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Immigration FAQ’s


  • The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) suspended all in-person services for the first three months of the pandemic before slowly reopening some offices.
  • USCIS temporarily halted biometrics appointments and naturalization oath ceremonies and postponed interviews for all immigration and asylum applications.
  • USCIS made several technical changes to the H-2A and H-2B processes so that temporary workers that are helping the U.S food supply remain stable can stay in the country throughout the pandemic.
  • The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has limited enforcement actions to prioritize public safety risks or people who could be detained on criminal grounds.
  • The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) suspended all non-detained immigration court hearing. Still, hearings continue for detained immigrants and unaccompanied children. EOIR began reopening some courts in June for individual hearings.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a new emergency rule regarding entry to the country. The regulation allows the Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to prevent people from entering the U.S. if they pose a serious threat of introducing COVID-19.
  • The Border Patrol began turning away people arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border without allowing them to seek asylum.
  • Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) hearings for asylum seekers sent to Mexico from the border have been suspended indefinitely.
  • In January 2017, the administration issued an executive order that made most unauthorized immigrants a priority for arrest. Arrests of noncriminal immigrants more than doubled as a result.
  • In September 2017, the administration stopped accepting new applicants for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States as children.
  • In 2019 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) instituted several related policies that significantly limited asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. These policies included:
    • Making migrants ineligible for asylum if they did not apply for asylum from other countries on their way to the U.S.
    • Asylum Cooperation Agreements with Central American countries allowing the United States to send asylum seekers abroad
    • Increasing Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) that require asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their adjudications.
  • In early 2020, the administration assigned 100 Border Patrol agents and 500 ICE security investigations officers to ten “sanctuary” jurisdictions. It also began 24-hour-a-day surveillance of the homes and workplaces of unauthorized immigrants.
  • The administration has instituted policies making it more difficult for non-Americans to legally enter the country temporarily or permanently through green cards and visas. As a result, fewer people applied.
  • For Fiscal Year 2020, the administration lowered the maximum number of refugees admissions for the year to 18,000.

Deportation (also known as removal) is the formal removal for violating U.S. immigration law. The U.S. can deport foreign nationals who commit crimes, threaten public safety, violate or overstay their visas, or enter or remain in the country without legal documentation.

Every person in immigration removal proceedings has a right to be defended by an attorney at their own expense. People who would otherwise be deportable may be eligible for various forms of relief that can allow them to remain in the country.

 

Some examples of available relief include:

  • Cancellation of Removal
  • Deferred Action
  • Prosecutorial Discretion
  • Asylum or Withholding of Removal
  • Waivers
  • Adjustment of Status
  • U-Visa Status
  • Temporary Protected Status
  • Administrative Closure

Even if you have a legitimate marriage, your UCSIS can deny your green card application based on marriage.

 

Some common problems people encounter include:

 

  • The marriage was not being legally recognized in the country of marriage (i.e., same-sex couples, interfaith marriages)
  • One spouse’s divorce wasn’t finalized at the time of the wedding.
  • Insufficient evidence of the authenticity of your marriage and life together.
  • The applying spouse is not eligible to request a green card from inside the United States.
  • The applying spouse is not eligible for a green card based on their criminal history, medical issues, or misrepresentation on immigration forms.
  • The sponsoring spouse does not earn at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Level.
  • Failing to provide translations of non-English documents.
  • Omitting information that the application forms request.
  • Not submitting passport-style photos that meet government requirements.
  • Not paying fees in full.
  • Omitting signatures.

If you’re a non-citizen who has applied and is waiting to receive a green card, you cannot legally work in the U.S. However, you can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), also called an Employment Authorization Card or Form I-766. An EAD allows you to work while waiting for your green card. To request an EAD, you must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with UCIS and DHS.

USCIS may consider your application to be abandoned if you leave the U.S. while your green card application is processing. You can submit Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, to request permission to travel if you need to temporarily leave the United States while your green card is pending.

 

If you receive a travel document, you can technically travel outside the U.S. for as long as you have the travel document, which is valid for one year plus renewals. However, you’ll need to be in the U.S. to attend your fingerprinting and green card interview appointments for you to receive your green card.

10-Year Cancellation of Removal can allow you to stop deportation and receive a green card if you satisfy all of the following requirements:

 

  • You’ve lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years without returning to your home country for more than three months at a time.
  • You have good moral character.
  • You don’t have any criminal convictions that would make you ineligible for a green card.
  • You have a parent, spouse, or a child who is a green card holder or U.S. citizen.
  • Your deportation would cause them a much more significant hardship than what a typical family would experience (exceptional and extremely unusual hardship).

