibility? It’s any circumstance that would make you inadmissible to the United States. In other words, something that would cause you to be denied entry into the country. One of the most common is unlawful presence.

Immigrating if you’ve been unlawfully present in the U.S. has serious risks.

Unlawful presence is time spent in the U.S. without legal status. If you entered the U.S. without status and spent more than six months, but less than 1 year in the United States without status, you will trigger a 3 year bar upon leaving the U.S. This means that if you exit the country, you will not be allowed to reenter for 3 years and any application to immigrate will be automatically denied.

If you entered the U.S. without status and spent more than 1 year in the United States, you will trigger a  10-year bar upon leaving the U.S. This means, that if you leave the U.S. you will not be let back in for 10 years (unless you can apply for a waiver outside the U.S.). 

The issue arises when a person who doesn’t qualify to immigrate inside the U.S. (through a process called adjustment of status) travels abroad to their immigrant visa interview. They are typically unaware of this 3 year and 10-year punishment. So what happens? They go to their interview thinking they will return to the U.S. with a green card in a few weeks, only to learn that they will not be let back in for another 10 years. 

Unfortunately, Michael and Barbara’s story is a common one and to me, it’s especially sad because it’s something that could have been prevented! These risks can be prevented if you do things the right way.

It is possible to apply for a Provisional Waiver of Inadmissibility before you apply to immigrate to help you avoid these risks. If you know that you have unlawful presence or think that you may have any other ground of inadmissibility, it’s extremely important to talk with an immigration attorney before you start any paperwork. Having this waiver can will allow you to go to your interview abroad without having to wait years outside. This waiver is truly essential in getting your case approved, and an immigration attorney can help you get it. 

Find out whether you qualify to immigrate through adjustment of status or if you are required to travel abroad to immigrate (consular processing). Find out if you can file for a Waiver of Unlawful Presence from within in the United States, so that you only leave for a few weeks as opposed to months or years. The only people who qualify for this are the spouses of a U.S citizens or lawful permanent residents and the children of U.S citizens or lawful permanent residents.

Download this FREE Ebook before you start the process.

I prepared this very simple guide to help you understand if you qualify to immigrate here in the United States or if you are required to travel abroad. It is NOT a replacement for a legal consultation, but it is an important first step to understanding your options.

3 Ways to Immigrate in the US Without Having to Leave the US Ebook

Immigration Help 

If you have any questions about U.S. immigration through family, I am 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 to schedule an appointment.

Immigration Attorney in Los Angeles - How To Prove Our Long Distance Marraige Is Real

5 Ways to Prove Your Long-Distance Marriage is Real to Immigration

Proving to immigration that your marriage is real is difficult enough when you live together. When you’re long-distance, it’s even harder. Here are five tips to prove your marriage is real.

When you’re married to someone who lives abroad, you likely won’t be able to submit the “typical” documents that immigration asks for to prove your relationship is real. You can’t show a joint rental agreement because you’ve never lived in the same country, let alone the same house. You likely never had a joint bank account and you probably haven’t filed taxes together. Maybe the foreign spouse has never even stepped foot into the U.S. because they don’t have the proper visa documents. Nevertheless, there are plenty of ways to prove your relationship is real.

1. Photographs

Show them your pictures. You’ve likely been traveling to see each other A LOT and you probably have lots of wonderful photographs. This shows immigration: (1) that you value spending time together; (2) that you spend money to make that happen; and (3) that you are a part of each other's lives even though you live apart.

Photographs should ideally be presented with a description that includes the date, location, and who’s pictured. Here are some other pro tips:

  • Don’t send all selfies! Selfies’ major downfall is they don’t leave a lot of room for much beyond your faces. For these photographs, the location is important, whether it’s the Eiffel Tower on a romantic trip to Paris or your wife’s mother’s kitchen in Ecuador. While it’s okay to send a few good selfie pictures, keep them at a minimum.
  • A variety of places. When you’ve been to a lot of places together, it proves that you’ve spent a lot of time together just as a couple that lived in the same country would. It doesn’t have to be photos of adventurous vacations from all over the world, but it shouldn’t be the same 10 photos in your spouse’s apartment either. Shoot for somewhere in the middle.
  • A variety of faces. Photographs with different people show immigration that your relationship is public. Your spouse has met your friends and family, a big step in any relationship. Photos with family are especially good.

