At one point a long time ago, permanent residency cards were green, hence the name “green cards.” Whatever the color, a permanent residency card allows a non-citizen to indefinitely stay in the United States. In certain circumstances, a green card holder may petition for other relatives to come to the United States. Green card holders can leave/enter the United States at will without the risk of being denied entry by an Immigration Official at the port of entry. Green card holders can work, obtain social security benefits, among other things. Lastly, it is the first step to getting U.S. citizenship.
Green Cards Through Marriage
The firm does not recommend that anyone petition for their non-citizen spouse without a lawyer. The firm has handled too many cases where legitimately married couples, who were not represented by counsel, have been accused of fraud by USCIS their marriage interview. Once this happens, it is very difficult to get rid of the fraud finding, even though you may have done nothing wrong.
If you married your spouse when you were already in removal proceedings, there is a presumption that your marriage was fraudulent. However, this is merely a presumption and can be overcome with proper documentation and preparation.
If you are already in deportation proceedings and you are detained and you wish to get married, the firm can assist you in that process.
The firm works hard to make sure you will get your green card through marriage and help you avoid any pitfalls that could keep you from getting your green card.
To date, no couple represented by the firm has ever been denied a marriage petition. Nevertheless, if you have been accused of marriage fraud, the firm has had great success appealing fraud determinations by USCIS to the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Immigrant Visas Based On An Immediate Relative
The following are the five categories of immediate relative:
- IR-1: Spouse of a U.S. Citizen
- IR-2: Unmarried Child Under 21 Years of Age of a U.S. Citizen
- IR-3: Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. Citizen
- IR-4: Orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen
- IR-5: Parent of a U.S. Citizen who is at least 21 years old
Spouse of a U.S. Citizen is covered above under Green Card Through Marriage. In addition, a child under 21 years of age of a U.S. citizen and a parent of a U.S. citizen (where the U.S. citizen is over 21 years old) can petition for their relative as an immediate relative. Immediate relative status is important because illegal presence and/or working without authorization are not bars to adjustment.
Green Cards Through Other Family Relationships
Family Preference Immigrant Visas (Limited): These visa types are for specific, more distant, family relationships with a U.S. citizen and some specified relationships with a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). There are fiscal year numerical limitations on family preference immigrants, shown at the end of each category. The family preference categories are:
- Family First Preference (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children, if any. (23,400)
- Family Second Preference (F2): Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and over) of LPRs. At least seventy-seven percent of all visas available for this category will go to the spouses and children; the remainder is allocated to unmarried sons and daughters. (114,200)
- Family Third Preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children. (23,400)
- Family Fourth Preference (F4): Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years of age. (65,000)
Note: Grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins cannot sponsor a relative for immigration.
Unfortunately, illegal presence and working without authorization will bar adjustment based on the non-immediate relative petitions. In other words, you must maintain legal status and you cannot work without authorization or you will not be permitted to adjust status and get your green card.
Note, although you may not be an immediate relative today, that does not mean that you could not become an immediate relative at a later date. This is especially true of LPR spouses who later get their citizenship. As soon as the spouse obtains citizenship, the non-citizen spouse becomes an immediate relative and the non-citizen spouse can immediately apply for adjustment.
Recent Case Results
March 31, 2014 – Citizen of Guatemala receives green card based on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
Facts: On March 9, 2013, a citizen of Guatemala was in deportation proceedings. He came to the firm for help.
The Firm’s Representation: Our client was a minor. In addition, our client’s father had abandoned him when he was nine years old. The firm quickly realized that he could qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). SIJS is a three step process. First, a guardian for the minor must be appointed in the state court, and the state court must make special findings. Essentially, the state court must make a special finding (1) that the minor was subjected to abuse, neglect or abandonment by one or both parents and (2) that it is not in the best interest of the child to be returned to his home country. Once guardianship and the special finding have been made, the minor can self-petition for a visa with USCIS. The last step is that the minor can apply for a green card with USCIS. Our client was only two weeks away from turning 18 years old and the firm had to act quickly because the Maryland state courts have guardianship jurisdiction until the minor turns 18 years old. The firm expedited the guardianship proceedings and obtained the guardianship and special findings prior to our client turning 18. Then the firm filed our client’s self-petition, which was granted.
Outcome: On March 31, 2014, our client received his green card.
