Preparing for a green card interview is just as crucial as submitting a properly completed application. Part of that preparation process entails not only knowing what type of questions will be asked but also furnishing the required necessary documents at the interview. Failure to bring necessary paperwork can not only delay a final decision in a case but also potentially result in a denial. Generally speaking, a couple should be prepared to show the originals of any copies that were submitted with the I-130 submission. For example, if the US Citizen spouse submitted a copy of his/her birth certificate as proof of US Citizenship, he or she should be ready to furnish the officer with the original if asked at the interview. In addition, parties to a marriage case should expect to provide documentary proof of their relationship.
Just last week, five applicants were reportedly picked up and arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") when they appeared for their immigration interviews with USCIS in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Apparently, three of them were scheduled to appear for interviews in connection with their applications for green cards. Although it is not entirely clear, the context appears to suggest that these were marriage based interviews. Not surprisingly, incidents like these have revived fear and paranoia within the undocumented community about being picked up at immigration interviews. And while it is not the intent of this piece to feed that hysteria, occurrences like these do underscore the importance of seeking proper legal advice from qualified and experienced professionals-not notarios or dabblers-before filing immigration paperwork with the government. Especially when it comes to those who have no status, it is critical to understand what can happen just as much as what will probably happen. Filing for status or permanent residency is not as easy as filling out a form, as if one were filing a tax return (which, in truth, can be equally complex).
The last few weeks have illuminated not only the volatile nature of immigration but also the perils of traveling as a green card holder. While lawful permanent residents enjoy a tremendous array of benefits and privileges that non-immigrants do not have-such as the legal ability to reside in the US indefinitely-permanent residence is still not equivalent to citizenship. Moreover, when a green card holder leaves the confines of the United States, he or she enjoys even less protection than what he/she had while staying inside the US. Most permanent residents understand that they are subject to inspection by Customs and Border Protection ("CBP"), just as US Citizens are, upon return from an international trip abroad. What they may not realize, though, is that in many cases, they are also-legally speaking-seeking "admission" into the US. Depending on an individual's circumstances and immigration history, a CBP officer may deem a green card holder "inadmissible" to the US, despite the fact that the person may hold a green card. If an officer arrives at this conclusion, legal proceedings may be instituted so that a person's legal residence is formally revoked or cancelled by an Immigration Judge. (Of course, the individual has a right to contest the matter in court.) Under the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA"), there are certain circumstances under which a lawful permanent resident will be deemed to making an application for admission into the US. They can be found at section INA 101(a)(13)(C) which references when an alien:
This past weekend, the nation was drawn into a firestorm of controversy over President Trump's divisive executive order titled "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States." The order, which went into effect immediately last Friday, instructed the Department of Homeland Security to suspend the admission and issuance of visas from nationals of seven designated countries putatively associated with terrorism risks, which opponents have characterized as a weakly veiled ban on Muslims. Apparently, due to the swiftness with which the resolution was passed, the agency charged with inspecting and admitting alien visitors-Customs and Border Protection (CBP)-was itself caught off guard. Not surprisingly, the implementation of the order caused a lot of legal snafus including the detention of refugees whose visas were already approved and who were already in transit to the US. Additionally, permanent residents or "green card" holders who were from those seven designated states were reportedly not admitted to the US or according to some, not even allowed to board planes to return to the US.
Until recently, most visitors to the United States used to be provided with an I-94 Arrival-Departure Record upon admission. The I-94 is a white card that is usually affixed to the passport and bears an entry date, class of admission, and date of stay expiration. In the last few years, the Department of Homeland Security has begun digitizing entry records. As a result, visitors are no longer furnished these little white cards, except under limited circumstances. Instead, Customs and Border Protection has automated the process so that most entries by land and sea are electronically recorded. Visitors will still get their passports stamped, but will no longer receive the white cards.
