Green Card Process Made Easier

December 1, 2011 § 3 Comments

The House of Representatives passed a bill that made a minor adjustment to the visa system to allow more highly skilled immigrants from India and China to become legal permanent residents.  The bill was passed through by a vote of 389 to 15. Sponsors were several Democrats who are outspoken liberals on immigration. The bill does not address illegal immigration and it does not add any new visas to the system, which many Republicans are reluctant to do.

The bill seemed likely to pass easily in the Senate. The main impact will be to reduce visa backlogs, for example, some Indians having science or technology skills who were approved recently for permanent residency (green card) have to face waits of 70 years before they would actually receive the documents.  The bill eliminates restrictions on the number of green cards based on employment that is made available annually to each country. At present, there are 140,000 green cards available every year for immigrants based on their job skills, with each country limited to 7 percent of those visas. Per the bill, after a three-year transition, all employment-based green cards will be issued on a first-come-first-served basis, without any country limits.

The legislation also includes a measure that will more than double the green cards based on family ties available for Mexicans and Filipinos, the two countries facing the longest backlogs on the family side of the system. It raises the limit for 226,000 family green cards each year to 15 percent from the current 7 percent.

The main beneficiaries will be highly skilled immigrants from India and China, including many with master’s degrees and doctorates in science and engineering. Because they come from populous countries that send many people to work here who have advanced science and technology skills, immigrants from those two countries had been forced by the country limits into lines that were many years long and growing much longer.

Indians and Chinese who will now receive their green cards more quickly have been working in the US for years on temporary visas. The immigrants and their employers have passed labor market tests showing that qualified Americans were not available for jobs they hold.

American technology companies have been clamoring to offer more green cards for their foreign employees, arguing that the US was losing out in global competition by forcing those immigrants to leave. Some countries will lose under the legislation. During the next three years, many more employment green cards will be set aside for Indians and Chinese than for others languishing in backlogs, particularly Filipinos and South Koreans.  And because the law would add no new visas, backlogs would be redistributed but not eliminated. The wait in the most severely clogged employment visa categories will even out over time to 12 years for all countries.

Get a Green Card By Marrying a US Citizen

October 30, 2011 § 1 Comment

US citizens who get married to foreign nationals can petition them to obtain permanent residence in the US. Spouses of US citizens are termed as “immediate relatives” and are exempt from all numerical quota limitations. Getting a green card through marriage to a US citizen is the fastest way to getting a green card. Battered spouses and children of US citizens or green card holders can get special benefits per US immigration laws. A US citizen can also get a temporary visa for his/her fiancé(e) and get married once he/she arrives in the US.

Marriage in the US:

To get started, you, the US citizen have to submit a visa petition through Form I-130. You have to also include Forms G-325 (Biographical forms) for both the husband and wife. In addition, attach proof of your citizenship (US Passport, a Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship or a certified copy of the citizen’s birth certificate). Do not forget to include a certified copy of the marriage certificate and certified copies of the documents if previous marriages were terminated (including final divorce decrees, and certificates of annulment or death.)

The foreign national spouse is required to submit an application for adjustment of status (Form I-485) with the USCIS. After receiving and reviewing your application, the USCIS will notify to appear for an interview within a few months.

Marriage outside the US:

Per previous laws, the foreign national spouse had to remain in his/her country until he/she obtained a green card. But after August 14, 2001, temporary K-3 and K-4 visas became available and this helped the spouse and children of US citizens to get temporary visas to come to the US and then process the paperwork in the US.

You, the US citizen spouse have to file a visa petition either to the USCIS office which has jurisdiction over your residence or directly to the US Embassy or Consulate in the country where your foreign national spouse resides. As soon as the visa petition is approved, your foreign national spouse will receive a package from the National Visa Center (NVC). This package will have detailed information about the documents that has to be presented at the immigrant visa interview abroad (passport, police clearances, medical examination results, etc.). It will also contain certain documents requesting biographic data that has to be completed, signed and forwarded to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. Generally, your foreign national spouse will be interviewed and issued an immigrant visa within three to six months. The State Department charges a fee to issue an immigrant visa.

Conditional Residence:

The conditional resident card that is issued is valid for two years. Both you and your spouse are required to file a joint petition (Form I-751) to remove the two-year condition. Remember to file it within the 90-day period before the end of the two year period. If your marriage was terminated due to divorce, death of the citizen spouse or spousal abuse, the foreign national spouse can qualify for and may apply for a waiver of the joint petition requirement at any time before the end of the two-year period. Once the USCIS approves your petition, they will issue a permanent resident card with a ten year validity.

Adjusting Status in the US

October 15, 2011 § 4 Comments

If you are outside the US and planning to immigrate to the US, you have to go through consular processing at the US Consulate your country. If you are already in the US legally and eligible to apply for a green card based on being sponsored by an employer or family member or based on holding asylee or refugee status, you have to file Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status to Permanent Resident with the USCIS.

Who can apply?

You will qualify to file this form if you are in the US and have an approved immigrant petition. In plain terms, adjustment of status is the process where a foreign national applies for a green card while being in the US. Unless you are applying in a classification for which visa numbers are always available, you must have a “current” Priority Date in order to be eligible to file. Priority date refers to the date you filed the immigrant petition. If you are applying based on being married to a US citizen, the parent or child may also qualify file the application to adjust status to a green card holder at the same time the immigrant petition is filed.

You may also file to adjust status to a green card holder if you are an individual who held asylee or refugee status for one year or more. It is important to note that if you are outside the US, you will not be eligible to file to adjust status to a permanent resident. In such cases, you have to apply for an immigrant visa at a US consulate in your country. Cuban nationals requesting a change in the date their permanent residence began in the US can also file Form I- 485.