March 12, 2013 – Citizen of El Salvador is granted a green card through NACARA after being voluntarily placed in removal proceedings
Facts: In September 2012, a citizen of El Salvador was desperate to get his green card. He had been in the United States for nearly 25 years. He was eligible for NACARA (Nicaraguan And Central American Relief Act), but he could not apply to USCIS to get his green card. His previous attorney billed him thousands of dollars, but ultimately, the attorney did nothing for the citizen of El Salvador. The citizen of El Salvador sought the firm’s help.
The Firm’s Representation: The firm first analyzed whether there was any relief available for our client. The form realized that our client was eligible for NACARA. However, our client never applied for asylum. Because our client never applied for asylum, USCIS did not have jurisdiction over his NACARA application. Only the Immigration Court had jurisdiction to adjudicate his NACARA application. The firm told our client that he had to be placed in removal proceedings to get a green card. Of course, our client was very concerned about being placed in removal proceedings, but the firm assured him that everything would be okay. The firm placed our client in removal proceedings. The firm attended one status hearing with our client in the Immigration Court in January 2013, whereupon a final hearing was set for March 12, 2013.
Outcome: On March 12, 2013, our client was granted NACARA special rule cancellation of removal and granted a green card.
November 26, 2012 – After four years of litigation in the Immigration Court, a citizen of Guatemala receives a green card despite a conviciton for second degreee assault
Facts: In 2007, a citizen of Guatemala was placed in removal proceedings and he came to the firm for help in 2008.
The Firm’s Representation: The firm assisted our client’s wife in filing an I-130 petition petition on behalf of our client. Meanwhile, the Immigration Judge ordered deportation. After the I-130 was filed, the firm filed a motion to reopen in the Immigration Court, which was granted. Two years later, USCIS approved the I-130 petition. The firm then prosecuted our client’s adjustment of status in the Immigration Court. This was a tricky case because our client was convicted of second degree assault, with allegations of sexual assault. Even though our client was not convicted of sexual assault, the Immigration Judge has broad authority to consider any negative factors in the adjustment of status decision.
Outcome: On November 26, 2012, our client was granted adjustment of status, four years after the firm began the representation.
September 17, 2012 – Citizen of Nigeria finally receives an I-130 petition from his U.S. citizen wife after eight years of trying
Facts: A citizen of Nigeria was placed in removal proceedings after his third I-130 petition had been revoked by USCIS. His first I-130 (filed nearly seven year earlier) had been denied and his second I-130 petition had been abandoned. In the process, the citizen of Nigeria had hired several immigration lawyers and had spent thousands of dollars. His fourth attorney had filed his fourth I-130 petition. Unsatisfied with his fourth lawyer, the citizen of Nigeria came to the form for help.
The Firm’s Representation: The firm supplemented the I-130 petition, prepped our clients for the marriage interview, and represented our clients at their USCIS interviews. USCIS was hesitant to make a decision, so the firm filed a complaint with the CIS Ombudsman and later we filed a mandamus in federal court.
Outcome: On September 17, 2012, about a month after we filed the mandamus action, our client was granted a family based I-130 petition. Subsequently, the firm got our client’s removal proceedings terminated and we filed a I-485 adjustment of status application with USCIS.
August 8, 2011 – Citizen of Trinidad and Tobago received a Green Card after her case was reopened in the Immigration Court, 15 years after she was ordered deported
In 1996, a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago was granted voluntary departure, but she never left the United States. In 2009, she married a United States citizen who petitioned for her to get a permanent residence. However, she could not adjust status until her case was reopened in the immigration court.
The Firm’s Representation
The firm reviewed our client’s case saw that she and her husband had many positive equities and filed a motion to reopen asking the judge to reopen the case based on his discretion. The motion was granted on July 13, 2010.
Our client’s I-130 petition was granted and an individual hearing on adjustment of status was schedule for August 2011. On August 8, 2011, after a hearing in the Immigration Court, our client was granted a green card.
March 2, 2010 – Citizen of Liberia received his green card after the firm filed a mandamus action in federal court
Facts A citizen of Liberia was granted refugee status in 2004. In 2006, he filed for adjustment of status. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) delayed adjudication of his application for over two years. He contacted the firm to see if anything could be done.
The Firm’s Representation In March 2009, the firm filed for a writ of mandamus in federal court to compel the USCIS to adjudicate our client’s adjustment application.
Outcome on March 2, 2010, our client was granted adjustment of status to that of a lawful permanent resident.