Sponsorship Rules for Green Card Holders

bigstock-Immigration-3151682Most people know that citizens of the United States are able to sponsor foreign citizens for visas and green cards (lawful permanent resident status), but current lawful permanent residents are also allowed to sponsor foreign citizens. Lawful permanent residents, as current green card holders, are allowed by the U.S. to sponsor spouses and unmarried children of any age. The rules for foreign citizenship sponsorship are a little different for lawful permanent residents than U.S. citizens; for example, only U.S. citizens are allowed to sponsor married children.

The Application Process

For the current lawful permanent resident to sponsor a husband, wife, or unmarried child, the resident will have to begin the process by filing Form I-130 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The Form I-130 is also known as a Petition for Alien Relative. By filling out this form, the sponsoring permanent resident helps the sponsored foreign citizen get a place in line for green card approval.

The place in line is determined by the date that the petition was filed, so filing sooner is typically better. The amount of time between filing the petition and reaching the front of the line can take several years, due in large part to high demand for these types of visas and limits on the number of these types of visas that the government will issue.

Dealing with Status Changes

Since lawful permanent residents are able to sponsor unmarried children, the child’s petition will be automatically revoked if the child does happen to marry. Therefore, if a lawful permanent resident is trying to sponsor a child who is engaged to be married or in a serious relationship, it would be in the child’s best interests if any actual wedding plans were postponed until after a petition decision has been reached. However, if the sponsoring lawful permanent resident is upgraded to naturalized U.S. citizen before a child marries, then the recently upgraded U.S. citizen would be allowed to sponsor his or her married child.

An Application Does Not Allow Residency

Unfortunately, an application to sponsor a foreign citizen does not allow the foreign citizen entrance into the United States nor does it allow the foreign citizen to wait in the United States while his or her application is being filed. Unless the foreign citizen can enter the country legally on his or her own, his or her unlawful presence in the U.S. could have a negative effect on the outcome of a petition when his or her application reaches the front of the line.

Always Best to Speak with an Attorney

The application process and all the rules for sponsoring a foreign citizen as a lawful permanent resident can be pretty confusing for anyone without knowledge of immigration law. For this reason, prospective sponsors of foreign citizens, whether the sponsor is a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen, are encouraged to seek the advice of experienced immigration legal counsel. An experienced immigration attorney can explain the entire process to the prospective sponsor to ensure the person he or she wants to sponsor can apply for resident status as quickly and with as little trouble as possible.

Reasons for Denials and How to Appeal

bigstock-Passports-31148Whether they are trying for a visa, permanent residency, or citizenship, there are plenty of reasons why an otherwise eligible foreign citizen may be denied for an upgrade in his or her immigration status. Generally, however, the primary reason for denials of otherwise eligible individuals is because of errors in the person’s application. This is where our business immigration lawyers can help.

The Government Doesn’t Reach Out

Due in large part to the volume of applications for upgrades in immigration status which the government receives, the government does not generally reach out to visa, permanent residency and citizenship applicants when a discrepancy in an application causes a denial – the government will simply deny the application and require the person to apply again.

As anyone who is trying to come to the US might imagine, being denied because of a simple application error can add a substantial amount of time to the overall approval period.

Appealing a Decision

When a foreign citizen’s application for an immigration upgrade is denied, the government does allow the person to appeal the decision. An appeal request will always result in one of three outcomes – the original denial will be upheld, reversed, or remanded. If it is upheld, it means that the reviewing authority agrees with the original decision to deny.

If it is reversed, it means that the reviewing authority disagrees with the original decision to deny and approves the original request. If it is remanded, it means that the reviewing authority neither agrees nor disagrees with the original decision, but believes that it should be sent back to the original reviewing authority for a second look.

Appealing a Revocation

Another reason why a foreign citizen may appeal a decision by immigration authorities is if the person’s visa or lawful permanent resident status is revoked. A revocation is different from an application denial in that a revocation affects decisions which have already been made. In other words, a person who has already been issued a visa or granted lawful permanent resident status has had their visa or status revoked after it was issued.

