Category: tips

Green Card Interview Questions & Preparation

You’re married! Congratulations! If you want to live in the U.S. with your new spouse, you’ll need to obtain a marriage green card. Getting a green card is generally a three-step process that involves preparation and answering Green Card interview questions. Here are the steps:

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Why Misrepresenting Yourself is an Immigration No-No

 

A top priority for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is to identify people who are attempting to abuse the U.S. immigration process. As a result, if USCIS finds that you are misrepresenting yourself or your history to try to get into, or stay in, the United States, the penalties are severe. 

According to 8 U.S.C. §1182(a)(6)(C)(i), “Any alien who, by fraud or willfully misrepresenting a material fact, seeks to procure (or has sought to procure or has procured) a visa, other documentation, or admission into the United States or other benefit provided under this chapter is inadmissible.” What does this mean? Lying to an immigration officer, lying on any immigration application, or submitting fraudulent or even minorly altered documents to an immigration agency, subjects you to a lifetime ban from the United States.

Some examples of situations that may create a lifetime ban:

  • When seeking a marriage green card, if USCIS determines that the marriage wasn’t bona fide, meaning it was a marriage entered solely to obtain a green card, this can subject you to a lifetime ban.
  • If you abuse a tourist visa, USCIS may subject you to a lifetime ban. For example, you are not permitted to seek permanent residency by entering the U.S. on a tourist VISA. If you enter the United States on a temporary VISA with the intention of filing for a green card, you risk the agency finding that you were intentionally abusing your temporary visa and may subject yourself to a permanent ban from the U.S.
  • If you misrepresented yourself on a prior application, this could cause problems even if you didn’t fill out the form yourself. For example, if you hired an attorney in a foreign country to complete an application on your behalf, any misrepresentation on the prior application, whether approved by you or not, can subject you to a lifetime ban.
  • Immigration agencies often considers omissions from your application as intentional misrepresentation. For example,  USCIS may charge you with misrepresentation if you you don’t include your prior marriage, an earlier arrest, or you don’t include all of your group memberships, thinking they aren’t necessary.  

The immigration application process can be fraught with pitfalls. That’s why it’s a good idea to consult an experienced immigration attorney before filing an application with the USCIS. Even if you have a criminal or organizational history that you think may disqualify you, or if you believe you have engaged in misrepresentation, I may be able to help. I have helped people from around the world overcome small and large obstacles during the U.S. immigration process. I would love to help you too.

Why Pay USCIS with a Check, When Will USCIS Cash My Check & More

If you submit an immigration petition to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you almost always pay a fee. Paying a fee may seem pretty straight forward, but there are still small mistakes that can slow down, or in cases with deadlines, thwart your immigration application. You’ll need to ensure that you pay the correct fee. I recommend that clients pay by check or money order, not by credit card.

Ensure Your Fee Total is Correct

To determine how much you need to pay, you shouldn’t rely on anything other than official USCIS publications. The day that I file any form, I go to the USCIS forms page, open the form or forms that I am filing, and check the filing fees. The filing fees are listed on drop down menus on each form’s pages. However, you should also read the instructions (a PDF document) available for all forms. Sometimes the drop-down menu “Fees” does give you information about when you do not need to pay a fee.  There is also a USCIS fee calculator at https://www.uscis.gov/feecalculator.

Why Pay By Check and When Will USCIS Cash my Check?

When paying USCIS, never send cash through the mail. Also, even though USCIS accepts credit card payments for many (not all!) forms, I prefer that my clients pay by check. I have noticed that even when I submit the correct credit card information, USCIS sometimes rejects the application and claims that the credit card information is incorrect. I think that a USCIS agent types the credit card information from Form 1450, and if the agent types incorrectly, the form gets rejected. Checks, on the other hand, are electronically deposited, without the possibility of an agent mistyping the check’s information. After you file an application and send your check, look at your online bank statement every day or so to see when the check is cashed by USCIS. USCIS will usually cash the check in two days to two weeks after you file the application.

How Do I Pay By Check?

When you do pay your fees by check, you will still need to ensure that you have the correct filing fee amount on the check and you must make the check out to US Department of Homeland Security. On the “Pay to the Order” line, write “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.” Do not use DHS or USDHS. Include numerals to indicate the amount of the check, such as $452.50. You should also spell out the digits on the correct line, such as “four hundred fifty-two and 50/100.” In the memo line, write a short description of your payment and include the applicant’s name, such as “John D. Smith, N-400 application and biometric services fee.”Sign the check with your legal name. Paperclip or staple your check to the upper left-hand corner of your application form. 

Keep A Photocopy of the Check (and the REST of your application)

When you file an application, keep a photocopy of every single page that you submit from mailing page (send by a mail service that you can track), your covr page (if any), the check, passport style photos, all pages of the application, and ALL supporting documents.

Wherever you are in your immigration process, it is a good idea to consult an experienced immigration law attorney before filing anything with the USCIS. Ellen Sullivan, P.C. has helped clients around the world and is ready to work with you. Call (617) 714-4375 or email hello@cambridgeimmigrationlaw.com to get in touch. 

Disclosing Criminal Histories on Immigration Applications: What You Should Know

The United States requires all applicants for immigration benefits to disclose information about their criminal history, whether applying for a visa, green card, or U.S. citizenship. If you have a criminal record, this can be worrying. 

