Immigration law is second only to tax law in its complexity. Working with an experienced immigration attorney can be the difference between an approval and a denial.


Read more about the PERM process,
which allows U.S. companies to sponsor foreign nationals for permanent residence.


Completing the Affidavit of Support can be daunting. Our guide dispels some of the myths and confusion surrounding the Affidavit of Support, and offers practical advice to help you understand your options.

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We’re often asked questions about immigration laws and processes, and we’re more than happy to answer them. These are our most frequently asked questions, along with some resources you can use to find the answers you need. 


If you have questions unique to your situation, you can contact Cohen, Tucker + Ades to request a consultation. Our experienced immigration lawyers will be able to provide you with in-depth legal advice after reviewing the details of your case.


1. How Long Will My Case Take? 

There is no standard amount of time that an immigration case should take. Some people are able to reach a resolution to their case in as little as a few weeks, while others may wait years, like those applying for family-based green cards. It all depends on average processing times, the backlog U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and/or the Department of State is facing, whether you’ve paid for premium processing, and your case’s priority level.


The easiest way to establish a realistic timeframe for your case is to visit the USCIS’s website for case processing information and to check the Visa Bulletin for available immigrant visas for green cards in preference categories and diversity lottery selectees. Both resources will provide you with accurate and up-to-date information about availability and processing times by case type. 


Your family may be able to enter the U.S. through an expedited process if you’re selected to participate in a family reunification parole program. These programs are invitation only, and the Department of State will contact you to inform you if your green card-seeking family member is chosen for early entry into the United States.


2. I’m a Green Card Holder. Can I Sponsor My Parents?

Green card holders can file green card petitions for certain family members. Green card holders are able to sponsor eligible foreign-born spouses and children, but they cannot sponsor their parents. Wait times for family-based green cards requested by green card holders can be lengthy, with some countries accumulating a backlog of years of requests.


When a green card holder decides to become a citizen of the United States, more sponsorship options are made available to them. Petitions for family-based green cards are treated with a higher priority for U.S. citizens than for lawful permanent residents (LPRs).  


If you choose to complete the naturalization process, you’ll be able to sponsor your parents, foreign-born spouse, unmarried children, married adult children, and even your siblings when you receive your U.S. citizenship. Wait times may still be significant, but higher priority means that your petitions for certain types of family visas will be considered before those without priority status. 


3. When Can I File For Citizenship?

Green card holders can file for citizenship after they’ve been permanent residents and remained in good standing with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for several years. This period of time is usually five years for most green card holders and three years for some people who obtained their green card through marriage to a United States citizen. 


The application process involves several steps, including an interview and a two-part exam. The exam focuses on the basics of the English language and a short U.S. civics test. USCIS posted all possible questions and answers online for applicants to use as a study guide


Upon passing the exam and the interview, you’ll receive a date for a formal naturalization ceremony for you and other green card holders whose applications have been approved. You’ll officially become a U.S. citizen at the end of that ceremony. 


The entire process can take several months due to appointments and scheduling. 


4. I Got Arrested. Will I Be Deported?

Arrest can lead to deportation in many circumstances. U.S. citizens are almost never deported following an arrest unless that arrest was for a serious crime that jeopardized national security. Green card holders can be deported after being arrested if they are convicted of a qualifying crime.  You may be eligible for a waiver depending upon the crime for which you have been convicted and the sentence imposed.


If you were arrested and you are not a U.S. citizen, you may face removal proceedings. This is true even for green card holders. Deportation is almost always the result if you were arrested for entering the United States without documentation. 


If you’re a noncitizen facing criminal charges, you should consult an experienced immigration attorney before pleading guilty to a crime. If you’re facing deportation or removal proceedings, your best option is to hire an experienced U.S. immigration law firm to help you reduce the risk of deportation. We may be able to help.


5. I’m on an H-4 Visa. Can I Apply for a Work Permit?

Some H-4 visa recipients are eligible to apply for work permits if they meet specific criteria. It depends on the status of your H-1B recipient spouse. If your H-1B spouse is the principal beneficiary of Form I-140 or was granted H-1B status under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000, you can likely apply for a work permit. Find more information here


6. I Filed for Asylum. When Can I Apply for a Work Permit?

You are eligible to apply for a work permit 150 days after you file your application for asylum. You must wait a minimum of 180 days after filing for asylum to receive your work permit. Processing delays can sometimes significantly impact access to work permits. Applying the moment you become eligible can reduce your overall wait time and allow you to seek employment as soon as possible. 


