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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 https://abaudlegal.com/appointment/ to schedule an appointment.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 https://abaudlegal.com/appointment/ to schedule an appointment.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 https://abaudlegal.com/appointment/ to schedule an appointment.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 https://abaudlegal.com/appointment/ to schedule an appointment.
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 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:
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.
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.
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 https://abaudlegal.com/appointment/ 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.
Consular processing is the immigration process of becoming a lawful permanent resident from outside the United States. This article explains the part of the process that takes place after the I-130 family-based petition has already been filed and approved, including:
Not yet filed the I-130 application? Watch this video to learn about the family-based petition.
If you are applying for a visa through consular processing because you entered the country illegally, there are serious consequences if you travel abroad. Once you leave the United States you will likely trigger a 10-year bar on reentry, meaning you will be unable to return to the U.S. for at least 10 years. The bar is standard for people who entered the U.S. without inspection and lived here without legal status for more than 1 year. For people who have been undocumented for more than 6 months but less than 1 year there is a 3 year bar. I strongly suggest that you speak with an immigration attorney before travelling abroad to avoid this penalty.
An attorney can not only help you determine if you have or will trigger a bar from reentry, but can also help you file for a Waiver of Inadmissibility. Waivers are complex and hard to win. This is a request to waive the wrongdoing of an undocumented entry and presence. If approved, you will take the waiver to your visa interview abroad.
After the I-130 petition has been approved, you will follow the steps outlined below to complete the visa process and receive your US green card.
The National Visa Center is the middleman between you and the embassy that will ultimately decide your case. The NVC checks your visa application to make sure everything is in order, then submits it to the embassy.
Once your I-130 petition is approved, you will receive an email notification or letter from the NVC. It will include a case number and an invoice ID number which will allow you to login to the visa application portal and begin the DS-260, Online Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application. Note that while most countries accept the online application, there are some countries that still require a paper application.
You will complete the DS-260 application, submit fees, and submit documents. In some cases, the documents will need to be mailed. Do NOT mail any original documents; only send copies. Bring originals with you to the visa interview.
You will also be required to submit an Affidavit of Support, which will be completed by your I-130 petitioner. This document promises that there is a U.S. permanent resident or citizen who is able to financially provide for you in a time of need. The sponsor will have to make a minimum yearly income. If their income doesn’t qualify, you can request another person to sponsor you (a “joint sponsor”), who will complete a separate affidavit.
When planning your travel, make sure that you leave enough time to complete your biometrics appointment and medical exam before you interview. Generally, it’s a good idea to plan to spend a few weeks abroad.
Before the interview, you're going to have your fingerprints taken (biometrics) and have a medical exam. The embassy that is handling your case will inform you of acceptable places to have this done. The fingerprinting office and the administering physician must be approved by the embassy or the results will not qualify.
At the interview, the officer will review your documents and ask you questions regarding your application. You are required to bring the following documents to the interview:
If your interview goes well and you are approved for a visa, you will receive a sealed visa packet. Do not open it! It is for the U.S. Customs officer who inspects you upon your return to the United States.
Once you return to the U.S., the information in the packet will be reviewed and, finally, it's when the officer approves and stamps your passport that you are officially a lawful permanent resident.
If you have any questions about your immigrant visa 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Qualifying relatives of U.S. permanent residents:
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:
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.
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.
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.
Throughout 2018, I was asked these five questions regarding the U Visa over and over again. Here are the answers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are three amazing benefits of the U Visa.
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.
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.
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.
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.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.