FAMILY-BASED GREEN CARD
A non-U.S. citizen may gain the right to live and work permanently in the U.S. through a petition filed by certain family members. A U.S. citizen can petition parents, spouses, children, and siblings. A permanent resident can only petition unmarried children and spouses. The wait time depends on the nation of origin and the type of relationship, and it speeds up and slows down over time.
A lawyer can help prevent unnecessary delays or denial and ensure that the applicant is eligible in the first place. Certain past criminal or immigration violations could lead to deportation or detention for the applicant, and your lawyer can tell you whether this would be the case. Most people also need help with the complex rules that determine whether a petitioner is financially qualified to sponsor the family member, and what to do if they are not.
Some people who have experienced persecution in their home country qualify for asylum in the United States, but the path is not always easy. Only certain kinds of harm from certain sources will support a claim, and the attorney who assists you must be well acquainted with the conditions of your home country and the current state of asylum law.
U VISA FOR CRIME VICTIMS
Sometimes a victim of a crime, who suffers substantial physical or mental harm from that crime, can obtain legal status upon assisting the U.S. government in bringing the perpetrator to justice. This kind of visa is eligible for a waiver that forgives a broad array of criminal and immigration issues. Three years with a U Visa can lead to a green card.
A good attorney can help convince the authorities to support such a claim and to assemble the kind of proof necessary to get the waiver approved. It can be difficult to convince the authorities that the harm you suffered was substantial enough, but a good declaration and other carefully selected evidence can make a big difference. If your waiver does not specify the exact grounds of law that you need to be pardoned for, the waiver may not take effect.
Immigration is a journey, and at the end of that journey is citizenship: the right to vote, to travel in and out of the country freely, to have greater opportunities to petition family members, and -- assuming it's done properly -- freedom from deportation. For most, this is the last time they will ever have their life scrutinized by a DHS authority, and it's important that everything up to this point have been done correctly.
An attorney will help ensure that you are eligible and that your application will not expose you to the danger of deportation. The application has some tricky elements, and an attorney can navigate that path, address any problematic issues, and accompany you to the interview to make sure the interviewing officer applies the law correctly. A citizenship application begins with a full attorney review of your file to make sure no mistakes were made previously that could come back to surprise you at the last moment.
The inability to work legally is both the result of immigration problems and the cause of new ones, as lack of money is a problem in itself. As my clients' counselor, I always advise where there is a way to gain a work permit while the process takes its time. Applications such as asylum, cancellation, and DACA generally entitle the applicant to a work permit, but an application filed just for the sake of a work permit constitutes fraud. Part of our office's task is to find the legally proper way of getting authorization to work.
TEMPORARY PROTECTED STATUS
Countries threatened by natural disasters or war may be designated by the United States for TPS (Temporary Protected Status). Nationals of those countries, or nationless persons who last resided in those countries may qualify for the protection of TPS if they meet other requirements involving timely registration, a minor or no criminal record, and continuous presence in the U.S. during certain periods. Grantees receive work authorization and protection from removal, as well as eligibility for travel authorization. TPS is not intended to lead to a Green Card or citizenship, but the law has been evolving in this area in exciting ways. Check on this with a licensed and experienced attorney who focuses on immigration.
DEFERRED ACTION FOR CHILDHOOD ARRIVALS (DACA)
Some of the most unfairly treated aliens in the United States are those who were brought here as children, too young to understand or have an opinion about the nation's immigration laws. The laws passed by Congress do not take into account the special circumstances of this population who may face removal to a place they never knew. However, the Obama administration has sought to protect these childhood arrivals who can meet residential and educational requirements and who have very minor or no criminal records. This program is subject to change, so it's important for anyone who may qualify to be informed of the options available. Get your information from a licensed attorney, though.
Those who contemplate a temporary visit to the U.S. or a temporary status before applying for permanent residence need help as well. There are many different non-immigrant visas, and merely deciding which one to pursue, let alone how to stay within its limitations, is a difficult task. It's important to be sure your visa will let you do what you intend, so as not to harm your future prospects of staying in or returning to the U.S. For these matters, the help of a licensed attorney is invaluable.