If you have any criminal history–even if you were never arrested nor convicted of anything–you should consult with an attorney about the immigration consequences of your criminal history. Having a criminal history does not necessarily mean your application will be denied. If you are eligible to apply for any immigration benefits, you must report your criminal history honestly and accurately. Omitting information, changing information, and other ways to misrepresent your criminal history could result in the US government charging you with misrepresentation, which is a problem to overcome. 

Here’s what you need to know.

Disclose your full criminal history

You should disclose any criminal conviction, arrest, or charge on your immigration petition unless advised otherwise by a qualified immigration attorney. In most cases, you should disclose a conviction even if the record is expunged or sealed. 

If you have a juvenile record, you should consult with an attorney about whether it needs to be disclosed, even if a court sealed the record. Some juvenile issues are not considered criminal. Others are considered criminal. Even if considered criminal, the issue may not negatively affect your eligibility for immigration benefits. There is an exception to ineligibility for immigration benefits based on a crime of moral turpitude if you were under 18 when the crime took place and took place over five years ago. 

How the USCIS evaluates criminal histories

Some crimes disqualify you for all immigration benefits. Some crimes require you to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility. Some crimes have no statutory effect on your immigration status, but will be considered in the total discretionary analysis of you as an application for immigration benefits. 

What to do if you have a criminal history 

You must consult with an experienced immigration attorney before applying for any immigration benefit through USCIS, the Department of State or the Immgration Court. 

As an immigration lawyer, I can assess how your criminal history might affect your application and how you should disclose the history on your application. My work with clients around the world and in the U.S. helps make complicated immigration procedures and paperwork go as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

September 2017 Visa Bulletin

The US Department of State issued the September 2017 Visa Bulletin. It is available here: https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/law-and-policy/bulletin/2017/visa-bulletin-for-september-2017.html.

I-751 Facing Lengthy Delays

In my practice, I represent many couples on removing conditions on residency, a requirement for conditional permanent residents who are married to US citizen less than two years at the time that they adjust status based on that marriage. To remove the conditions, clients must file Form I-751 with extensive supporting documents.

Currently, my clients are experiencing lengthy delays on their pending Forms I-751. Some of my clients face wait times of over one year, which is well over the published USCIS processing times for the form. The processing times are at: https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/processTimesDisplayInit.do;jsessionid=bacXD1OC9RCyFagQNRyeu

If you need to file Form I-751, remember to file it BEFORE the expiration of the current green card. If not, your case becomes much more complicated and you risk facing removal proceedings in immigration court.

Please contact me at ellen@ellensullivanlaw.com or 617-714-4375 if you would like to consult on your current pending I-751 or if you would like to discuss my representation on new cases relating to removal of conditions on residence.

USCIS Processing Times

About every month, USCIS publishes processing times for its decisions on most USCIS forms. Whenever you receive a receipt notice from USCIS, it should have an address at the bottom of the form (generally on the left side). That is the office that is processing the form. At the top of the form, there is a “receipt” or “priority” date. Check the status of your form by looking at the Processing Times for the office processing your form, checking the published date against your receipt or priority date. If USCIS is processing applications with a date BEFORE your date, then your application should be processed. If not, you can contact USCIS to request that it take action on the case.

See USCIS.gov for Processing times.

Green Card Approved After I-130 Denied

In my practice, I work with many clients who require marriage-based “green card” applications (I-130 Petition for Alien Relative and I-485 Application to Register Permanent Resident).
Recently, I was hired to represent a couple after their own I-130/485 filing was not successful. They came to me with a denied I-130. We immediately re-filed a new I-130/485 package, and within months, we were scheduled for a hearing. In light of the very strong package that we submitted, the interview was very smooth and even fun, and the clients’ case was approved. This good news was especially welcome for the couple because they were expecting a baby only days after the interview!

Tips: What to Wear to Court

It is common knowledge that when attending court, you should dress respectfully. What isn’t common knowledge is what dressing respectfully entails. In general, respectful clothing for court includes clothing that is modest, clean and that fits you well. The goal is to allow the judge to notice you and your message, not your appearance. Below are court attire tips for anyone attending a court hearing or USCIS interview.
You should wear business attire, such as a suit, dress pants with a formal shirt and blazer, dress, or skirt with a blouse, sweater or button-up shirt. If you decide to wear a skirt, make sure that it is no more than two inches above your knee. You should match your outfit with business casual, clean shoes.
Other general tips:
  • Do not wear heavy make up
  • Wear a shirt with a modest neckline
  • Steer clear of distracting jewelry
  • Pull your hair back so that it is out of your face
  • Tuck in your shirt
  • Keep cologne to a minimum
  • Remove visible piercings
  • Cover up visible tattoos

You Should Never Wear:

  • Shorts
  • Hats
  • Sleeveless, see-through, or halter tops
  • Flip flops, sandals, or sneakers
  • Clothing that exposes your midriff
  • Ripped or torn jeans
  • Baggy pants that fall below your hips
  • Clothing that promotes illegal or inappropriate activity

Remember that you are trying to convince the judge or officer that you respect the importance of hearing or interview. Let your appearance reflect that respect.