Articles Posted in Family Immigration

Beginning on February 24th, 2020, most non-citizens applying for a greencard have been subject to a dramatic change in the Public Charge Rule.  This change is going to present an additional burden on those seeking a greencard, including the need to fill out and submit a new form, the need to present additional evidence, and the potential need for a joint sponsor.  It will also increase the number of greencard denials.

What is the Public Charge Rule?

Section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act makes any person likely to become a public charge inadmissible.  The applicant has the burden of proof.  This means that most applicants for greencards must prove to the government that you are not likely to become a public charge.  In the past, it was usually enough to submit an I-864, Affidavit of Support from the Petitioner (U.S. citizen spouse, parent, etc.) along with tax returns showing that the Petitioner made 125% of the federal poverty level.  This is no longer the case.  Now, the government requires a completely new form, Form I-944 to be filed by the applicant, along with new additional evidence.

There are countless blossoming romances happening right now all around the world.  Many of those relationships involve couples who have large age differences, religious differences, cultural differences, and more.  Often, U.S. citizens fall in love with and marry people from other countries.  The process of obtaining a greencard (officially known as a Lawful Permanent Resident card) for that spouse should be easy.  But it’s not.  Even if the marriage is clearly real, the non-citizen spouse can be denied a greencard if you do not submit sufficient evidence that the marriage is real.

What do I have to prove in order to get my non-citizen spouse a greencard?

The process is different depending on your circumstances (i.e. is your spouse in the country or out of country), but one thing is always required.  If you are filing a petition with USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) to establish your relationship to your spouse, you will have to prove that the marriage is “bona fide.”  In other words, you have to prove that your marriage is real.  It was not entered into for the sole purpose of evading the immigration laws.  This doesn’t mean that a couple can’t decide to get married earlier than they normally would so they aren’t separated when the non-citizen has to leave the country.  It simply means that two people can’t get married solely so the non-citizen can stay in the U.S. when they do not intend to live as husband and wife.

Orlando immigration attorneys and Jacksonville immigration attorneys know the frustration of the Infopass system.  Appointments are few and far between.  When an appointment becomes available, there is a mad rush to reserve your spot.  Clients often get frustrated that an appointment cannot be made more quickly. And once an appointment is finally made, the answers are often not very useful.

There are few agencies that are more tightly wound in red tape than the United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS).  You can’t just pick up a phone and give them a call.  You can’t simply drop in and ask a question.  There is a process.  Not a very good process.  But there is a process.  If you have a question about your pending application or petition, you can set what is called an “Infopass appointment.”  An Infopass appointment is the vehicle you can use to get answers to your questions.  Unfortunately, you will often get vague or conflicting answers, but sometimes these appointments can be very helpful.

The most common use of the Infopass appointment is to answer the question, “What is taking so long on my application or petition?”  Customers often ask when a decision will be made.  Sometimes, simply having the Infopass appointment can jog the case the loose and get it back in line for a decision.  The adjudicator who you meet with at the Infopass appointment won’t be the adjudicator that decides your case, but they often can look up the status in the system, see where the file is, determine where in the process the case is, and offer other useful information.

Congratulations! You recently got married and your new spouse is a U.S. citizen, but you are not. One of the first questions on your mind may be: how do I get my green card now that I am married to a citizen? The answer could be fairly simple—or quite complex. No matter what your situation, if you marry a U.S. citizen and want to adjust your status (become a lawful permanent resident) go see an experienced and trusted immigration attorney for a consultation.

Many experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorneys may charge you a nominal fee for the consultation, but it is definitely worth it. Remember the old saying, “you get what you pay for,” well that is usually the case with free advice from attorneys. An attorney who charges you a consultation fee will likely spend more time preparing for and with you during the consultation. An attorney who gives you a free consultation may not want to spend anymore time with you or talking to you then they have too, remember, an attorney’s time and knowledge is their money.

Now back to how to try and get your green card now that you are married to a U.S. citizen. My guidance will start with the premise that you and your new spouse married for love and not solely for an immigration benefit—this is not a “how to engage in marriage fraud” piece. Still, be sure to document your new life together, or as we say in the field, gather evidence that you have “co-mingled” your lives. That means if you have not already open a joint bank account that you will put money into and use for marital expenses, do it now. Add each other to car insurance, life insurance, health, dental, vision insurance and retirement accounts. If you buy a house or apartment or condo, make sure both of your names are on the deed and mortgage. If you rent, make sure your existing lease is amended to add your spouse and any new lease has both of your names on it. Add your spouse to your credit cards or open new ones in both names. If you have utility, cable, and cell phone bills, add your spouse’s name. Every piece of paper, bill, or invoice that you can produce, post-marriage, that has both of your names and your marital address on it, will go a long way to convincing the immigration officers that your marriage is real and not solely for immigration purposes.

This is a very common question we receive all the time, “How do I get my fiancé a visa to come to the United States?” Should my fiancé come over on a visitor visa and then we will get married? Should I file a fiancé visa for her to come over and then we get married? These are all very good questions, and the answers very much depend on the facts surrounding each case.