A revocation is common if the government believes that an upgrade in immigration status was obtained by fraud, or if the person approved for the upgrade is found to have violated a condition of approval, like being convicted of a serious criminal offense.

Technicalities

As soon as a person is informed that his or her immigration application was denied or status revoked, that person should contact experienced immigration legal counsel for advice. If the person was denied after filing an initial application, then the person generally has 30 days to file the appeal, but if the person’s status was revoked, then the person generally has 15 days to file an appeal.

Unfortunately, not every decision made by immigration authorities can be appealed. For example, requests for extensions and requests to change one’s nonimmigrant status can’t be appealed. For more information on their rights to appeal decisions by immigration authorities, foreign citizens and immigrants should contact a business immigration attorney as soon as possible to find out what their best legal options are for their specific case.

Presenting a Case for Relief from Removal

bigstock-Citizenship-documents-43205116Relief from removal is what a foreign citizen in the United States seeks in order to avoid forced removal from the country – it other words, it is what is sought to avoid deportation.

Who Can Be Deported?

Any person who is not a citizen of the United States is eligible for deportation to his or her country of origin, even those who are lawful permanent residents. Generally, grounds for deportation includes violations of immigration or criminal law. If they are in the United States on a special type of visa, like a student or work visa, then deportation may also be allowed if the person loses the job or leaves the school which the visa was intended to allow the person to attend.

The Immigration Legal System

In order to facilitate the administration of justice in the United States, certain courts are established that handle only certain types of cases. These courts exist at all levels of government, from local and municipal to federal. Some cities have drug courts to handle drug related offenses, some states have family courts that cover matters of family law, and the federal government has various specialized courts including tax court, bankruptcy court, and patent court. Courts tasked with handling matters of immigration law are known as immigration courts, and anyone who tries to fight a deportation will no doubt have to present him or herself before a deportation judge in one of these immigration courts.

Due to all of the rules and nuances of immigration law, it is highly recommended that foreign citizens facing the risk of deportation allow an experienced immigration attorney to handle the case on the foreign citizen’s behalf.

Types of Relief

There are several ways that a person can be granted relief from removal. Lawful permanent residents and foreign nationals who have resided in the country for a certain number of years, who meet criminal background requirements, and who are of good moral character can apply through an immigration court for a cancellation of removal.

A motion to reopen or reconsider gives those who have already been ordered removed from the country the chance to introduce new evidence in support of their case. Asylum can be sought to prevent individuals from being deported to nations where they would face persecution. A stay of removal, which is generally temporary, would prevent the enforcement of a removal order.

An Immigration Attorney Can Help

As soon as they receive notice of removal orders, immigrants in risk of deportation should immediately contact a qualified immigration attorney. The attorney will review the immigrant’s case and determine whether or not the immigrant may qualify for relief from removal. If relief from removal is an option, the attorney will help the immigrant accomplish the necessary paperwork and gather any evidence that may exist in support of the immigrant’s case.

Trying to handle their cases on their own could leave immigrants at a disadvantage because of the complexities involved in immigration law. While the right of self representation exists, it is one that should generally not be exercised. Considering that a person’s life in the United States is on the line, individuals facing deportation simply can’t afford to leave the presentation of their cases to chance.

Naturalized Citizen Testing Requirements

bigstock-Immigration-Rally-in-Washingto-7293773Citizens of foreign countries can become full fledged citizens of the United States, with all the rights and privileges of natural born U.S. citizens, by completing a process known as “naturalization.”  In the United States, foreign citizens wishing to become naturalized citizens must meet several requirements, and are generally required to pass a naturalization exam covering basic English and U.S. civics (exemptions to testing requirements exist, which can be explained by an immigration attorney if the foreign citizen happens to meet exemption requirements).

Permanent Resident Status Requirements

Any foreign citizen at least 18 years old who has been a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) for at least five years can apply for naturalization. This waiting period is reduced to three years if the foreign citizen is currently and for the last three years been married to a U.S. citizen, living with the U.S. citizen, and whose citizen spouse has been a citizen for at least the last three years. Whether waiting three or five years, the foreign citizen is required to have not left the United States on trips lasting more than six months.