2. Text Messages

Text messages prove that you’ve been in communication, that you share your day to day lives with each other. Do you WhatsApp each other every evening? Print it out and present it with your green card application.

3. Travel

Proof of travel is excellent evidence of your commitment to each other. You took time off work, away from your home, and spent a lot of money to be able to have time with your partner. That’s shows just how important the relationship is to you. Print out plane tickets that show you’ve been traveling back and forth and present them to immigration.

4. Letters

You can include letters, one from you and one from your spouse, in your application that tell the story of your relationship and your devotion to one another. The letters should explain how you met, times you’ve spent together, your commitment to one another, and how you are planning a life together in the United States. Letters can be written in any language, so long as you also provide a certified English translation.

5. Proof of Financial Support

If one partner is sending the other partner money, you will also want to show proof of this. Offers of financial support are another way to show evidence of a serious, committed relationship.

That’s it! Five simple tips to prove your marriage is real, even if you have never lived together. 

Questions About Your Marriage-Based Green Card?

If you have any questions about your green card application, I am 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 to schedule an appointment.

Immigration Attorney in Los Angeles - Will my tattoo be a problem for my immigration application

Can Tattoos Cause Visa Problems When Immigrating to US?

Certain tattoos can cause issues with your green card application. It depends on the type of tattoo and whether or not it could symbolize an affiliation with a dangerous gang or other group. Here’s what you need to know.

Part of the permanent resident process is the immigration medical exam. It’s here that immigration will not only be checking your health, but also examining any tattoos.

The Immigration Medical Exam

The reason for the immigration medical exam is to ensure that you are not inadmissable on any health-related grounds. It’s a fairly straightforward process. You go to a certified doctor—it’s important that they are a doctor certified by the USCIS or Department of State—and they conduct a medical exam.

The doctor will review your medical history, which vaccines you’ve had, and give you a physical examination, a chest X-ray, and blood test. The doctor is checking for any communicable diseases and making sure you are up to date on your vaccines. These include:

  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Influenza
  • Influenza type b (Hib)
  • Measles
  • Meningococcal disease
  • Mumps
  • Pneumococcal disease
  • Pertussis
  • Polio
  • Rotavirus
  • Rubella
  • Tetanus and diphtheria toxoids
  • Varicella

You should bring with you a list of vaccines that you’ve already had and proof, such as your immunization record (if you have it). Also bring any documentation for existing medical conditions. If you’re adjusting status in the United States, you will also need to bring a copy of Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, with the top part filled in by you.

As the doctor examines you, they will complete a medical report. In this report, the doctor will note the presence of tattoos. When finished, they will place it in an envelope, seal it, and hand it to you. DO NOT OPEN THE ENVELOPE. The USCIS or Department of State (depending on whether you are applying for a visa from inside the U.S. or abroad) will need this envelope to remain sealed.

Bad Tattoos for Immigration

Yes, while the doctor is checking your health, they will also be examining your body for tattoos. Why? The main reason is to determine if you have any symbol on your body that suggests a gang affiliation or affiliation with another organization that the United States deems a threat. 

Now, I don't want you to think, "Oh, no, I have a tattoo, I'm never going to become an immigrant." No. If you have a little butterfly on your toe, I don't think you'll have a problem. That is not something they care about. However, it is important that the tattoo not be or even appear to be gang-related.

If immigration thinks that the tattoo may be gang-related, then you might be in trouble. Once it’s labeled this way, it will make it very difficult for you to immigrate. It’s very important to let your attorney know of any tattoo that you have, even if you don't think it's gang related, just to make sure that it doesn't come off that way. It's better to be prepared and be able to express the true story behind the tattoo come time for your interview.

Immigration Help

I hope this information was helpful to you. It's extremely relevant today, especially for people trying to immigrate from abroad. It's real; it's happening; and it's very important that you know about this and that you inform your attorney of any tattoos.

If you have any questions about your green card 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 to schedule an appointment.

I also suggest that you download my FREE ebook that explains different routes of immigration. Note that this ebook is not an alternative to seeking legal advice, but simply a resource to help you understand what immigration options are available to you.


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 to schedule an appointment

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

I have created a FREE ebook resource to help you understand if you qualify for adjustment of status. Note that this ebook is not an alternative to seeking legal advice, but simply a resource to help you understand what immigration options are available to you.

#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

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: I-485 Green Card Application

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 to schedule an appointment.


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 to schedule an appointment.


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 to schedule an appointment.

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 to schedule an appointment.