 

As with most immigration cases, the courts have a large backlog of cases, so it may take quite a while for you to receive a decision. The timing will vary based on your location, your judge, and a variety of other factors.

When a U.S. citizen sponsoring a family member’s visa petition passes away before the applicant has entered the U.S., the petition is automatically revoked. This means that the consular officer cannot issue the visa.

 

The consular office will return the petition to DHS. The applicant or consular office can request that the DHS office that approved the petition reinstate it for humanitarian reasons. If DHS agrees to reinstate the petition, the consular officer will contact the applicant to move forward.

 

If an interview is scheduled, you cannot move forward by providing documents from an alternate sponsor on the day of the interview. The consular office cannot proceed with the case until DHS advises that the petition has been reinstated.

The first step in helping your relative apply for a green card is to submit Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. Once UCSIS approves Form I-130, your family member can then apply for a green card.

 

How long the process takes depends on the category of relative you are sponsoring. Your relative does not have to wait for an immigrant visa if you are a U.S. citizen and they qualify as your immediate relative.

 

Immediate relatives include:

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens.
  • Unmarried children of U.S. citizens under 21.
  • Parents of U.S. citizens who are at least 21.

 

Other eligible relatives have to wait until a visa number is available before applying, which can take years.

If you’re a permanent resident in the U.S. who has filed a Form I-130 petition for an unmarried child, there will likely be a long wait for the green card to be issued.

 

However, if your child gets married before the green card is issued, USCIS will automatically revoke the petition. There is no visa category for married children of permanent residents. If you become a U.S. citizen, you can file another petition for your married child.

In most cases, USCIS will schedule your biometrics appointment at a USCIS-authorized Application Support Center (ASC). Once you arrive at the ASC, you may be given a number showing your place in line, or you might have to fill out a short form with your personal information. An employee will call your name or number when it’s your turn.

 

During the appointment, someone will record your fingerprints, take your photo, and electronically capture your signature. The actual process usually takes about 20 minutes, but you will likely have to wait a while after you arrive.

 

At the end of your appointment, you will receive a stamp on your appointment notice verifying your attendance. Make sure to keep this document as evidence that you completed the appointment.

The Department of State suspended routine consular processing of visas worldwide in March 2020. However, embassies and consulates continued to provide emergency and mission-critical visa services.

 

In July 2020, some embassies and consulates began to offer routine visa services again. The resumption of standard services has continued on a post-by-post basis. The Department of State is currently are unable to provide specific dates for when each location will resume specific visa services. You can check your U.S. embassy or consulate’s website for more information regarding its current operating status.

On November 14, 2020, a federal court ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to reinstate the DACA policy that was in effect on September 4, 2017. DHS complied with this effective December 7, 2020.

 

This means that current DACA recipients can continue to submit renewal applications, and new Dreamers can start to apply for DACA again.

In response to the recent court order as of December 7, 2020, initial DACA applications will be considered.

 

However, the applicant needs to meet the following guidelines:

1. Have resided in the U.S since June 15, 2007 to the present time 
2. Had come to the U.S before your 16th birthday 
3. You were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012 
4. You are currently in school, graduated or obtained your certificate of completion from high school. 
5. Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors. 
6. You were present in the U.S on June 15, 2012 and the time you submit your application with USCIS.

 

Additionally, your employment authorization card will be granted for two years.

To become a U.S. citizen, you must meet all of the following requirements:

  • You must be 18 years of age or older.
  • You must have possessed a green card for at least five years, or three years if you are married to a U.S citizen.
  • You must have maintained a residence in the U.S. for at least five continuous years, or three years if you are married to a United States citizen, and have been physically present in the U.S. for at least half of that time.
  • You must read, write, and speak basic English (exceptions to this requirement are available).
  • You must understand the fundamentals of U.S. history and government. (exceptions to this requirement are available).
  • You must have “good moral character.”
  • You must swear an oath of loyalty to the U.S. and support the U.S. Constitution and form of government.

The process for applying for a green card from within the U.S. is called Adjustment of Status. After you submit your application, USCIS will mail you a date, time, and location for your biometrics appointment.

 

You may also have to attend an in-person interview, provide further evidence, or participate in a follow-up interview. USCIS will eventually send you a decision either granting or denying your application.

 

The processing time for your application varies depending on your circumstances and location. COVID-19 has significantly extended wait times in most cases. You can check the current processing times for your USCIS office here: Check Case Processing Times.