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Immigration law from the Law Office of Michael Carlin PLLC Law Office of Michael Carlin PLLC

FAQ

I am a permanent resident of the United States.  I was convicted of a crime.  Will I have problems with my green card status?

It is very important to consider the immigration consequences of criminal convictions.  The immigration consequences will depend on a number of factors, including the crime itself, the specific law under which you were convicted, the sentence you received, the time that the criminal incident occurred, and the circumstances surrounding your immigration history, such as the date that you became a permanent resident, and the manner in which you became a permanent resident.  It is often also important to consider the family and community ties that you have in the United States. 

Depending on many factors, the immigration consequences of criminal activity can be very harsh, including the possibility of deportation.  It is extremely important that you consult with an immigration attorney as soon as possible regarding your situation.

This page does not provide legal advice, and is intended only as a general introduction. Please contact us for more information.

On the I-130 Petition, what does “Priority Date” mean?

The “Priority Date” is a very important date.  It refers to the date that the I-130 Petition was properly filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

For U.S. citizens who are filing I-130 Petitions for spouses, parents, or unmarried children under age 21, there is no “wait time” involved with an application for an immigrant visa or a green card.  If your relative is outside the United States, the relative may apply for an immigrant visa as soon as the I-130 is approved.  If your relative is inside the United States, the relative might be eligible to apply for a green card at the same time that you file the I-130.  You should consult with an attorney for more information.

For U.S. citizens who are filing for brothers, sisters, married sons or daughters, or sons or daughters age 21 or older, there is a “wait time” associated with the application for an immigrant visa or a green card.  You and your relative can consult the Visa Bulletin, published each month by the U.S. Department of State.  The Visa Bulletin will indicate the Priority Dates for which immigrant visas are available.  In order for a person to be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa, the person’s Priority Date must be a date that is earlier than the date listed for the appropriate category.

This page does not provide legal advice, and is intended only as a general introduction. Please contact us for more information.

I am a permanent resident of the United States.  If I spend a lot of time outside the United States, will I have any problems with immigration officials?

Permanent residents who spend a lot of time outside the United States run the risk of being charged with having “abandoned” their permanent resident status.  In order to avoid having U.S. immigration officials charge you with abandonment of your green-card status, you should, if possible, follow two guidelines.  First, you should keep each individual trip outside the United States to less than 6 months in length.  Second, you should spend a majority of your time inside the United States.  If you follow these two guidelines, you will be fulfilling the physical presence requirements for naturalization, and also avoiding a charge of abandonment.

If you are a permanent resident and you spend more than 1 year outside the United States, you might be refused entry to the United States, or you might be charged with abandonment.  You might be required to apply for a Returning Resident Visa from the U.S. Department of State.

If you are a permanent resident and you plan to spend significant amounts of time outside the United States, you might wish to apply for a re-entry permit.

This page does not provide legal advice, and is intended only as a general introduction. Please contact us for more information.

I am a U.S. citizen.  May I file a petition for my brothers and sisters?  How long will it take before they can apply for green cards?

If you are a U.S. citizen age 21 or older, you are eligible to file petitions for your brothers and sisters.  You are also eligible to file petitions for your parents, your spouse, and your children.

When you file an I-130 Petition, you are given a Priority Date, which is listed on your I-130 receipt notice. 

For U.S. citizens, petitions filed for brothers and sisters are in the “F4” classification in the Visa Bulletin, published each month by the U.S. Department of State.  The Visa Bulletin will indicate the Priority Dates for which immigrant visas are available.  In order for a person to be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa, the person’s Priority Date must be a date that is earlier than the date listed for the appropriate category.

The F4 classification is usually quite backlogged.  At this time, U.S. immigration officials are accepting applications for immigrant visas for persons in classification F4 whose Priority Date was approximately 12 years ago.  Please also note that, for applicants born in certain countries, the waits are longer.  The wait for a person born in Mexico in classification F4 is approximately 17 years.  For a person born in the Philippines, the wait is approximately 22 years.

This page does not provide legal advice, and is intended only as a general introduction. Please contact us for more information.

I am a U.S. citizen.  I am legally married.  My spouse entered the United States without inspection.  Is there a way for my spouse to get a green card?

The answer to this question depends on a number of things, including your spouse’s immigration history, and history of encounters with law enforcement officials or criminal courts (if any).

A U.S. citizen legally married to a person from another country may begin the immigration process by filing an I-130 Petition.

If your spouse entered the United States without inspection, then your spouse might not be eligible receive a green card while inside the United States.  If that is the case, then your spouse would need to apply for an immigrant visa, and eventually go to an interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside the United States.

Your spouse might need to obtain a waiver of inadmissibility in order to obtain an immigrant visa and permanent resident status.  Depending on the details of your spouse’s immigration and criminal history, your spouse might be eligible to apply for the waiver.  Please see our Waivers page for more information.

This page does not provide legal advice, and is intended only as a general introduction. Please contact us for more information.

My family member was recently arrested and is now in immigration detention.  Is there a way we can try to get him/her out of jail?

If your family member is currently in the custody of U.S. immigration officials, he or she might be eligible to be released without a bond, or upon payment of an immigration bond.  The part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) known as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) typically handles detention and bond issues.  If ICE does not offer a bond, or if the bond that ICE offers is a high dollar amount, then your family member has the right to request a bond hearing in Immigration Court, to seek a bond or to seek a reduction in the bond amount.