Foreign citizens who served in the U.S. armed forces for less than one year, or those that served in the armed forces for more than one year but who have been discharged for more than six months, are also required to wait five years as a permanent resident who has not taken a trip out of the country lasting more than six months. If they traveled outside of the U.S. for any amount of time on official military orders, the time spent out of the country is not counted against the veteran in terms of calculating trips outside of the country lasting more than six months.

Veterans who served on active duty during WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, or on or after September 11th, 2001 are not required to wait any amount of time as a permanent resident in order to apply for naturalization, and there is no requirement for the person to have not taken any trips lasting longer than six months outside of the country.

Individuals who were married and living with a U.S. citizen who died while on active military duty are also not required to wait any amount of time as a permanent resident to be eligible for naturalization, but the person must be a permanent resident on the day of his or her interview. Like those who served on active duty, trips outside of the country lasting longer than six months will not count against the person’s application.

Specific Rules and a Confusing Process

With all the government rules and regulations in place which govern the naturalization process, it is always best for foreign citizens interested in becoming naturalized citizens of the United States to seek the advice of experienced immigration attorneys. Immigration attorneys have specific experience with naturalization procedures and are in the best position to advise foreign citizens on how they can become a naturalized American citizen as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Immigrant Rights in Deportation Hearings

bigstock-Passports-31148The U.S. constitution guarantees fair treatment for all persons under the law. This means that any person, regardless of immigration status, is entitled to enjoy certain rights. One of the rights which immigrants get to enjoy is the right to have an attorney appointed as legal defense should the immigrant be charged with a criminal offense while in the U.S.

Deportation Hearings Not Criminal

Everyone in the United States has the right to an attorney if they are ever suspected of a criminal violation of law. With this in mind, it is important to understand exactly what a criminal violation is. Generally, a criminal violation of the law is one which carries with it the risk of loss of freedom if convicted. Therefore, anyone who risks the loss of freedom as the result of a criminal violation of law is entitled to free legal counsel paid for by the government. When they are accused of an offense which does not carry with it the risk of loss of freedom, like a traffic violation, individuals do not have the right to an attorney.

The Supreme Court has held that foreign citizens in deportation hearings are not entitled to legal counsel, which means that the government won’t pick up the tab if the foreign citizen is unable to pay for an attorney, because these hearings are considered administrative, not criminal. These hearings are considered administrative because the worst case scenario that a foreign citizen in a deportation hearing faces is removal from the country, but not the loss of freedom.

Attorney Representation Always an Option

Even if the government won’t pay for a foreign citizen’s legal counsel, it does allow foreign citizens facing deportation to retain an immigration attorney at personal expense, which is an option that immigration attorneys agree should always be exercised. Not only will the attorney speak on the foreign citizen’s behalf throughout the deportation hearing, but he or she will make sure that the immigrant’s rights are guarded throughout the process and that the foreign citizen understands his or her rights and the proceedings taking place.

Immigrants and America’s Legal System

Perhaps the most difficult part of navigating America’s immigration and legal system is the fact that it can be very complicated for the person without specific experience in immigration law to understand, and the fact that immigration policies always seem to be changing. For the most up to date information on the rights of foreign citizens in America’s immigration system, anyone with questions is encouraged to speak with an immigration attorney.

An immigration attorney is someone who works constantly in immigration law and who is regularly studying updates to immigration law as they occur. For the foreign citizen who is trying to avoid deportation, the knowledge and experience of an immigration attorney can be a very valuable asset.

Even though they may not face the loss of freedom in a deportation hearing, being deported to a country which the person has been away from for many years can cause just as much worry and confusion as being thrown in jail. If they want the best chance as possible to remain in the U.S., then an immigration attorney is someone that can help.

Immigration Petition and Application Appeals

bigstock-Passport-Gavel-5802855When an application or petition for immigration matters is denied or revoked, the party seeking approval of the application or petition is allowed to appeal the decision to the appropriate appellate body. When presented with an appeal, the appellate body may uphold, reverse, or remand the decision. Upholding the decision would mean that the the appellate body agrees with the original decision and is deciding not to change it.

