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FAMILY-BASED IMMIGRATION FOR PERMANENT RESIDENCE (GREEN CARD)
Parents, spouses and unmarried children (under age 21) of United States citizens (USCs) may obtain lawful permanent resident (LPR) status (a “Green Card”) through the filing of a petition by their (USCs). We are also now processing same-sex marriage applications. These “immediate relatives” are not subject to automatic waiting periods. Other relatives of USCs and LPRs are subject to limits and are categorized into the preference classifications listed below:
•1st Preference: Unmarried sons and daughters (over age 21) of USCs
2A – Spouses and unmarried children (under age 21) of LPRs
2B – Unmarried sons and daughters (over age 21) of LPRs
•3rd Preference: Married sons and daughters of USCs
•4th Preference: Brothers and sisters of USCs
The forms associated with obtaining a green card under the above circumstances are the I-130, I-485, I-864 and G-325. All of these forms and appropriate filing fees can be at:
**One may consult the Department of State’s Current Visa Bulletin to examine at what pace family-based petitions for permanent residence are currently being processed.**
CITIZENSHIP / NATURALIZATION
Those residing in the United States as lawful permanent residents (LPRs) for a period of 4 years and 9 months may file for naturalization. If the LPR is married to a U.S. citizen the LPR may file after only 2 years and 9 months of residence. Among other things, the LPR must establish that the residence was uninterrupted (“continuous”), that he/she possesses “good moral character,” in addition to a basic demonstration of proficiency in U.S. history and civics.
Those present in the U.S. that are unable or unwilling to return to their home countries because of past persecution, or a fear of future persecution, that is based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a “particular social group,” may be eligible to apply for asylum. It is critical that potential asylum applicants located in the United States file within one year of arrival.
Despite having a valid temporary visa, or even a green card, non-U.S. citizens may find themselves in removal proceedings as a result of criminal proceedings or other circumstances. Depending on the particular facts, those in proceedings may be eligible for relief which could prevent deportation, such as cancellation of removal, asylum, withholding of removal and/or prosecutorial discretion. If you or a loved one finds yourself in need of legal representation as a result of proceedings brought by the U.S. government, choosing an attorney that will vigorously fight for your rights is critical.
NON-IMMIGRANT VISAS FOR TEMPORARY PERIODS IN THE UNITED STATES
A wide variety of visas exist for those seeking to come to the United States for temporary periods of time:
. •H-1B – Professional Workers
For professionals with a bachelor’s degree, or its equivalent in work experience, seeking temporary employment to fill a position which requires such a degree. H-1B visa applicants must demonstrate that they will be paid at or above the prevailing wage in the industry. The length of stay generally may not exceed 6 years.
. •L-1 – Multi-National Business Transferees
The L visa is available to executives, managers and personnel with specialized knowledge entering the United States to continue working for the same employer, its affiliate, or subsidiary. The length of stay generally may not exceed 7 years for executives or managers and 5 years for specialized-knowledge personnel.
. •E-1 / E-2 – Traders / Investors
Investors, traders, and their employees whose country of citizenship has a commercial treaty with the United States may obtain this status to carry on their business in the U.S. Applicants for these visas may be employed in the U.S. for 2-year increments.
. •F or M – Students
For students entering the U.S. in order to engage in a full course of academic or vocational study. Many students may be eligible for employment authorization for up to 1 year (and for some students, even greater periods of time) for purposes of practical training in their fields (OPT).
. •K – Fiancé(e) or Spouse
For fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens who intend to marry within 90 days of admission to the U.S., in addition to certain spouses of U.S. citizens who have filed for an immigrant visa.
. •O-1 / O-2 – Extraordinary Ability
For persons who can demonstrate “extraordinary ability” in the arts, sciences, business, education or athletics, in addition to those assisting such persons.
. •P-1 / P-2 / P-3 – Athletes, Entertainers & Artists
For athletes, entertainers and artists who are members of a group or team, part of a reciprocal international exchange, or performing in programs that are culturally unique.
. •R – Religious Workers
Qualified religious professionals or other religious workers, for visits of up to 5 years.
. •TN – NAFTA
Professionals from Canada or Mexico seeking to enter the U.S. to engage in specified professional business activities.
. •B-1 / B-2 – Visitors & Visa Waiver Program
The B-1 and B-2 visas provide for brief visits to the U.S. involving business or pleasure for an initial stay of less than 180 days. Nationals of certain countries may be permitted to visit the U.S. without a visa for up to 90 days under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The current list of participating countries in the VWP can be found here:
EMPLOYMENT-BASED IMMIGRATION FOR PERMANENT RESIDENCE
Employment-based permanent resident status may be secured by individuals who fall into three preference classifications. A labor certification must usually be filed for the second and third preferences, which generally requires the petitioning employer to prove that there are no qualified US workers for the position being offered.
. •First Employment-Based Preference
No labor certification is required under the first employment-based preference category.
. •Managers and Executives subject to transfer to an affiliate U.S. office who have worked outside the U.S. for at least 1 year within the 3-year period immediately preceding the proposed admission.
. •Outstanding Professors and Researchers from qualifying universities or private employers with established research departments.
. •Individuals with “Extraordinary Ability” in the Arts, Sciences, Education, Business or Athletics.
. •Second Employment-Based Preference
A labor certification is required under the second employment-based preference category, unless it is waived by USCIS in accordance with the “national interest” of the U.S.
. •Individuals with “Exceptional Ability” in the Arts, Sciences or Business.
. •Advanced-Degree Professionals.
. •Third Employment-Based Preference
A labor certification is always required under the third employment-based preference category.
. •Professionals with a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.
. •Skilled Workers filling positions requiring at least two years of training and/or experience in the field.
. •Certain Unskilled Workers
**One may consult the Department of State’s Current Visa Bulletin to examine at what pace employment-based petitions for permanent residence are currently being processed.**