USCIS has updated guidance for work permits that would allow asylum holders (as well as several other types of non-citizens) to have a maximum five-year validity period on their initial Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Once you obtain your initial EAD, you’ll have plenty of time before you’re required to renew it.


Asylees are eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence (i.e., a green card) if they remain in the United States for at least one full year after being granted asylum. If you apply for and receive a green card, you’ll no longer need a work permit. Your green card serves as proof of employment eligibility, and you can work in the United States for the entire validity period of your green card


7. Can I Represent Myself in Immigration Court?

There’s an old expression: The person who represents themselves in court has a fool for a client. Although you’re technically able to represent yourself in immigration court, it’s rarely advisable. Immigration law is complex, and it requires years of education and experience to master. Not only do you need to know the law, but also the procedure. 


You’ll need to hire an experienced immigration attorney for your best chance at a favorable outcome in immigration court.


8. How Much Do I Need To Invest To Get a Green Card?

Investor visas require a substantial investment in a designated category of U.S. businesses. The amount you’ll need to invest depends on what type of visa you want and where you choose to invest your money. Qualifying investments begin at $800,000 on the lower end, spanning to $1,050,000 on the higher end.


USCIS has strict guidelines regarding where and how this money should be invested. Investment is only the first requirement. Investors are required to maintain a managerial role in the enterprise where they invested and create jobs through their enterprise.


There are many requirements to satisfy outside of the initial cash investment. An experienced immigration attorney will be able to help you explore the best options for pursuing an investor green card.


9. I Want To Work in the U.S. How Can I?

You can’t decide to just work in the United States and move voluntarily without a job offer unless you are a highly qualified professional conducting independent work that the United States deems to be of substantial value. NAFTA professionals have options for relocating to work in the United States if they receive a job offer from a United States-based company.


Most pathways into the United States job market require the interest of an employer who is willing to oversee your immigration process and keep you gainfully employed for the duration of your work visa. The first step is finding an available position that would be a good fit for your skills, education, and qualifications. The second step is obtaining a job offer from an employer who is willing and able to assist you with the work-related immigration process.


10. We Want To Hire a Foreign Worker. What Are the Options?

Immigration law is designed to keep as many jobs in the United States as possible, with U.S. workers reserved as first-priority candidates. You cannot hire a foreign worker simply because you choose to do so. There are a series of steps you need to follow to determine your eligibility to hire a foreign worker. 


There may be certain circumstances in which a specific open role is crucial to your business, and there aren’t enough qualified U.S. workers who are willing or able to fill certain positions. If you’re hiring a NAFTA professional in an area where eligible candidates to fill specific workplace roles are in short supply, it’s usually simple to begin the process by offering a qualified NAFTA professional a job. 


In most other cases, employers need to prove that they’ve made every possible effort to fill their available position with a qualified American candidate before they’re allowed to hire a foreign national. USCIS and the Department of Labor have a long list of requirements an employer must meet to demonstrate that they’ve attempted to fill a workplace role with a United States citizen before they’re allowed to consider applicants who are nationals of other countries. 


We specialize in corporate immigration solutions. If you contact our law firm with general information about your situation, we’ll be able to explore your best available options for hiring a foreign worker. 


11. I’m an Artist. How Can I Work in the U.S.?

The U.S. artist visa allows artists and performers of many disciplines to tour, perform, or exhibit in the United States for a limited time. Artist visas are significantly different from green cards. Artists are required to complete a visa application to visit the United States for art-related purposes. If your work will generate profit in the United States, you must use the appropriate visa for your visit. 


Artists with recognizable achievements may be able to self-petition for a similar visa, but circumstances under which the self-petition process is valid are rare. We can help you find and navigate the right visa petition for your situation.


12. How Can I Start a Business in the U.S. as a Foreign National?

You can start a business in the United States with or without immigrating. You’ll need to complete all of the required paperwork and self-finance your business. You’ll also need a registered agent service in the United States to act as your liaison for your business. 


If you decide that you’d like to relocate to the United States during the process of starting your business or after your business has already been established, you may be able to utilize an E visa if you meet the financial requirements or an L-1 visa if you are being transferred from a foreign entity to a U.S. branch, affiliate, subsidiary, or parent.


13. How Do I Petition for My Spouse and Children?

The process for petitioning for your spouse and children depends on several factors, including the age and marital status of your children and your immigration status in the United States. The processes for petitioning for a spouse and children are much simpler and less restrictive for a U.S. citizen than a green card holder. A qualified immigration attorney can help you review the options available to you depending on your citizenship status.