Reversing the decision would mean that the appellate body disagrees with the original decision and is changing it. Remanding the decision means that the appellate body is neither upholding nor reversing the original decision, but is sending the matter back to the original reviewer for a second look and further action.

Time is Always of the Essence

The law places limits on how long individuals have to take action like file an appeal. In many matters of immigration law, a person has between 15 and 30 days to file an appeal following the original decision. Make no mistake about it, 15 to 30 days is not a lot of time when one considers the busy lifestyles that most people live. This is why a foreign citizen who is notified that an application or petition has been denied should immediately get in touch with qualified immigration legal counsel.

An experienced immigration attorney can take immediate steps to begin the appeal process in as timely and diligently a manner as possible. Plus, the more time that the attorney has to prepare a case on behalf of his or her client, the more likely that a stronger, more compelling argument will be made than if the attorney is expected to draft an appeal at the last minute.

Once the deadline for an appeal has passed, there is little that immigrants can do to fight a decision.

Not the End of the Line

Just because an application or petition has been denied by immigration officials, it does not mean that applicants and petitioners should give up all hope of ever reaching their immigration goals. In many cases, all that a person needs is the sound legal experience of qualified immigration counsel to convey the story and evidence that he or she wants to convey.

This can be difficult when the immigrant involved does not speak English or is unsure about his or her rights through the immigration legal system. Contrary to what many might think, foreign citizens do have rights in immigration court, and failing to understand these rights can be absolutely detrimental to the foreign citizen’s case.

Instead of giving up, immigrants are encouraged to remember why they wanted to enter the country in the first place and to seek out the advice of an attorney as quickly as possible. They might still have a chance at maintaining the life which they have built if they can get an attorney to review the facts of the case and draft an argument on the immigrant’s behalf before the deadline for filing an appeal has passed.

Information on EB-5 Regional Centers

bigstock-Immigration-Rally-in-Washingto-7293710Regional Centers are not federally operated, but are private entities which can be a major help to prospective foreign investors who are interested in investing in the United States in order to gain an EB-5 investor visa.

EB-5 Beginnings

The EB-5 investor visa program allows foreign investors who invest the minimum required amount into a new or existing U.S. business to be issued an EB-5 investor visa, as well as visas for the investor’s spouse and children, that would allow them to live and work in the United States.

The primary requirements of the program state that the investor must make an investment of at least $500,000 in a business from a predesignated industry, or at least $1,000,000 in any other industry. The government specifies industries which qualify for a $500,000 investment in order to promote investment in hard hit or struggling sectors of American commerce.

The program further requires that the funds invested in the U.S. business, if invested in a brand new business, create at least 10 jobs for American workers or, if invested in an existing business, to increase the business’ net worth or employee workforce by 40% or greater. Strict requirements regarding the source of the funds to be invested, which are intended to reduce the risk of abuse of the EB-5 system by terrorist and criminal organizations, will require the foreign investor to show that any funds invested under the program were earned legitimately.

Self Investment or Regional Center

When deciding where to invest his or her money, the foreign investor has two primary options. The first is to oversee and direct the investment of funds on his or her own, and the second is to invest the funds in a Regional Center. The benefit to investing in a Regional Center is that the foreign investor will have a higher chance of investment success since the Regional Center will take over the job of investing the funds on the investor’s behalf. If the investor has no experience in building a business or directing investment funds, then investing in a Regional Center can reduce many of the hassles of making an investment in a new or existing U.S. business.

Regional Centers are established as private business entities whose sole purpose is to oversee and direct the investment of funds in a primary geographic region. Even though they are privately structured, several local and state governments have taken it upon themselves to create Regional Centers in order to promote investment in their own backyards.

Why Investment Success is Important

After a foreign citizen has made a qualifying investment into a new or existing U.S. business, that foreign citizen can be issued a provisional EB-5 investor visa which is good for a period of two years. If the investment fails to create the required number of jobs or fails to expand the business as required, then the investor’s EB-5 visa can be revoked.

