Immigration Law FAQ
It is not uncommon for there to be considerable confusion regarding immigration law. To help clients educate themselves on the issues, some of the most frequently asked questions have been answered below.
What are the benefits and privileges that I will experience?
The benefits and privileges of becoming a U.S. Citizen include being able to vote in local, state and national elections; having the ability to obtain a passport; sponsoring relatives to become permanent residents; not being subject to deportation from the U.S.; and being able to travel overseas for as long as you desire.
What is naturalization?
Naturalization is the process for a foreign national to become a U.S. citizen. To be allowed to naturalize, a person must usually have already been a lawful permanent resident (LPR) for a particular length of time. Becoming a citizen, however, is not a requirement of LPR status. Some people stay in the U.S. for years as permanent residents and do not become citizens. With some exceptions, to be allowed to naturalize, the individual must be of “good moral character”; take an oath of allegiance to the U.S.; pass English literacy, history and government tests; and interview successfully with a government official to establish the right to citizenship.
Can I become a citizen after I am granted permanent residency?
Yes! If you live within the U.S. for five years as a permanent resident, you will be able to obtain citizenship through naturalization. To be eligible for this, however, you must have been physically living within the U.S. for at least half of those five years – and must have not left for a time period longer than six months. If your permanent residence is based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, the period you must have been here is shortened to three years.
Does marriage to a U.S. citizen automatically confer a green card on a foreign national?
No. The foreign national must still meet certain eligibility requirements. Also, it may take from four months to two years to complete the green card process.
Which family members may sponsor relatives for a permanent resident card (green card)?
With some exception and restriction, a U.S. citizen may sponsor a spouse, parent, sibling, minor child or adult child (regardless of marital status), or fiancé(e) for an immigrant visa, known popularly as a green card. Additionally, an alien in the U.S. with lawful permanent resident status (a green card holder) may sponsor a spouse, minor child or adult unmarried child. Citizens and permanent residents who sponsor relatives for immigration must have a certain level of earnings and agree to legally support their incoming family members.
What is a K-1 fiancé visa?
The K-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows the foreign-citizen fiancé/fiancée to travel to the United States and marry his/her U.S. citizen sponsor within 90 days of their arrival.
What are the general requirements for applying for a K-1 visa?
To qualify for a K-1 visa, the following requirements must be met:
1. The foreign national fiancé/fiancée must reside outside of the U.S.;
2. Both the U.S. citizen and the fiancé/fiancée must be legally free to marry and remain unmarried until the arrival of the fiancé/fiancée in the U.S;
3. The fiancé/fiancée and U.S. citizen must have met in person, at least once, within the past two years of filing the visa petition;
4. The U.S. citizen must file a petition with USCIS and have it approved before the fiancé/fiancée may apply for a K-1 visa from a US Consular Office abroad.
What is E-2 treaty investor visa?
The E-2 treaty investor visa is a nonimmigrant visa which allows foreign entrepreneurs from treaty nations to enter into the U.S. and carry out investment and trade activities.
How do I qualify for E-2 visa?
To qualify for E-2 visa:
1. You must be the national of the country that has an investor treaty with the U.S.
2. You must be serving your company in a capacity that is supervisory or executive in nature or involves skills essential to the operation of the business (key employee); or you must be a 50 per cent owner of the company
3. Nationals of the treaty country own at least 50 per cent of the stock of the U.S. company i.e. the firm has the nationality of the treaty country
4. You are investing or your company has invested a substantial amount that is at risk, meaning subject to potential loss if the business does not succeed, in a bona fide enterprise in the U.S
5. You intend to depart at the conclusion of the duration of your E-2 visa.
What are deportable offenses?
Deportable or removable offenses are those actions for which an alien may be forced to leave the U.S. and return to his or her home country. Some removable offenses include:
- Using fraudulent documents to enter the U.S.
- Providing material misrepresentations (like marriage fraud) to receive a visa.
- Committing certain types of crimes (like most drug crimes, aggravated felonies, domestic violence and child abuse, many gun offenses and more).
- Posing a threat to national security.
- Helping others enter the country illegally.
- Overstaying a visa.
- Voting illegally.
- For a complete list, see 8 U.S.C.A. § 1227.