The process:

You need to file Forms I 485 with the necessary supporting documents and the submission fees with the USCIS service center that serves your area. If you are 79 years of age or older, you need not pay the biometric fee. If you are filing this form based on being admitted to the US as a refugee, then you need not pay any fee. After reviewing and processing, if your I-485 for green card application is rejected, the USCIS will notify you through a letter that will tell you why the application was denied.

If you are not in a legal status in the US, the process to remove you from the country will begin as soon as your application is rejected. Under such instances, you can have an immigration judge review the denial of your application during removal proceedings. During this review, immigration officials are required to justify and prove that the information on your I 485 application were false and that your application was rightly denied. After this review, if the judge decides to remove you from the country, you can still appeal this decision. You can appeal within 33 days after the immigration judge passed the judgment to get you removed from the country. The appeal will then be referred to the Board of Immigration Appeals after your appeal form and the required fee are processed.

Things to Keep in Mind While Applying for Citizenship

February 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Eligibility:

You have to fulfill certain requirements in order to qualify for citizenship. You have

– To be 18 years or older.

– To be a permanent resident (Green Card holder) at present and during all of the past 5 years.

– Resided in the US for a continuous period prior to the filing the citizenship application. If you are not married to a US citizen, you should have resided in the US for a continuous period of 5 years after coming to the US as a lawful permanent resident (green card holder). Whereas, if you are married to a US citizen, you should have resided in the US for a continuous period of 3 years after admission to the US as a green card holder.

– Met continuous residence requirement. If married to a US citizen, you must have been physically present in the US for 18 months accumulatively within 3 years prior to the date of applying for US citizenship. If you are not married to a US citizen, you should have been physically present in the US accumulatively for 30 months within 5 years before the date of filing the US citizenship application. This requirement is not continuous but cumulative. You can leave and enter the U.S within the 3 or 5 years as much as you want as long as you do not break the continuity, and as long as your total time spent in the US adds up to 18 or 30 months respectively.

– Resided in your current state for at least 3 months before filing the citizenship application. Current state is the state where you are filing the citizenship application.

– Not broken any US immigration law and that you have not been ordered to leave the US.

– Not been a member of the Communist Party any time during the past 10 years.

– At least 5 years of good moral character and that you believe in the principles of the US constitution.

– The ability to speak, read and write simple English and that you can pass the test on US history and government.

– To take an oath of allegiance to the US.

Preparing the Citizenship Application:

If you meet all the eligibility requirements mentioned above, the next step is to apply for Citizenship. You have to mail the citizenship application along with photos, fees and supporting documents to the USCIS. You will then receive a letter of appointment from the USCIS for fingerprinting. Wait till you receive a letter of appointment from the USCIS for your interview. The USCIS will send a letter (Notice of Action) to you, mentioning the date, time and location of the appointment. You will be required to take the Civics and English Language tests which is done to test your knowledge of English Language, US history and of the US government. If all goes well, you will be called to take the Oath and receive your Certificate of Naturalization.

If you miss the Oath Ceremony, you should return the Form N-445, the “Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony”, to your local USCIS office. While returning the form, you should also include a letter explaining why you were not able to make it to the scheduled ceremony. The USCIS will then reschedule your Oath Ceremony date and will mail you a new Form N-445 (Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony).

How to Immigrate to the US

February 2, 2011 § 2 Comments

Why immigrate to the US?

Immigration can be defined as entering and staying in a country to which you are not a native. The United States of America, the land of immigrants and opportunities enjoys the benefit as no other country does in terms of immigration. Immigration plays an important role in the economy of the US.

Through immigration, one gets the opportunity to live and work in the US, whereas from the country’s point of view, the financial benefits out of immigration are remarkable. It is indeed a win-win situation for both the immigrant and for the country.

Getting a visa, sponsored by relatives for a green card or obtaining a green card through one’s own eligibility are commonly used immigration procedures. One can enter the United States through an immigrant visa or a non-immigrant visa. Non-immigrant visas are meant for temporary visits to the U.S. (tourism, study, or work). Immigrant visas are for Permanent Residence in the U.S.

Once you enter the US through a visa, you can adjust your status to that of a green card holder (permanent resident) depending on a few conditions for visa holders who come under certain categories. After becoming a green card holder, you become eligible for citizenship.

Being a permanent resident or a citizen of the US has its own advantages. Green card is a proof of lawful permanent residence status in the United States. Green card holders can live and work permanently in the US. A US citizen, on the other hand can enter and exit the US at any time and also becomes eligible to vote. There are other benefits as well.

The US immigration process becomes easier if the authorities are fully satisfied with the intention of your visit to the US. An important aspect is to ensure you enter the US legally. It means if you entered the US with the permission of the US authorities, you have entered legally and it will certainly help in a trouble-free stay in the US. Those who did not get permission to enter the US are the ones who have entered illegally. This surely will cause problems in their work and stay in the US. The US immigration laws make things very difficult for such illegals to get a green card. So it is always recommended to enter the US legally.

There are many ways through which one can get a green card. One such way is through family sponsorship where a family member of yours who is a US citizen or a green card holder sponsors you. You can also get a green card through employment where a qualified US employer sponsors you. The diversity visa lottery (DV lottery program) is another way to get a green card. In this program, approximately 55,000 immigration applicants will be selected randomly to get a green card. Additionally, a person granted Refugee Status or Asylum may also apply for a Green Card but is subject to US immigration laws that differ accordingly.

After you become a green card holder, you can bring your family members come to the US. It also brings you closer to citizenship as being a green card holder is the main eligibility criteria for citizenship.

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