If a foreign citizen feels that he or she may not be able to meet the requirements of the program within the two year provisional period, then an extension to his or her provisional visa may be allowed, but extensions are issued on a case by case basis.

No matter where an investor wants to invest, working with an experienced immigration and EB-5 investor visa lawyer will help the investor throughout the investment and visa application process. Contact our EB-5 investor visa attorneys today to learn more.

Getting Visas for Foreign Born Family Members

bigstock-Citizenship-documents-43205116The United States allows citizens and lawful permanent residents to act as sponsors for foreign born family members, however, the government is very strict as to what relationship to the citizen or permanent resident the foreign citizen must have in order to be sponsored. Aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandparents, cousins, and in-laws can’t generally be sponsored under current immigration law.

Immediate Family Preference

Sponsoring members of the immediate family is perhaps easiest. American citizens can sponsor spouses, children under 21, and parents, assuming the child sponsoring the parent is at least 21 years old. Parents can also sponsor their adopted children.

Degrees of Preference for Other Family Members

There are four degrees of family preference recognized by the government for allocating family visas to individuals who don’t meet the requirements listed above. Only a certain number of these types of visas are issued each year.

  • F1 Preference:  Unmarried children of any age of U.S. citizens and their own children if they are under age 21.
  • F2 Preference:  Spouses, minor children and unmarried children at least age 21 of lawful permanent residents.
  • F3 Preference:  Married children of any age of U.S. citizens and their spouses, as well as their own children if they are under 21.
  • F4 Preference:  Siblings of U.S. citizens and their spouses, as well as their own children if they are under 21.

Minimum Age of Sponsors

The law does not dictate a minimum age to be able to sponsor another person, but the de-facto minimum age requirement is 18. This is because, in order to sponsor a foreign citizen, an “Affidavit of Support” must be signed, but this form can only be signed by those who are at least 18. The Affidavit of Support requires the sponsor to accept legal responsibility for the foreign citizen’s financial support for as long as the sponsorship remains active.

In other words, the government wants to know that a foreign citizen will have the means to support him or herself while in the country and, considering the foreign citizen is not from around here and will likely experience a period of unemployment upon arrival, places the burden of financial security on the shoulders of the sponsor.

Always Speak with Experienced Counsel

Experienced immigration attorneys are well versed in handling family visa applications and appeals for foreign citizens. By partnering with an experienced immigration attorney, foreign citizens can make sure that they have a stronger chance of being approved for a visa than if they tried applying on their own.

Not only is does the likelihood of application errors increase, but foreign citizens who are not proficient in English may have a considerable amount of trouble trying to determine exactly what the documents are asking for and where to go to get the information requested. An immigration attorney will handle every aspect of a visa application on behalf of an applicant from filling out the forms to attaching the necessary evidence in support of a package.

If they value the opportunity to be reunited with their loved ones, foreign citizens and sponsors alike will be able to appreciate the tremendous value that having an attorney on their side can provide.

Parks in Columbus

Parks in ColumbusThere’s much more to Columbus, OH than its retail outlets and restaurants. This great American city is home to some of the most beautiful natural parks found anywhere in the country.

The Metro Parks Center of Central Ohio offers hiking, nature watching and even fishing. Keep reading to learn more about the many parks that dot the Ohio landscape.

Chestnut Ridge was the first ridge found in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. With a vast span of around 4,500 feet and heights that go up to more than 1,000 feet, prepare yourself for a full day of hiking and enjoying Mother Nature at her finest. The black oak, shagbark hickory and northern red oaks adorn the landscape.

The Scioto Audubon Metro Park is perfect for those who appreciate the bird habitats. You can also fish, play volleyball and take advantage of the climbing wall. This is a pet-friendly park, too, so it’s ideal for the whole family. There’s 120 acres of “never get bored” recreation.

