We help families immigrating to the U.S. from abroad or from within the U.S.
We can assist you to become a U.S. citizen.
We assist with work visas and green cards based upon U.S. employment.
IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION
A family may spend their entire life savings and wait years just to reach the United States. Many families need help with the immigration process. An experienced United States immigration and naturalization attorney can help families confront and navigate the many obstacles on their journey to America.
Immigration to the U.S based upon an employment offer or for certain highly qualified individuals may be even more complex. It is crucial to work with an experienced immigration lawyer to understand the many legal requirements and the practical considerations involved in your case.
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WHY YOU NEED AN IMMIGRATION LAW ATTORNEY
A good immigration lawyer is a highly trained and skilled professional who is experienced in dealing with complex immigration matters. While the process may be confusing for everyday U.S. citizens and foreign citizens, it is highly understandable and familiar to an experienced immigration law attorney. If you want to complete the application process successfully and with as much ease as possible then seeking assistance from an immigration law attorney is crucial.
What Makes a Great Immigration Lawyer?
Good immigration lawyers are well-versed in the law, empathetic to your situation, and clear and direct in their communication style. They will guide and help you through a complicated process and use creative problem-solving skills to overcome obstacles that may arise.
Expert immigration lawyers know how to approach the laws that affect immigrants and use legal tools to serve their clients. They can be immensely helpful in helping an individual bring their documents together and craft any personal statements in the best light possible.
Immigration attorneys may also ensure that their clients are meeting the right immigration officers at the right times. A competent attorney could mean the difference between an accepted and a rejected claim.
Immigration lawyers act as the eyes and ears for your case. They are on the ground and inside the country, so they are able to inquire much more easily about your application.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
How to Immigrate to the United States from Abroad
Throughout the process, you'll need to gather and submit forms and any requested documents. Completing this process precisely is pivotal to being able to advance to the entrance interview. Employing an experienced immigration law firm will help you complete this process correctly from start to finish.
While immigration takes place prior to entering the country, naturalization does not occur until long after. Naturalization is the path that a foreign citizen must complete in order to become a full U.S. citizen. Again, this is a process that is most thoroughly completed with the assistance of an immigration law attorney because an application for naturalization must be submitted. Eligibility requirements vary but generally involve 3+ years of residence in the country. There is more than one route to meeting the requirements for naturalization, which is why seeking assistance from an immigration lawyer in San Diego is the best way to evaluate all of your options.
Types of U.S. Visas
There are many different types of U.S. visas. A visa is an actual document that a foreign national presents at a U.S. port of entry. Generally speaking, foreign nationals need a valid, unexpired visa to enter the U.S. There are exceptions to this.
Foreign nationals using a visa to enter the U.S. must intend to engage in the activities in the U.S. that the visa category allows. For example, a person that comes to the U.S. on a temporary H-1B work visa needs to work for the specified U.S. H-1B-petitioning employer after entering the United States. A student admitted to the U.S. on a student visa needs to attend school, and so on.
The validity periods that are printed on U.S. visas do not control how long a foreign national is allowed to remain in the U.S. Authorized periods of stay in the U.S. are controlled by I-94 records and other factors.
U.S. Visitor Visa
A U.S. Visitor Visa is for temporary stays. Visitor visas are mainly applicable for tourism or business purposes. Vacations, visiting friends or family, medical treatment, and non-credit study all fall under the tourism category. This is called a B-2 visa.
Visitor visas can also be issued to individuals traveling for business affairs like settling an estate, attending a conference, training purposes, or negotiating a business contract. This is called a B-1 visa. Though an individual may travel under a B-1 visitor visa to conduct business or to attend an educational conference, they cannot use this type of visa for study, employment, or to begin the process of naturalization.
U.S. Work Visa
The U.S. fiscal year begins October 1st and ends September 30th of the following calendar year. During this time, 140,000 work visas are available for issuance to candidates who meet the required qualifications. Five preference categories are used to organize and prioritize work visa applications. Children and spouses of the worker can also be granted a visa. Before applying to immigrate as an alien worker, the foreign citizen must first obtain approval from the Department of Labor.
People who possess an extraordinary ability in their field are given the highest preference for entrance. In addition, highly skilled and educated professionals are given the next highest preference for entrance. Temporary worker visas may also be issued and are based on country of origin and worker qualifications. Understanding what category you may eligible for, as well as how to most efficiently complete the application and employment verification process involves assistance from an immigration law firm.
How to Apply for a U.S. Immigrant Visa
If you are applying at a U.S. Consulate, then after your immigrant petition has been approved you will need to complete an immigrant visa application. The assistance of an immigration law attorney at this stage can be critical. An experienced immigration attorney can determine if you are applying for the correct visa status and guide you through the often-complex immigration visa application process. You will need to pay required government fees and file your application with the National Visa Center (NVC). In coordination with submitting your application for review, you will also need to provide the NVC with proof of financial documents and other supporting documents. The delivery method for submitting your documents to the NVC varies depending upon your citizenship country. For citizens of some countries the supporting documents are submitted online, for other countries via email, and for still other countries by sending hard copies to the NVC. These procedures often change as the NVC updates them for efficiency.
