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Immigration Law Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find a list of 10 common asked questions about immigration. If there are other questions that you have and would like to know the answer please contact the immigration lawyers for more information.

  1. How long after becoming a permanent resident does it take to become a United States citizen? What are the requirements for naturalization?
  2. I would like to file a visa petition for my spouse. Want documents do I need to bring to the interview to prove a valid marriage?
  3. I was granted permanent residency based on my marriage to a citizen. There were conditions placed on my status. What does this mean?
  4. I entered the U.S. illegally several years ago and married a citizen last year. Am I eligible to apply for permanent resident status?
  5. What do I need to prove in order to obtain a visitor’s visa to the United States?
  6. I just realized that my green card expired. What do I do to obtain a new one?
  7. I am a naturalized citizen. Is there any way my citizenship can be taken away from me?
  8. Is there any new immigration reform that has been made into law? How will the new immigration law affect me?
  9. I would like to travel outside the United States. Do I need to apply for advance parole before leaving the country?
  10. I obtained permanent residency based on my marriage to a U.S. citizen. We are now divorced. Can my green card be taken away from me or cancelled?

How long after becoming a permanent resident does it take to become a United States citizen? What are the requirements for naturalization?

First, all applicants for U.S. Citizenship must be at least 18 years old. Second, a person is eligible to apply for citizenship if he or she has been lawfully admitted for permanent residence.
The Applicant must prove that he or she has continuously resided as a lawful permanent resident in the United States for at least five years prior to filing for citizenship. Marriage-based petitions are an exception to the five year requirement and such applicants may apply for citizenship after three years.
The Applicant must also prove that s/he has been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the previous 60 months. (i.e. the 30/60 rule). The Applicant must prove s/he has been a person of good moral character for the statutory period. Generally, the statutory period is five years. The statutory period is three years for person’s who obtained permanent residence through a marriage-based petition. The prospective citizen must have an ability to read, write and speak ordinary English, and have an understanding of basic U.S. history and government.

I would like to file a visa petition for my spouse. Want documents do I need to bring to the interview to prove a valid marriage?

You can prove the validity of your marriage with many different types of documents. For example, your U.S. Federal Income Tax Return should show either ‘married filing jointly’ or ‘married filing separately.’ Other examples include a lease agreement with both your names on it; new joint bank account statements; notarized affidavits from friends and relatives; letters and/or cards addressed to you as husband and wife; proof of vacations taken together, and junk mail addressed to you both. USCIS will want to see evidence of cohabitation, evidence of jointly held assets, jointly filed income tax returns, and other evidence which will tend to show that you married your spouse for love, and not solely to get your green card.

I was granted permanent residency based on my marriage to a citizen. There were conditions placed on my status. What does this mean?

You are a permanent resident on a conditional basis. This means that your residency was granted to you less than two years after the date of your marriage. Your residency expires two years from the date it was given to you. You will need to file for removal of these conditions 90 days prior to the expiration of your residency status. To do this, you will need to show that you are still married and are in a bona fide marriage.

I entered the U.S. illegally several years ago and married a citizen last year. Am I eligible to apply for permanent resident status?

Adjustment of status occurs in the United States after an individual has been inspected and admitted or paroled by presenting her/himself for inspection. A Form I-130 petition and a Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, can be filed simultaneously only where it is for an immediate relative. Obtaining your “green card” in the U.S. can only take place if you entered the country with a valid visa. If you did not you will have to apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate abroad. You will also have to submit a waiver showing extreme hardship to your spouse if you were forced to remain outside the U.S.

What do I need to prove in order to obtain a visitor’s visa to the United States?

There are several issues that affect whether a visitor visa will be given to an applicant. Everyone applying for a visitor visa is presumed to want to immigrate to the USA on a permanent basis. In order to rebut this presumption a person has to provide evidence that they will return to their home country prior to the expiration of their visa. This might include proof that you were invited to visit for a short vacation based on a letter in affidavit form from a friend or family member in the U.S. Also, besides establishing the reasons for the visit, you will also need to prove that you have every reason to return to your home when the purpose of your trip is accomplished. This might include evidence of employment that you will be returning to. Bank accounts, evidence of relatives in your home country, and ownership of property in your home country are all examples of facts that you may want to provide.

I just realized that my green card expired. What do I do to obtain a new one?

First, you should not travel with an expired green card. You will also need to file an application to replace your green card. This will be done on Form I-90. You will not lose your permanent resident status if you do not renew your Green Card nor will your permanent resident status will not expire or change. However, you are required by law to carry evidence of your status and it is best to apply for a new green card as soon as possible.

I am a naturalized citizen. Is there any way my citizenship can be taken away from me?

Yes. If within two years of becoming a citizen the USCIS finds that the person acquired citizenship through misrepresentation, then administrative revocation can take place. If the time limit of two years has expired the government must file suit in federal court to have the person “denaturalized.” However, the chances of this ever happening are very small.

Is there any new immigration reform that has been made into law? How will the new immigration law affect me?

As of May 25, 2006, both the Senate and the House of Representatives have passed immigration reform bills. The Senate passed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 (S. 2611) on which May 25, 2006 while the House passed the The Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 (H.R. 4437) on which December 16, 2005. Both bills vastly differ from each other in terms of content and law. The bill passed in the Senate encompasses a greater part of immigration benefits issues, while the bill passed in the House focused mainly on protection and security.
In order for any immigration reform bill to be made into law, a conference committee formed of both Senators and Representatives will convene to create one bill based on compromises. After one bill is drafted, both the Senate and the House will vote on it, if passed in both the Senate and the House, the bill will be sent to the President who can then either sign it into law or reject it. Currently there is no schedule set for the conference committee or vote date on the bill.

I would like to travel outside the United States. Do I need to apply for advance parole before leaving the country?

There are certain classes of people who need to obtain advance parole before leaving the U.S. They include aliens in the United States who wish to travel abroad but have:

  • An application for adjustment of status pending;
  • Been admitted as a refugee or have been granted asylum;
  • Been granted benefits under the Family Unity Program;
  • Been granted Temporary Protected Status;
  • An asylum application pending; and/or
  • An emergent personal or bona fide reason to travel temporarily abroad.

The purpose of advance parole is that it enables an alien to come back to the U.S. after traveling abroad without the necessity of obtaining a visa to the U.S., and it preserves whatever application the alien has pending with the USCIS.

I obtained permanent residency based on my marriage to a U.S. citizen. We are now divorced. Can my green card be taken away from me or cancelled?

It depends. If your status is that of a conditional permanent resident, and your marriage has been terminated, it is possible for the alien to obtain a waiver of the termination. A waiver of the termination is granted to the alien if the alien can show that the marriage was a union in good faith and the alien was not at fault for his failure to file the joint petition to remove the condition. Generally speaking, if the conditional permanent resident can show that the marriage was entered into in good faith, it is presumed that he was not at fault for failing to file a joint petition. Divorce does not adversely affect an alien’s immigration status after the alien obtains permanent residence unconditionally.

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