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
January 28, 2016 – After near deportation, citizen of El Salvador enters the United States with a green card
Facts: In early 2013, a citizen of El Salvador came to the firm seeking a solution to his immigration problems.
The Firm’s Representation: This case was one of the most difficult cases that the firm has ever handled because the initial outlook for the case was not good at all. In early 2013, our client and his U.S. citizen wife approached the firm to see what could be done. Our client had an in absentia removal order from 2005 from when he crossed the U.S. border and was placed in removal proceedings but failed to attend his immigration court hearing. In addition, our client had two DUI convictions. There was no way to reopen our client’s case through the immigration court. So, the firm petitioned Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to join a motion to reopen. Concurrently, the firm submitted a family based I-130 petition to USCIS. The firm knew that reopening with ICE would be dicey with the DUI convictions. In addition, at that time ICE had a stated policy that it would not join motions to reopen so that non-citizens could pursue the Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver. The firm filed the joint motion request in May of 2013. The request was denied in December 2013. The firm persisted with ICE and asked for a re-examination of the request in January 2014. Several weeks later, ICE detained our client in order to physically deport him. The firm worked fast and filed a stay of removal with ICE which was granted several days later. Fortunately, in August 2014, ICE agreed to reopen and terminate our client’s removal order. Once the removal order was terminated and the I-130 petition was granted, the firm filed an I-601A waiver for our client, which was granted on April 1, 2015. Then, the firm then processed our client’s immigrant visa at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador.
Outcome: On January 28, 2016, three years after the firm started the representation, our client entered the United States with his immigrant visa.
December 1, 2014 – Three of the firms clients released from DHS detention during Thanskgiving week
On Friday November 21, 2014, our client from Mexico was released from DHS custody with a brand new green card when DHS made its decision not to appeal the grant of the green card with an INA 212(h) waiver by the Immigration Judge. For six months, our client had been represented by another immigration attorney who was not aware that the client had a form of relief in the Immigration Court and simply asked for continuance after continuance until the client’s family sought the firm’s help. Although our client had a serious criminal conviction for the Maryland offense of second degree child abuse, the firm was still able to position our client for success in the Immigration Court through careful and meticulous pre-hearing preparation. The firm’s legal strategy was contested by DHS, but the Immigration Judge sided with our theory of our client’s eligibility for a INA 212(h) waiver. Our client was lucky that he had a caring and loving family that stood by him. Our client had spent over a year in DHS detention.
On Tuesday November 25, 2014, two days before Thanksgiving, the firm’s client from Sierra Leone was released from DHS detention with his brand new green card. Our client had convictions for credit card fraud and theft and he was removable for two or more crime involving moral turpitude not arising out of a single scheme of criminal misconduct pursuant to INA 237(a)(2)(A)(ii). The client’s original attorney thought the best plan of action was to file an application for withholding of removal based on a concession that the client’s convictions were “aggravated felonies.” After questioning such a course of action, the client’s family came to the firm for help. The client’s fiance, who was a U.S. citizen, wanted to marry the client. The firm arranged the marriage while the client was detained and then filed an I-130 on behalf of our client and his wife. Once the application was I-130 approved, the client adjustment status in the immigration Court with an INA 212(h) waiver – our client’s convictions were not “aggravated felonies.” Once the application and waiver were approved by the Immigration Judge, DHS waived appeal and our client was released from custody the same day, just in time for Thanksgiving. Our client had spent over one year in DHS custody.
On December 28, 2014, the firm’s client from Liberia was released from custody after DHS decided not to appeal the Immigration Judge’s decision to grant adjustment of status with a refugee waiver for a criminal conviction for the Maryland felony offense of first degree assault. The client had two previous immigration attorneys who were not taking the client’s case in the right direction. The client’s family sought out the firm to take over the case. Preparation was the key to the case – preparation of the various witnesses, both lay witnesses and expert witnesses, and preparation of the documentary evidence. After the Immigration Judge issued a written decision granting the adjustment and waiver, DHS waited the full thirty days in deciding not to appeal the case. Our client was released on December 28, 2014, the day after Thanksgiving, after 11 months of DHS detention, with his brand new green card.
It was a good week for the firm’s clients.
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.