faqs

Frequently Asked Questions

Answered by Our Knowledgeable Immigration Lawyers

Below are some of the most common questions we hear from clients regarding immigration. If you have additional questions or needs please feel free to contact us directly today.

General

I heard that the filing fees for USCIS applications are changing. Is this true? Will it affect me?

Some USCIS government filing fees will change for applications postmarked on or after October 2, 2020. Currently, a lawsuit has been filed to contest the extreme change in filing fees. If you have specific questions about how the fee change will affect your case, contact us. 

What is my case processing time?

Current USCIS processing timelines can be retrieved at: https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/

Which service center is responsible for my case?

Each case is assigned to a unique Service Center and processing times can differ among service centers. The Service Centers can be identified from the first three letters in a receipt number.

  • California Service Center: “WAC”
  • Vermont Service Center: “EAC”
  • National Benefits Center: “MSC” 
  • Nebraska Service Center: “LIN”
  • Texas Service Center: “SRC”

Which USCIS field office is responsible for my case?

Field offices are assigned based on your current physical address. You can find your field office location here.

Which USCIS asylum office is responsible for my case?

Asylum offices are assigned based on your current physical address. Please keep in mind that some asylum offices are responsible for cases arising from residents of multiple states. You can find your asylum office location here.

How can I retrieve my electronic Form I-94?

You can retrieve your electronic Form I-94 here.

I moved and need to change my address with USCIS. How can I do this?

You change your address online or by sending a letter. Find information about USCIS Change of Address requirements and procedures here.

I need to get a medical exam for my case. How can I find a civil surgeon?

USCIS has a handy tool for finding a civil surgeon based on your zip code. Find the resource here.

Family-Based Immigration

I am undocumented and living in the United States. Do I qualify for a green card?

The answer depends on your specific case circumstances. Sometimes, undocumented individuals who live in the United States can become lawful permanent residents (“green card holders”) through family relationships, humanitarian relief, or, if placed in removal proceedings (“immigration court proceedings”), through potential forms of relief from removal by the immigration judge.

What is adjustment of status?

Adjustment of status is a process that allows individuals residing in the United States to apply for and receive lawful permanent resident status without having to leave the United States. However, not everyone qualifies for adjustment of status.

I am undocumented and marrying a US citizen. Do I qualify for adjustment of status?

It depends on a lot of factors, including how you entered the United States.

I am undocumented and marrying a lawful permanent resident. Do I qualify for adjustment of status?

Unfortunately, you may not be eligible for adjustment of status through your spouse. Please contact us if you have any further questions.

Can my United States Citizen son or daughter (at least 21 years old or order) petition for me?

Yes but your specific case circumstances will determine how and where you can obtain lawful permanent resident status.

Why do I have to wait many years in order to bring a family member here on a green card?

The number of visas available each year is set by the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”). Immigrant visas for immediate relatives of United States Citizens – such as spouses, unmarried children under 21 years of age, and parents of United States Citizens at least 21 years old – are unlimited and always available.These cases do not have an additional waiting period of time other than the traditional processing times for the case at the time. However, immigrant visas for other family members who are not immediate relatives are numerically limited. When the demand for a green card is higher than the supply of granted cases for a given year, a wait list or backlog is created. Once an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative is filed on your behalf, you will be given a priority date that will be used to determine when an immigrant visa is available to you.

Where can I see if my case priority date is current for my family member?

You may check the United States Department of State’s website to see if your priority date is current. Find the United States Department of State’s visa bulletin here. The visa bulletin is updated and published every month.

I was a lawful permanent resident when I filed a petition for a family member but now I am a United States Citizen. What should I do?

If you filed a petition for your spouse and/or minor children (under 21 years old) when you were a legal permanent resident, and you are now a United States Citizen, you should upgrade the petition from family second preference category to immediate relative. You can do this by sending proof of your United States Citizen status, such as your United States passport or naturalization certificate, to the National Visa Center. Keep in mind that immediate relative visas are unlimited, and your family member will not have to wait for a visa when you become a United States Citizen.

I just got my green card through marriage. Why does my green card expire in two years?

If your marriage is less than two years old at the time of the adjudication of your immigration case, you will be issued a conditional lawful permanent resident card. You will have to make arrangements to file a Petition to Remove Conditions in the future, starting 90 days before the card’s expiration date.

I got my green card through marriage, have a two-year green card, but my marriage has ended in divorce. Will this affect my Petition to Remove Conditions? When can I file this application?

You will have to file your Petition to Remove Conditions as a divorced individual. You can file  this application at any time after your divorce but before the expiration date on your two-year green card.

Employment-Based Immigration

I need to file an extension (commonly referred to as a renewal) of my employment-based nonimmigrant status. When can I start the extension process?

We recommend that you file your extension of status (“renewal”) with USCIS as early as six months prior to the end of your period of authorized stay.

I am currently in H-1B or L-1 status and am planning to get married to a United States Citizen or lawful permanent resident. Can I apply for marriage-based adjustment of status while I am on H-1B or L-1 status?

Yes, you can apply for marriage-based adjustment of status while you are on H-1B or L-1 status. An H-1B nonimmigrant visa and an L-1 nonimmigrant visa status is a dual intent type of visa. Being under a dual intent nonimmigrant visa status that you can concurrently seek lawful permanent resident status. That means that you can file for adjustment of status while remaining in lawful H-1B visa status or L-1 nonimmigrant status. 

If you are marrying a lawful permanent resident, you will need to maintain your lawful H-1B visa status or L-1 visa status throughout the entire marriage-based adjustment of status process. Contact us if you have any further questions about this.

I am currently on an employment-based nonimmigrant status but want to apply for my PERM. Can I apply for PERM?