Another favorite park in Columbus is the Slate Run Living Historical Farm. Visitors feel like they’ve stepped back in time. This is a wonderful opportunity to lay aside the phones and mp3 players for an opportunity to experience some of the slower-paced days that didn’t include worrying for hours about why someone hasn’t replied to a direct message. Here, you’ll see pigs, geese, Percheron horses, turkeys and other animals. The real attraction, however, is found closer to the barns and gardens. Tour the farmhouse, complete with full costumes adorned by the staff. You’ll be able to see how life truly was when you tour the living room, the kitchen and parlor and other areas. This is a popular choice for teachers who are teaching their students all about history.

You’ve never seen so many shades of green than when on Green way Trails in the spring and summer months. The multi-use green ways are used as trails for transportation and recreation. It’s an ideal way to bring together people and nature while also enjoying the clean air and water. The trails are well-maintained, making them a great day trip for families. Currently, the natural history collections house more than 30,000 cataloged specimens, which are spread among fossils, rocks and minerals, plants, insects and other arthropods, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fishes. More than 215,000 of these specimens are on long-term loan to The Ohio State University’s Museum of Biological Diversity.

Another great hiking opportunity is found in the High banks Metro Park. With Native American burial grounds within the property, this is truly scared ground. Hikers love the 100 ft. bluffs and the rivers blow. Plenty of hiking trails for beginners and old hands, too. All of this comes together to make for a great Saturday or overnight camping trip.

Whether it’s a quiet, shady space for a picnic or brisk walk with nature, you’re sure to find exactly what you’re looking for in the great Columbus outdoors. Be sure to check for park opening and closing times as well as the attractions, especially if you’re bringing the little ones.

Requirements for L-1A Visas

Requirements for L-1A VisasL-1 visas allow non-immigrant workers of an international company to temporarily relocate to the United States, provided certain conditions are met. He or she must have worked abroad for at least one uninterrupted year within the three years prior to admittance. It is a non-immigrant visa that is valid for a period that is determined by a reciprocity schedule. A qualified L-1 visa attorney can provide the details on what this means and what is not included. Note, too, that extensions are allowed, but keep in mind that a stay with this visa cannot be extended beyond seven years. According to www.immigrationhelpla.com, the applicant as well as the international company, must have at least one of the relationships with the United States office as outlined below:

  • Parent and subsidiary;
  • Brand and headquarters;
  • Sister companies owned by a mutual parent; or
  • “Affiliates” owned by the same groups or people with similar percentages

It can be an exhausting process, so it’s important to get the application right and filed in a timely manner. This way, there will be fewer interruptions in the work history and fewer problems as the time draws near. Not only that, but there are actually two types of L-1 visas.

Executives and managers should apply for the L-1A visa. While they do this, workers who have specialized knowledge should apply for the L-1B visa. Remember, too, that a foreign employee with an L-1A visa can stay in the U.S. no more than seven years, those with an L-1B can stay no more than five years.

The website www.immigrationhelpla.com also notes that there are two processes for the L-1, though applicants will go through only one of these processes:

  • Regular L-1 Visa: Each foreign employee of a company must individually apply for this visa and be approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Blanket L-1 Visa: An employer can qualify all of their employees if they meet certain requirements.

Remember too, that qualifying companies can be issued what’s known as an Intracompany Transferee visa. This means their employee is allowed the opportunity to secure “an L-1 visa just by providing a copy of the approved blanket petition in addition to documents that detail their qualifications for the position.”

Wondering what the process is? Here’s a brief breakdown, but again, a qualified L-1A visa attorney is always the best bet moving forward, especially considering the legalities associated with immigration. The employee must file a petition with the USCIS on Form I-129This begins the process to initialize the L-1 visa application process. This petition must be attached with supporting documentation showing the company and its American counterpart meets the requirements outlined above and otherwise required by immigration laws and regulations. Once approved, it’s at that time the USCIS grants the employee a Notice of Action, Form I-797 and then, it can be used as a supporting document for visa issuance at the jurisdictional US consulate or embassy.

While it can feel a bit tedious, it is important that it gets done right in order to prevent any problems moving forward. Get started today by contacting a L-1A visa lawyer.