As part of the completion of this process, eventually you will need to undergo a personal interview by a consular officer at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy to determine your eligibility to immigrate to the United States. Background checks and other steps must also be completed as part of this stage. The consular officer will review your case and interview you in person. The interview usually occurs in your home country. Under some circumstances you can be interviewed in another country as a “third country national.” Because of the importance of your personal interview it is best to have a qualified immigration attorney prepare you for your consular interview
Completing the U.S. Immigrant Visa Application Online
The Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC), overseen by the Bureau of Consular Affairs under the U.S. Department of State, has made an immigrant visa application form accessible online to foreigners applying for a U.S. immigrant visa. This process involves filing the Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application and sometimes also the Online Choice of Address and agent.
Because of the importance of truthfully, accurately, and completely providing your information and answering the many questions that are asked of you on your online immigration visa application form, it is best to have an immigration law attorney to guide and counsel you about completing this important step.
U.S. Immigrant Visa Requirements
In order to be considered for approval for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate in your country, a U.S. citizen, a potential employer, or a green card holder who is a relative of the applicant generally must sponsor the foreign citizen. The sponsor is called the “petitioner” and the foreign national is the “beneficiary.”
The petition is filed to establish that the requisite relationship exists that is recognized under U.S. immigration law. For instance, a U.S. citizen filing a petition for a foreign national spouse must prove that relationship. Only after the petition is approved can an applicant/beneficiary continue their immigrant visa process.
Getting your Petition and U.S. Visa Status
Immigration visa petition and application status wait times will vary depending upon the visa category of your pending petition and/or application. To check the status of your immigration visa petition or application, you will need to enter your 13-digit petition or application receipt number on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website. Check status now.
You can also check the current USCIS processing times by accessing the USCIS website link for processing times. Identify your type of pending petition or application and the USCIS regional center or USCIS field office that is processing your petition or application, and you will be able to view the current processing times for your case. Keep in mind that USCIS posted processing times are only approximate at best. Processing times often change depending upon shifting U.S. government priorities and other factors that can speed up or slow down a particular visa category.
Applicants who have already completed this step and are waiting to find out the status of their U.S. visa should visit the website for the U.S. Department of State. In order to check the visa status, you will be required to enter your application type and case number.
U.S. Immigration Interview Questions
An experienced immigration law attorney should help prepare you for the interview portion of the immigration process. Your interview will take place either in the United States or at the appropriate U.S. Consulate abroad, depending on where you filed and your eligibility category.
If your interview occurs at the U.S. Consulate, then a consular officer will review your case and ask you questions. If your interview occurs within the United States then a USCIS immigration officer will interview you at the local USCIS district field office that has jurisdiction over where you live. The interviewing officer uses your personal interview as an important tool to assess your eligibility. Officers review applicants’ case filings, the results of their background checks and other information, and they ask probing questions to the person being interviewed. Sometimes the interview is recorded or videotaped.
U.S. Immigration Entrance Limits
The U.S. limits the number of immigrant visas that it issues yearly to immigrants. There are multiple categories for family-based and employment-based immigrants. Each category receives a certain allowable number of slots from the total number of immigrants that can immigrate every year to the United States. These limits also vary by country (per country quotas) and when the prescribed limits for each respective category are reached, the foreign national applicants in those categories are placed on a waiting list.
Your place on the list is based on your applicable category and your country. The date that you or your U.S. employer filed your immigration petition to USCIS or that your U.S. employer filed a labor certification application to the U.S. Department of Labor is your filing date. That filing date is referred to as your “priority date.” Individuals with the oldest priority date in each category are placed at that top of the waiting list and all others follow chronologically.
The U.S. Department of State publishes what is called a “Visa Bulletin” each month. The available numbers for each category with per country quotas are listed on each monthly Visa Bulletin. Only when your priority date on the Visa Bulletin is either current or before the published date in your category are you allowed to then apply for a green card.
Waiting for your priority date per the Visa Bulletin can be a relatively short period of time or it can take many years, depending upon your category, country of chargeability, and other factors. That is another reason why it is so important to work closely with an experienced immigration attorney from the beginning of your immigration journey to plan and prepare the best course of action for you and for your family.
U.S. Residency - Green Cards
What is a Green Card?
A green card holder is the same thing as being a legal permanent resident of the United States. The terms “green card” and “permanent resident” are used interchangeably. The commonly used term “green card” is slang.
