The Typical Application Process
Now let’s assume that you are not inadmissible and that you have what it takes to be eligible for either a permanent green card or a temporary U.S. visa. Although we’ll give you more detail about the application processes later in this book, here’s a preview. Your main steps will include:
• deciding whether you’ll need legal help to complete your application
• if you ‘re applying for a permanent green card, or in some cases a temporary work visa, waiting while your U.S. family member or employer fills out what’s called a “visa petition,” proving either that you are the person’s family member or have been offered a job; and then waiting even longer for the U.S. immigration authorities to approve the petition
• if, in the category under which you’re applying, only limited numbers of visas or green cards are given out every year, waiting until the people in line ahead of you have received their visas or green cards (which can take years)
• filling out your own set of application forms, collecting documents, and submitting them to either a U.S. consulate in your home country or to the U.S. immigration authorities
• tracking your application to make sure it doesn’t get lost in the system
• attending an interview at a consulate outside of the U.S. or a U.S. immigration office, at which your application is renewed and you answer questions
• receiving either a visa to enter the U.S. or a green card or another right to stay in the U.S. (unless you are denied, in which case, you may want to reapply), and finally
• entering the United States, protecting your status, and working toward the next step, if any (if you received a green card, you may want to work toward U.S. citizenship, the highest and most secure status you can receive).
One issue that will make a big difference in how your application proceeds is whether you are currently living inside or outside the United States. The U.S. has government offices to handle U.S. immigration applications both outside the U.S. (at U.S. consulates) and within (at USCIS district offices and service centers).
However, not all of these offices handle all types of immigration applications. See “Which Government Office Will Be Handling Your Immigration Application,” below.
What’s more, many of the people who would prefer to file their immigration applications in the United States—because they have been living here for many years, perhaps illegally—will find that they are not allowed to do so. We will discuss this at length in Chapter 3.
The short explanation is that, if you either entered the United States illegally (not with a visa or another entry document or right), overstayed a visa, or you have worked here illegally, you cannot (with a few exceptions), use the services of a USCIS immigration office. Instead, you must leave the U.S. and go to a U.S. consulate to make your visa or green card request. That creates a huge problem for people who have lived unlawfully in the United States for more than six months after January 1, 1997. Once you leave, you can be prevented from returning for three years if your illegal stay was between 1 SO days (six months) and one year. If your illegal stay in the U.S. lasted more than one full year, you can be prevented from returning for ten years. Some people can apply for waivers to return earlier, but not everyone can apply for them and the waivers are frequently denied.
In fact, this problem creates a trap for many people who, although they are technically eligible for a green card, can’t actually get a green card because they are living in the United States illegally.
EXAMPLE: Maria crossed the border illegally from Mexico in the year 2005. She married David, a U.S. citizen, in 2010. However, because of Maria’s illegal entry, she cannot apply for a green card at a local USCIS office. She would have to go to a U.S. consulate in Mexico to file her green card application — and then potentially be barred from returning to the U.S. for ten years.
Fortunately, USCIS is developing a “provisional waiver” that will allow some applicants, like Maria described above, to submit their waiver request before leaving the U.S. for their consular interview. For details, see Chapter 7.
- Your Immigration Companion (njnewjerseyimmigrationattorneylawyer.wordpress.com)
- Temporary visa (roankivimae.wordpress.com)
- Parole in Place Help for Military Families: New Immigration Policy (pr.com)
- A. Roadmap to U.S. Immigration (njnewjerseyimmigrationattorneylawyer.wordpress.com)
- US Immigration | E-2 Visa – o-1 visa application process (immigrationinamerica.wordpress.com)
- President Obama’s undocumented family members stay safe from deportations (visanow.com)
- How to immigrate to the United States (njnewjerseyimmigrationattorneylawyer.wordpress.com)
- Gay Queens playwright gets green card after long battle (nydailynews.com)
- Unofficial Predictions from the Visa Office (vbimmigration.wordpress.com)
- Obama cites desi techie’s case to push for immigration reform (rediff.com)