Lets start with a brief overview of United States visas available for domestic relationships. If a U.S. citizen is married to someone who is not a citizen, the U.S. citizen can file an I-130 Petition for their spouse, which if approved, will provide the spouse with a visa and an opportunity to apply for a green card immediately. If a lawful permanent resident is married to someone who is not a citizen or lawful permanent resident, the process is the same, but once the I-130 is approved, there will be a wait of potentially several years before the spouse can apply for their green card.

If you are a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. and your fiancé lives in another country, sorry but you are out of luck. There is no visa available for the fiancé of a lawful permanent resident. You will either to apply to become a citizen and then file for a fiancé visa, or you will have to get married before you file the I-130 for your spouse.

If you receive your 2-year green card through your spouse, then it is VERY IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER, that 90 days before the expiration of the your card (90 days short of your 2-year anniversary of getting your card) you can file an I-751 Petition. You have until the expiration of your card to file that I-751. If you fail to file the I-751, for any reason, USCIS will terminate your conditional permanent resident status and likely issue you a Notice to Appear (NTA) to go to immigration court and prove why you should not be deported.

If you miss your 90 day filing window, don’t panic, there are sometimes excuses for filing after that time period, but you must specifically ask USCIS to accept your late-filed I-751 and give them a good reason why. If you don’t ask them to accept your late I-751 and don’t give them a good reason why you filed late, they will likely deny your I-751. If you missed your 90 day window, or preferably before you miss your window, consult with an experienced and preferably Board Certified immigration attorney to review your case and give you advice (like me: Or don’t talk to an attorney and risk wasting your money and time and having your Petition denied because you don’t know what you don’t know about immigration law.

Now that you know who has to file an I-751 and when you have to file your I-751, we can discuss how you file it. There are three different ways to file your I-751 and each depends on your marital status at the time you are ready to file (the 90 day window) and the hardship you would face if you were deported.

This is a question that many conditional permanent residents (married immigrants with 2 year green cards) face when they receive their decision letter on their I-751 Petitions. My I-751 was denied, what do I do now? Do I need an attorney? Am I going to be deported? What are my options? Can I appeal the denial decision? Can I file another I-751? Can I marry someone else and try to adjust status again? What are the bonafides of a marriage?

These are all extremely good questions and I will answer all of them. But before I answer the questions, its important to begin from the beginning about the entire process. If everyone understands where we have been, its easier to know where we are going.

When a non-citizen immigrant marries a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR), the U.S. citizen/LPR can file something called an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. If approved, this Petition will allow the non-citizen spouse to receive an immediate relative visa that allows the immigrant to become a lawful permanent resident. If the immigrant’s spouse is in the United States at the time of marriage and eligible to adjust status in the U.S. (because they were admitted or paroled into the United States at their last entry), the petitioning spouse can file the I-130 and the non-citizen beneficiary can file an I-485 Application to Adjust status all at the same time. If the non-citizen beneficiary is not in the U.S. or not eligible to adjust status in the U.S., then the I-130 Petition comes first, and if approved, the non-citizen spouse can attempt to consular process and obtain their green card through a U.S. embassy overseas.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court gave a glimmer of hope to President Obama’s 2014 Immigration Executive Action plans that have been stalled in federal court since last year. The high court will either lift the ban on the President’s immigration plans or they will affirm the lower federal court’s ruling, ringing a final death bell to these actions.

In November of 2014, the President issued executive actions creating two types of Deferred Action that would benefit about 4-5 million people currently in the United States without lawful immigration status. You may ask yourself, Do I qualify for DAPA or expanded DACA? I blogged about these programs in 2014:

See for DAPA, and

Congress recently passed legislation that changes who is eligible to enter the United States through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). These changes are in reaction to the fears that terrorists and terrorist sympathizers will enter the United States exploiting the ease by which people can enter through the VWP.

The Visa Waiver Program was designed to allow citizens of certain countries to avoid the lengthy process by which most foreign nationals must apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate abroad. The normal process involves an application, a background check, an interview and sometimes more. Applications for short-term visitor or business visas are routinely denied. The Visa Waiver Program allows qualified citizens from 38 countries to avoid this process and with a quick online registration, obtain an electronic visa and admission into the United States for 90 days at a time.

This list of 38 countries changes often and usually only contains first-world countries that have low rates of people overstaying their visas, claiming asylum or otherwise abusing the visa process. Citizens from all over Europe, Australia, New Zealand and parts of East Asia enjoy the use of Visa Waiver admissions.

Last month I had the honor of speaking at the Florida Public Defender Association’s 30th Annual “Trial with Style Conference” in unfortunately rainy Fort Lauderdale. While in one of my former lives as a state prosecutor and I like to think I always tried my cases with style, during this conference I did not talk about anything specifically to do with trying a case.

My topic was “Crimmigration: the intersection of Criminal and Immigration Law.” Let me preface this piece with the following caveat; not all immigrants are criminals (sorry Donald Trump) and recent research has shown that foreign-born residents are less likely to commit serious and violent crimes than native-born citizens.

That being said, this subject is of great interest to most criminal defense attorneys in Florida. Florida has the fourth-highest foreign-born population in the U.S. Almost 20% of all residents in Florida were born in another country. Because Florida is now the third largest state with a total population of over 20 million, that means we have roughly four million foreign-born people living in Florida. Florida is also top 10 in the country in crime rate. You combine all of these factors, and you see why criminal defense attorneys need to know immigration law.

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