While valid green card status allows the holder to permanently live in United States, it does not equate to naturalization. Green card holders are not U.S. citizens.
However, eligible green card holders may later apply for naturalization, which leads to full U.S. citizenship.Green card holders share some overlapping privileges with U.S. citizens. For instance, legal green card holders are able to live and work in the U.S. They can also travel and re-enter the country legally. Green card holders can even petition for some other close family members to become green card holders.
Getting a U.S. Green Card
The first step to acquiring a green card is to check and make sure that an individual is eligible. An individual may be eligible through a number of different pathways. There are certain positions for green cards available for individuals who have family members who are legal permanent residents. Several categories of potential jobs can offer an individual a green card. In addition, individuals can be brought into the United States under a special accommodation visa or through the refugee process. An individual also must show that they will not become a public charge.
Then, the individual must go through the adjustment of status process. They must file an immigration petition and file form I-485. After the process of filing that form, a green card applicant must set up an appointment with an Application Support Center and a potential follow-up interview and request for further documents. Then, the application process is complete, and an individual must wait for a decision on his or her status.
Green Card Interview Questions
In the process of applying for a green card, an individual will almost always have to go through an interview. The interview is set up to assess an individual’s eligibility to receive a green card. The primary purpose of the interview is to ensure that an individual is being truthful about the basis for their eligibility and in their responses to the many questions were asked of them on their green card application forms. Therefore, the questions that will be asked pertain to the basis for the application and to the individual’s history and background.
An experienced immigration law attorney should help prepare you for the interview portion of the immigration process. Your interview will take place either in the United States, for example in San Diego, or at the appropriate U.S. Consulate abroad, depending on where you filed and live and your eligibility category.
Green Card Medical Exam
All foreign nationals who apply for a green card must complete and pass a required medical examination before their green card cases can be approved. A government-approved physician must perform your medical exam.
If foreign nationals are applying for their greens cards from outside of the United States then there often are just one or two designated doctors that are authorized to perform the medical exam to be provided to the U.S. Consulate. If foreign nationals are applying for Adjustment of Status in the U.S. then there are more approved doctors for you to choose from.
The doctor will use Form I-693 to complete your medical examination. You should be provided with a copy of your completed medical examination form. However, the doctor will give you the original I-693 form in a sealed envelope that must remain sealed and submitted to the government that way.
Green Card Renewal Fee
The green card renewal fee currently is a total of $540 as of 2018. This fee is broken into two parts. The first is a $455 application fee in order to process the green card application. There is also an $85 biometrics fee that is charged to most applicants. The biometrics fee is for photographing and fingerprinting the green card holder.
This process is used to renew an expiring or expired green card for 10 years. The I-90 form is used to renew your green card. The I-90 green card renewal application can be mailed or submitted electronically, with proper supporting evidence.
What to do if lost Green Card
Individuals who have lost their green card or have had it stolen should attempt to remedy the problem as quickly as possible. They should file USCIS form I-90 along with the application fee, a government-issued photo ID, and a copy of their lost or stolen green card if possible. An individual then may need to wait 8-10 months or so in order to receive a replacement.
U.S. Immigration Forms
What is Form I-94? Travel History…
Form I-94 is a form that is issued to a nonimmigrant that is legal admitted to the United States. Nonimmigrants are foreign nationals that are in the U.S. as visitors, students, temporary workers, and in other categories.
When a foreign national applies to be admitted to the U.S. as a nonimmigrant, the U.S. immigration officer will issue an I-94 card to the person at the U.S. port of entry. That can be at a land, sea, or air port of entry into the U.S.
What is Form I-129F? Fiancé Visa
Form I-129F is the form that a U.S. citizen files for his or her foreign national fiancé or fiancée. The fiancé(e) visa is in the K-1 visa category. K-2 visas are available for the minor dependent children of the foreign national fiancé or fiancée.
The U.S. citizen files form I-129F with supporting documents in the United States. If USCIS approves the I-129F petition then the foreign national fiancé or fiancée will eventually apply for a K-1 visa at the designated U.S. Consulate abroad. If the foreign national is approved for a K-1 visa and is admitted to the U.S., the U.S. citizen and foreign national must get married within 90 days. Then the foreign national must apply for a green card using the Adjustment of Status process. Same-sex couples are eligible in this category. That can be useful if it is difficult or impossible to get married abroad because of laws preventing same-sex marriage in particular countries. The marriage can occur in the United States where it is legal.
What is form I-130?
Form I-130 is the petition that a U.S. citizen or a green card holder files for a family member that will apply for a green card. The I-130 petition is filed to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The I-130 petition is used to promote family reunification. The purpose of the I-130 petition is to establish that the legally recognized family relationship exists. For example, in a marriage case a certified copy of the marriage certificate should be included with the I-130 petition filing, along with other supporting evidence.
