Frequently Asked Questions

I'm a US citizen. Can I help my illegal immigrant fiancé become legal? She entered the US with a visa.

You probably can. If your fiancé entered the U.S. properly, was inspected by Immigration, and overstayed, her prospects are very positive. She should be able to legalize in the U.S. Here in Connecticut, USCIS is taking 4-6 months to process clean, well-prepared cases. We normally take 15-30 days from when we meet with you and your spouse to prepare your marriage, adjustment of status, employment authorization and related applications and file them with USCIS.

I'm a US citizen. Can I help my illegal immigrant fiancé get a green card or a work permit? He came across the border illegally.

Hopefully, yes, although there would be some significant challenges for your fiancé to legalize. Assuming that no one filed an application for him prior to April 2001, he's not eligible to do his final green card processing in the U.S. now. However, the Obama administration has implemented provisional waivers, which allow a noncitizen who crossed the border but who is now married to a United States citizen to file the application to waive (pardon) his unlawful presence from within the United States. (In the past this had to be done after departing the U.S., and the process typically took 6-18 months.) So both the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative (showing Immigration that your marriage is real) and the waiver can be file while you remain together in the United States, and only the medical exam and final consular interview (which are quick) would have to take place overseas. Two important cautions: first, the provisional waiver process is only available where unlawful presence is the sole bar to an applicant's admission. So if the person has a deportation, has committed immigration fraud or is inadmissible for a crime, her or she cannot purse a provisional waiver. Second, unlawful presence waivers can be difficult to win. You will need to convince Immigration that the United State citizen spouse would suffer extreme hardship if the immigrant spouse had to live outside the U.S.

I'm a college student with an F-1 visa. Can I stay and work in the US after graduation?

When you graduate, you will likely be eligible for a year of practical training work authorization (29 months in Science, Technoolgy, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields). You will want to do your practical training in a professional position with a company that may be willing to sponsor H-1B temporary visa and permanent labor certification applications for you. You should set up a consultation with an immigration lawyer to try and understand the arcane rules that govern these applications and their timing long before you begin a job search.

Can I sponsor a work application for my illegal friend or employee?

Probably not. Very few illegal immigrants can gain a green card through employment. The key positive exceptions: noncitizens who had some kind of immigration application or a labor certification application started on their behalf prior to April 30, 2001, or their spouse or child; and most noncitizens who entered on F student visas or J exchange visitor visas whose I-94 cards were marked "D/S" by Immigration. If your friend or employee falls in one of these categories, it may well be worth investigating whether you can assist him.

Will there be an amnesty this year?

On June 27, 2013 the US Senate passed an immigration reform bill by the wide margin of 68-32. However, any immigration bill will also need to pass the House of Representatives before it can become law. The House has a Republican Party majority, so passing a bill through the House will be a major challenge. Still, there is a somw chance that there will be a new immigration law late this year after the November congressional elections.

I'm illegal. What can I do to prepare for an amnesty?

Don't go out and spend a lot of money with a lawyer or notario who promises that the law has changed and all your problems can be resolved by paying him or her a lot of money. The law hasn't changed yet, and no one can promise you that the law will change, or what it will say if it does.

Although we do not know if a new law will pass or exactly what it will look like if it does, both the 1987-88 amnesty and the 2006 and 2007 Senate proposals required applicants to show how long they had been in the United States. It would be smart for you to gather and save every kind of proof you can about your presence and work in the United States: passport, I-94 card, pay stubs, W-2 or 1099 forms, tax returns, leases, bank statements, contracts, bills, church documents like baptismal certificates or contribution records, children's school records, birth certificates, etc.

Even if no law passes in the near future, it would be a good idea to gather these documents and keep them in a safe place.

My application has been delayed for a long time. Immigration says it is because of background checks or name checks. Can you help me?

Name checks are a type of security check done by the FBI in all naturalization (citizenship) cases. The USCIS National Customer Service Center sometimes refers to them as background checks. If your case has been delayed beyond normal processing times because of name check delays, you may want us to file a mandamus, a limited federal court action designed to make federal agencies do their job in a reasonable amount of time. Our fighting delays page gives more information. Fortunately, this kind of problem has become rarer in recent years.

 
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