Unlike aliens accorded permanent residence without conditions, those who have been granted conditional two year green cards must file together with their spouses for the permanent "10 year green card." (This term itself is a misnomer, as the status is indefinite; however, the card itself will expire in 10 years.) Despite its importance, the I-751 application process can appear deceptively simple. However, it would be a mistake to underestimate or downplay how critical this application is in a permanent resident's life here. Denial of the application will, in most cases, automatically lead to the individual being placed into removal proceedings. Even in cases where there is no question that the marriage is a genuine one, an alien's status may be jeopardized by failing to file the form correctly. Besides procedural errors, such as mailing to the wrong address, not enclosing the proper filing fee, or having only the immigrant sign the application, perhaps the biggest mistake that we have seen by people make doing these cases by themselves is failing to follow the instructions. The instructions are nearly as important as the form itself, given that USCIS explicitly advises the applicant what is expected. This is also reflected by the sheer length of pages: the actual application is 11 pages; the instructions are 10.
We have noticed that there is still some confusion regarding the USCIS immigrant visa fee and where it is paid. Especially amongst the Gujarati Indian community (fostered through misunderstanding or sometimes through deliberate deception by "agents" not licensed to practice US immigration law), there is a misconception that the fee is paid in the immigrant's home country. This is not true. The USCIS Immigrant Visa Fee of $165 is paid online. After the applicant appears for the immigrant visa interview, he/she will be provided with an information sheet that details the mechanics of how the fee is paid. The handout will indicate the individual's alien registration number and Department of State Case ID, two numbers that are necessary to input when paying the fee. Before the immigrant immigrates to the United States, the immigrant visa fee should be paid by logging in online at www.uscis.gov/file-online. Fortunately, now, the procedure allows anyone to pay the fee, including attorneys, family members, friends, employers, etc.
The Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") issued an important precedential decision last month regarding sibling DNA test results. The decision is Matter of RUZKU, 26 I & N Dec. 731 (BIA 2016). The holding basically establishes that direct sibling DNA test results that indicate a 99.5 percent probability that the parties are related as siblings should be taken into consideration by USCIS and accorded proper weight. In the case at hand, USCIS declined, in accordance with its official policy, to give any evidential weight to a DNA test result submitted by the petitioner in support of his I-130 application for his sibling, even though the results indicated a 99.8114 percent probability that the parties were full biological siblings. The government memorandum which USCIS relied upon to support its decision states that USCIS may not afford any weight to sibling-to-sibling DNA test results and will only evaluate parent-child DNA results, which presumably are more reliable.
Here's the transcript to our latest video on Youtube. Many people are under the misimpression that despite a removal or deportation order, it is quite easy to fix one's status if married to a US Citizen. The reality, of course, is that these types of matters are much more complicated. Like everything in the law, everything is case and circumstance specific. Is the person still here in the US? Has the person already left the US? In the latter, a departure under an order will usually execute a ten year bar: in order for the individual to return to the US, even with an approved petition, he or she must usually request special permission on Form I-212 to return to the US before the expiration of the ten years. If the person has stayed in the US in violation of the order, things can get dicey: if ICE were to apprehend the person--who is, in essence, a fugitive--the government would normally just take steps to execute the order. On the other hand, depending on the circumstances, ie., an approved I-130 filed by an Immediate Relative, there may be an opportunity to reopen the court case, rescind the order, and possibly apply for relief.
Some foreign athletes who excel in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts ("MMA") may, depending on the strength of their accomplishments, potentially qualify for status here in the US. The O and P visas are temporary visas that authorize a practitioner to stay in the United States beyond what would be permitted on a typical tourist visa and more importantly, allow the person to work for a sponsor, which in this context, is usually a martial arts school or team. Depending on the person's credentials and sponsor, permanent residence may also be a viable path to pursue. Employment-based petitions generally fall into three major categories or "preferences." The category that is arguably the hardest to qualify under is the EB-1, or employment-based first preference, which is reserved for athletes of extraordinary ability. Individuals who are able to demonstrate extraordinary ability in their field of expertise, (whether it be Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Judo, MMA, etc.) through sustained national or international acclaim, may merit classification under this ground.