The two factors that ICE or the Immigration Judge officially consider are (1) whether your family member presents a danger to the community, and (2) whether your family member is likely to appear at future court hearings on his immigration case.  Another important factor is the legal options that your family member has to try to remain legally in the United States.

Please note that convictions for certain types of crimes will result in a determination that your family member is subject to mandatory detention.  If the Immigration Judge concludes that your family member is subject to mandatory detention, then the judge will not offer a bond, and your family member will be required to remain in detention while his or her immigration case is being decided.

This page does not provide legal advice, and is intended only as a general introduction. Please contact us for more information.

I have been in the United States without permission for more than 1 year.  If I leave the United States, what consequences do I face?

If you have accumulated more than 1 year of unlawful presence in the United States, since April 1, 1997, and you then leave the United States for any reason, whether by your own free choice, or because of voluntary departure or deportation from U.S. immigration officials, then you are not permitted to return to the United States for a period of 10 years from the date of your departure, unless you obtain a waiver of your unlawful presence.

This page does not provide legal advice, and is intended only as a general introduction. Please contact us for more information.

Why is my green card valid for only 2 years? I thought that permanent resident status was "permanent"!

If you obtained your permanent resident status through marriage, and if you were granted permanent resident status before the two-year anniversary of your marriage, then you were granted permanent resident status on a "conditional" basis, and your green card is valid for 2 years. So long as you remain married to, and living with, the spouse through whom you obtained your green card, then you and your spouse must file a petition to "remove the conditions" on your permanent resident status. You and your spouse must submit this application during the 90-day window that leads up to the expiration of your two-year green card. If you fail to submit the application during this period, then you may file late, but you will need to explain the reasons why you failed late. Your late application may, or may not, be approved.

There is another way to "remove the conditions" on your green card status. If you and your spouse divorced (or are in the process of divorcing), if your spouse passed away, if you have been battered, abused, or subjected to extreme cruelty by your spouse, or if losing your permanent resident status would result in extreme hardship, then you may file the application without your spouse's (or ex-spouse's) signature. If you are filing on the basis of one of these reasons, then there is no specific filing deadline.

This page does not provide legal advice, and is intended only as a general introduction. Please contact us for more information.

I have been a permanent resident of the United States for 5 years or more. Could I apply for U.S. citizenship? And, why should I apply?

If you have been a permanent resident of the United States for at least 5 years (or at least 3 years if you have been married to and living with a U.S. citizen during that time), and if you meet other requirements, then you are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. There are a number of important reasons why you should consider applying for U.S. citizenship. First, you will be eligible to vote, and to run as a candidate for elected office. Second, if you are convicted of a crime, as a U.S. citizen you will not be subjected to any immigration consequences (such as deportation). Third, as a U.S. citizen you will be able to file petitions that will enable certain family members to apply for permanent resident (green card) status. For example, only a U.S. citizen may file immigration petitions for parents, siblings, and married children. And a U.S. citizen will be able to help spouses and unmarried children to obtain green cards more quickly than permanent residents are able to.

This page does not provide legal advice, and is intended only as a general introduction. Please contact us for more information.

I have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by my spouse, parent, or child who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Could I obtain a visa?

If you have been abused, battered, or subjected to extreme cruelty by your spouse, parent, or child, and if that person is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, then you might be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa (green card). There are a number of requirements that you must meet. You must show that you were, or are, living with the abuser, and you must present evidence of the abuse. There are many different ways to show the abuse that you suffered. You should take steps now to get to a safe place. Then you should seek legal help.

This page does not provide legal advice, and is intended only as a general introduction. Please contact us for more information.

I have been the victim of a crime. Could I obtain a visa?

If you have been the victim of a crime, then you might be eligible to apply for a visa, referred to as a "U" nonimmigrant visa. If you obtain a U visa, then you would be eligible to apply for permanent resident (green card) status after you have had the U visa for 3 years.

Not all crime victims are eligible to apply for a U visa. In order to qualify, you need to be the victim of a crime that occurred in the United States, or violated a U.S. law. You also need to be the victim of one of the following types of crime: abduction, abusive sexual contact, blackmail, domestic violence, extortion, false imprisonment, female genital mutilation, felonious assault, fraud in foreign labor contracting, hostage, 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. If you have been the victim of a crime similar to one of these listed crimes, then you might qualify. You might also qualify if the crime was an attempt to commit one of these crimes, a conspiracy to commit one of these crimes, or a solicitation to commit one of these crimes.

In order to qualify for a U visa, you will also need to show that you were helpful to law enforcement officials, or that you would be likely to be helpful, in their investigation and prosecution of the crime. In order to apply for a U visa, an official needs to sign a form stating that you have been helpful or that you are likely to be helpful.

This page does not provide legal advice, and is intended only as a general introduction. Please contact us for more information.

I am afraid to return to my country. What can I do?

Depending on the reasons why you are afraid to return to your country, you might be eligible to apply for asylum. Persons who have been persecuted in the past, or who have a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future, by persons or groups acting with government approval, or by persons or groups who the government cannot or will not control, might have a valid claim for asylum. In order to be eligible, you must have been persecuted, or fear persecution, because of one of the following reasons: Your race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or your membership in a particular group. You must apply for asylum within one year of your most recent entry to the United States, unless you qualify for an exception to this rule.

Asylum law is extremely complex. It is in your best interests to obtain an experienced attorney to help you with the process of applying for asylum.

This page does not provide legal advice, and is intended only as a general introduction. Please contact us for more information.