How to immigrate into the United States legally from abroad.

Immigration into the United States from abroad is a detailed and lengthy process that begins long before entering the country. The first step in the immigration process involves determining the foreign national’s potential eligibility to immigrate the U.S.  There must be an applicable U.S. immigration category that applies to the foreign national. The foreign national must also be eligible to immigrate based on his or her background and circumstances.

Many factors need to be considered. It is important that an experienced immigration attorney closely examine what the foreign national’s best options are. That also includes what difficulties may be encountered during the application process, based on evaluating the applicant’s history.

There are many reasons for a foreign national to be ineligible to immigrate to the U.S. Persons can be ineligible to immigrate to the U.S. because of issues such as criminality, health issues, security concerns, public charge and financial support issues, category of admission or parole into the U.S., illegal entries to and/or unlawful presence in the U.S., and on many other grounds. If any of those reasons might apply in your case then you need to discuss them with your immigration lawyer.

If you will be applying to immigrate from outside of the United States based upon a recognized family relationship, then the first step in this process starts by having the family member submit a petition for you. Heavily laden with legal terminology, these petitions can be difficult to navigate without proper guidance from an experienced immigration law attorney. The petition is generally submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within the United States. Petitions sometimes can be submitted to USCIS offices that are located outside of the U.S.

Only if the United States government approves the petition are you able to then apply for an immigrant visa (green card) to the United States. This is done at the U.S. Consulate that is usually located in your home country. Immigrant visas to the United States can be issued under different circumstances and titles, but generally, are issued under family-based categories or for employment purposes.

Throughout the process, you’ll need to prepare and submit government forms and required supporting documents. Completing this process precisely is pivotal to being able to advance to the entrance interview at the U.S. Consulate. Employing an experienced immigration law firm will help you to complete this process correctly from start to finish.

Another legal process that certain eligible foreign nationals can use to immigrate to the United States is called “Adjustment of Status.” Adjustment of Status is the process by which a nonimmigrant in the United States applies to become an immigrant from inside the United States. An immigration lawyer can help you determine if you are eligible for Adjustment of Status. Foreign nationals who apply for Adjustment of Status do not have to return to their home country to apply at the U.S. Consulate there. Instead, eligible applicants file their green card cases in the United States and undergo their personal interviews in the United States. Their cases are approved within the United States if their cases are meritorious. Adjustment of status can be a convenient option if the person is eligible for it. For example, in marriage cases it can mean that married couples avoid being separated for long periods of time during the foreign national spouse’s immigration process.

Applicants for Adjustment of Status generally must have been inspected and admitted by U.S. immigration authorities before entering the U.S., or paroled into the U.S. There are some exceptions under section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to the requirement of the foreign national having been admitted or paroled. A foreign national must also be the beneficiary of a petition that a qualified family member or a U.S. employer has filed, unless the foreign national is applying in one of the few categories that permit self-petitions.

Most of the steps involved in immigrating to the United States from abroad take place prior to entering the United States, and Adjustment of Status inside the United States may also lead to a green card. However, naturalization generally does not occur until years after the legal green card holder has been living in the United States. Naturalization is the path that a foreign citizen completes in order to become a full U.S. citizen.

Eligibility requirements to be able to apply for naturalization vary but generally involve 5 years of being a legal green card holder in the country and a shorter waiting period of 3 years for green card holders that are the spouses of U.S. citizens. To be eligible for the 3-year period, the green card holder must have been married and living with their U.S. citizen spouse for the last 3 years and the U.S. citizen must have been a U.S. citizen for at least 3 years. However U.S. immigration law does not require that the permanent resident had received his or her green card through marriage to the U.S. citizen. For example, a foreign national could have been granted a green card through employment. The naturalization period for green card holders through employment is 5 years. But if that green card holder married a U.S. citizen then she would be eligible to apply for naturalization after 3 years of marriage and living together with her U.S. citizen spouse. Naturalization applicants may apply up to 90 days before their applicable 3-year or their 5-year requirement has been reached.

Again, this is a process that is most thoroughly completed with the assistance of an experienced immigration law attorney. A detailed and lengthy application for naturalization must be submitted to the United States government. A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer will eventually conduct a personal interview in San Diego with an applicant that lives in San Diego County. The interview is an administrative hearing that the USCIS officer conducts under oath under penalty of perjury for untruthful answers or misrepresentations of an applicant. It is important to have an experienced immigration lawyer represent you at your government interview in San Diego to protect your legal rights and interests.

One of the many requirements for U.S. citizenship is that the naturalization applicant must demonstrate to the United States government that he or she is a person of “good moral character.” Certain crimes and other actions may prevent a naturalization applicant from establishing good moral character. Crimes such as driving under the influence (DUI), failure to pay required taxes, failure to pay required child support and many other issues that commonly arise require close analysis from an experienced immigration lawyer before a naturalization application is submitted to the U.S. government. Being convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude can be a problem. The immigration lawyer should assess whether the foreign national has any such issues to consider and how best to deal with potential eligibility issues in a client’s past.

An experienced immigration lawyer will also analyze if you might be at risk of being deported from the United States instead of being granted United States citizenship if you apply for naturalization. The U.S. government fingerprints and conducts extensive background checks upon all naturalization applicants. Certain crimes and other actions can make a foreign national, even a green card holder, deportable from the United States. Because of the extensive requirements for eligibility and because there is more than one route to meeting those requirements for naturalization, seeking assistance from an experienced immigration lawyer in San Diego is the best way to evaluate all of your options.