14. I Crossed the Border. How Do I Get a Green Card?

It’s nearly impossible to get a green card after crossing the border without a visa or special permission. The United States wants people to enter with a visa or other entry documentation. Those without entry documents are being encouraged to seek prior authorization with a valid asylum or refugee claim before entering the United States. 


You may be able to make a claim after entering, but new immigration laws are designed to significantly favor people who request a border appointment ahead of their arrival. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requests that refugee or asylum seekers use their mobile app to request an appointment rather than present themselves at the border unexpectedly.


A green card will only be made available to you if your asylum claim is granted and you meet the requirements, which include a waiting period. 


15. What Is the Ecuadorian Family Reunification Parole Process? 

The Ecuadorian Family Reunification Parole Process is an invitation-only parole process for family members of nationals from Ecuador. Similar processes that exist for Cuba, Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. 


If invited, qualifying family members of nationals from eligible countries will be allowed to enter the United States through a special parole process to reunite with their family members. Eligible parolees must meet a lengthy list of requirements to be considered for parole entry into the United States. 


If accepted, eligible parolees are allowed to live in the United States while they’re waiting for their green cards. Parolees are able to obtain work permits and obtain employment in the United States as they wait to receive their green cards.


Unfortunately, this program is not available for all interested parties. It only applies to certain nationals who have already requested immigration benefits for qualifying family members, and the National Visa Center decides who they will invite to participate.


16. How Do I Pay My Bill? 

You can use our convenient online payment processing system here. We accept credit card, eCheck, and Affirm payments at checkout. Please include your invoice information in the reference section or the name of the client.


17. What Is TPS?

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a special status awarded to people who were already in the United States when a recognized disaster or emergency significantly impacts their home country. TPS is awarded and extended at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security


TPS recipients are responsible for re-registering when they are eligible. Failure to re-register can lead to loss of protected status and deportation. TPS recipients are eligible to apply for work permits and work in the United States for the duration of their status. 


You cannot apply for TPS if you were outside of the country at the initial designation of that country’s TPS status. The Department of Homeland Security will sometimes redesignate countries, which re-opens eligibility for people who didn’t obtain TPS the first time. If DHS redesignates your country while you’re in the United States, you’ll have a second chance to apply for Temporary Protected Status. 


If you aren’t eligible for TPS, you may be able to apply for asylum. 


18. How Do I Get an Investment Green Card?

There are several types of investment green cards, and obtaining them can be a lengthy process. You need to prove that you have the financial capability to make a sizable investment in the United States by opening a business or creating jobs. Minimum investment sums vary by region of the United States and growth potential. 


In addition to a substantial financial investment requirement, most investment-based green cards require applicants to manage the business they’ve invested in and to lead that business toward profitability. Investors are expected to create jobs in the United States, especially in areas where job growth has slowed or stalled.


Investment green cards have exhaustive requirements that entail a significant amount of paperwork, planning, and verification. It’s best to work with an experienced immigration attorney if you intend to pursue an investment green card application


19. What Is an Extraordinary Ability (EB1A) Green Card?

The purpose of the EB1A Extraordinary Ability green card is to encourage top innovators and industry leaders to contribute their talents to the United States. The EB1A Extraordinary Ability green card has significantly restrictive eligibility. It is reserved for people who have made significant contributions in business, the arts, science, athletics, education, or other noteworthy professions of international acclaim. 


In order to qualify for an EB1A green card, applicants must demonstrate a prestigious one-time award to the magnitude of a Pulitzer prize or an Oscar. If not applicable, USCIS will also accept at least three pieces of evidence that demonstrate that your work is of significant international or national acclaim. 


20. What Is an NIW Green Card?

A National Interest Waiver (NIW) green card is a green card reserved for people whose immigration to the United States would be in the best national interest of the United States. This green card is used for acclaimed doctors and scientists whose contributions to their field can save lives or help the United States develop leading innovations. However, an NIW is not only available to doctors and scientists. It can be used by professionals in education, health, culture, technology, science, entrepreneurialism, business, and more.


A national interest waiver allows eligible professionals to bypass some of the requirements needed for a typical employment-related visa, like a job offer. This is because people in high demand professions are certain to find a job in an area that desperately needs a significant amount of people who work in that profession.


Professionals with advanced degrees who intend to work in underserved areas of the United States (i.e. doctors in communities with fewer healthcare facilities or specialty educators in an area where demand is high) may qualify for a national interest waiver



Processing Times | USCIS

The Visa Bulletin | U.S. Department of State | Bureau of Consular Affairs

Civics (History and U.S. Government) Questions for the Naturalization Test | USCIS

Employment-Based Immigration: First Preference EB-1 | USCIS



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