Employment-based immigration cases are quite complicated and each type of employment-based preference category has a complex set of unique requirements. Contact us if you have any further questions about this.

My employer won’t sponsor me for a PERM case right now but I still want to apply for a green card through a national interest waiver petition. Can I do so?

It depends. National interest waiver cases are quite complicated and require a detailed review of your particular professional and educational background. Contact us if you have any further questions about this.

Can I travel overseas and return to the United States while I am on H-1B or L-1 status?

Yes, you can travel overseas and return to the United States while you are on valid H-1B status or L-1 status. Be sure to be mindful of the end dates of your authorized period of stay under your current visa.

I am applying for an H-1B extension or change of employer. Can I apply for premium processing?

Premium processing is a service that is provided by USCIS. For an additional application fee, USCIS will guarantee a 15 calendar day adjudication. This means that, with premium processing, USCIS will issue an approval notice, denial notice, notice of intent to deny, or a request for evidence within a 15 calendar day period. If the petition or application requires the submission of additional evidence or a response to a notice of intent to deny, a new 15 calendar day period will begin upon receipt of the documents by USCIS. The premium processing fee is $1440.00 (as of September 1, 2020). 
At times, USCIS restricts the use of premium processing. Check USCIS’ page on premium processing for any updates about who can apply for premium processing at a given time. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about premium processing.

Humanitarian Relief

What is humanitarian relief?

The United States government provides a number of different forms of humanitarian relief options. Some of these include: asylum, Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) relief, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”),  and U Visas (victims of qualifying crimes).

I am a victim of domestic violence or abuse. Do I qualify for any immigration benefits?

Yes, an abused spouse, child, or parent of a United States Citizen or lawful permanent resident may qualify for some relief under VAWA. Contact us for more information and a case analysis.

Do I qualify for asylum?

To qualify for asylum, you must be in the United States and you must be seeking protection because you have suffered persecution or fear that you will suffer persecution in your home country due to: 

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Membership in a Particular Social Group
  • Political Opinion 

With the exception of specific circumstances, you must apply for asylum within one year of your arrival to the United States 

I was the victim of a crime in the United States and have suffered mental or physical harm because of it. Can I qualify for an immigration benefit?

It depends. The U Visa provides immigration protection to victims of certain qualifying crimes who have suffered mental or physical harm and have been cooperative with law enforcement. Contact us if you have any further questions about your eligibility for a U Visa.

Removal Defense

I received a Notice to Appear (Form I-862) from the United States Department of Homeland Security. What is this document? Should I be concerned?

A Notice to Appear (“NTA”) is a charging document issued by the United States Department of Homeland Security to begin removal or deportation proceedings against an individual who is physically present in the United States and is allegedly in violation of United States immigration laws. The NTA provides three valuable pieces of information: 1) formal notice than an individual is being placed into removal or deportation proceedings in front of the immigration judge, 2) contains the allegations against you that the United States government is charging you under, and 3) often contains the date and location of your hearing. 

Immigration court proceedings are extremely challenging. While there is no requirement to have or right to a government-appointed attorney in immigration court proceedings, you should consider finding and hiring an attorney. Contact us if you have any further questions.

What happens if I do not attend a removal or deportation hearing?

An individual who has been scheduled for an immigration court hearing MUST attend the hearing, even if you do not have a lawyer. If you are late or do not attend your hearing, the immigration judge can order you removed in your absence.

Can the government take away my green card?

Yes, depending on the circumstances and legal grounds for doing so. Specifically, abandonment of lawful permanent resident status and criminal arrests/convictions are common grounds for triggering such proceedings. Feel free to contact us if you are concerned about your case.

I am currently in immigration proceedings and I am moving. Do I need to change my address?

Yes, you do need to change your address with the immigration court using the Form EOIR-33. It is extremely important that you do so without delay. That form can be found here. 

In addition to this change of address form, your change of address may require you to transfer your case to a different court. If that is the case, you must file a formal motion to do so with the immigration court. Contact us if you need assistance in doing so.

Citizenship

I am a lawful permanent resident (“green card holder”). When can I apply for United States Citizenship?

The answer to this question depends on how you obtained your lawful permanent resident status. You will be able to apply for United States citizenship either after three or five years of being a legal permanent resident.* If you obtained your green card through a United States citizen spouse, you may apply for United States citizenship after three years of being a legal permanent resident. If you did not, you will be eligible for United States citizenship after being a green card holder for five years.

*Some applicants for citizenship are eligible to apply for citizenship 90 days before the three or five year lawful permanent resident requirement.

What are the requirements for applying for citizenship?

You may apply for citizenship  once you meet the following general eligibility requirements:

  • You are at least 18 years of age at the time of filing (except if you are an active duty member of the United States Armed Forces)
  • You have been a legal permanent resident of the United States for 5 years, or 3 years if you obtained your legal permanent status through a United States Citizen spouse
  • You have lived within the state or USCIS district where you claim residence for at least 3 months prior to filing
  • You have been physically present in the United States for 2.5 years or 1.5 years if you obtained your legal permanent status through a United States Citizen spouse
  • You demonstrate continuous residence for 5 years, or 3 years if you obtained your legal permanent status through a United States Citizen spouse
  • You demonstrate good moral character
  • You demonstrate an attachment to the principles and ideals of the United States constitution
  • You demonstrate basic knowledge of United States history and government (by passing a civics exam) as well as an ability to read, write, speak and understand basic English
  • You take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States

Note: these requirements are general requirements and some may not apply to your specific circumstances. Additionally, you may not be eligible for other reasons. You should contact our office for a consultation to determine if you qualify for United States citizenship.

If USCIS approves my N-400, Application for Naturalization, when will I become a citizen?

You become a United States Citizen once you take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States in a formal naturalization ceremony.