Depending on the family relationship and the filing location, the I-130 is filed either as a standalone petition (with supporting evidence), or together with other government application forms and supporting evidence.
What is form I-131?
Form I-131 is used to apply for permission to travel outside of the United States. It is used in multiple circumstances. One example is when a person who applies for a green card via the Adjustment of Status process. When applying for a green card, the person may also apply for travel permission. Adjustment of Status applicants who exit the U.S. without approved travel permission abandon their green card applications and their cases will be denied. There are many applicants that should not travel outside of the U.S. even if USCIS approves travel permission to them. Those include foreign nationals who may be barred from returning the U.S. because of prior periods of unlawful presence in the U.S. or for other reasons. Because of the many rules involved regarding travel permission as it relates to your case it is important to work with a competent immigration attorney.
What is form I-134?
Form I-134 is a financial sponsorship form that is used to show that a foreign national who is applying to come to the United States will not become a “public charge.” Form I-134 is not strictly required but consular officers prefer that this form be used and may in fact request it. It is the policy of our law firm to use this form when appropriate.
This is a different financial sponsorship form than the I-864 Affidavit of Support form. Form I-134 is used when form I-864 is not required. For example, in a fiancé(e) case the form I-134 is submitted to the U.S. Consulate in connection to the fiancé(e) visa application. After the fiancé(e) is admitted to the U.S. the form I-864 is submitted in connection to the green card application.
What is Form I-485?
Form I-485 is the green card application form that foreign nationals file to USCIS when applying for Adjustment of Status within the United States. The I-485 is only filed when applying for permanent resident status inside the U.S. When a foreign national applies for a green card outside of the U.S., a different process and government application forms are involved.
Sometimes form I-485 is filed at the same time as an underlying petition or sometimes after an underlying petition or application is pending or approved. The I-485 application may be based on family relationships such as marriage to a U.S. citizen, employment-based categories, those who have been granted asylum, and other eligible categories within the United States.
Form I-601 and I-601a
Periods of unlawful presence in the U.S. can make a green card applicant ineligible to be approved for a green card. There are some foreign nationals that are currently in the U.S. and that have petitions approved for them or are in some other categories that are nevertheless ineligible to apply for a green card (Adjustment of Status) from within the U.S. For instance, they may have entered the U.S. illegally and therefore are not permitted to adjust their status in the U.S.
If those foreign nationals have more than 180 days of unlawful presence in the U.S. and leave the U.S. to apply for a green card at a U.S. Consulate abroad, then they will be prevented from returning to the U.S. for a period of years.
Form I-693 is the form that the U.S. government uses for required medical examinations. All foreign nationals who apply for a green card must complete and pass a required medical examination before their green card cases can be approved. A government-approved physician must perform your medical exam.
If foreign nationals are applying for their greens cards from outside of the United States then there often are just one or two designated doctors that are authorized to perform the medical exam to be provided to the U.S. Consulate.
What is Form I-751?
Form I-751 is used to petition to remove the conditions on a person’s green card status. One common example is when a foreign national who has been married for less than two years to U.S. citizen is approved for a green card. The person’s green card is issued conditionally for a period of two years. In the 90-day window immediately before the two-year green card expires the spouses must file a joint petition with supporting evidence to remove the conditions. There are possible waivers of the joint petition requirement in instances of divorce when there was a valid marriage, abuse, or extreme hardship.
Joint petitions, and particularly waivers of the joint filing requirement, can be complex. Again, it is strongly recommended to use qualified legal assistance.
What is Form I-765?
Form I-765 is used to apply for temporary work authorization. There are many different categories of eligibility for employment authorization. Generally, temporary work authorization is based on an underlying pending or approved application. For example, a foreign national that applies for a green card through the Adjustment of Status process can apply at the same time for temporary work authorization. If the work application is approved then USCIS will issue what is called an Employment Authorization Document,” or “EAD.”
What is Form I-797 and I-797C?
Form I-797 is form that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) sends as notice of approval of a petition or an application. It is called “Form I-797, Notice of Action.”
Form I-797C is a notice that USCIS sends to a petitioner or an applicant that has filed a case. USCIS uses the I-797C, Notice of Action to communicate certain information. The I-797C can be a receipt notice, a rejection notice, a transfer notice, a response to a motion to reopen, or an appointment notice. The appointment may be for biometrics (fingerprinting and photographing), for an interview, or for an interview rescheduling.
What is Form I-864 Affidavit of Support?
Form I-864 is a form that is used to demonstrate to the U.S. government that an intending immigrant that applies for a green card will not become a “public charge.”
Form I-864 is an affidavit of support that a financial sponsor completes on behalf of a green card applicant. A qualifying sponsor must show income and/or assets that are at least 125% of the poverty level as determined every year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Active-duty military sponsors need meet only a 100% threshold. To view the current poverty guidelines click here.