Informing our clients of their rights while helping them navigate the process of visa, green card, or citizenship.
The immigration system is very complex, particularly for those who have limited English skills or are new to this country. Many find this process to be confusing and frustrating. We all need to make a living, but working in the United States without the proper documentation is a risk that can possibly lead to deportation. Living in the United States without knowing what you can or cannot do, or what your rights are, is a gamble. We are in one of the most stressful times for those with immigration issues, especially when trying to navigate the complex immigration system on your own. It is our goal to not only inform our clients of what their status, rights and options are in this time of uncertainty, but also to help them navigate the process of applying for a visa, green card or citizenship.
Some of the options that we can help our clients with include:
- Naturalization/Citizenship Applications
- Permanent Residency Applications (Green Cards)
- Adjustment of Status
- Consular Processing
- Family-Based Immigration
- Employment Based Immigration
- B1/B2 Visitor Visas
- Non-Immigrant Visa Applications
- TN Visa/TN Status
- U-Visa Applications
- Trade/Investor Visas
Getting Legal Permanent Resident Status, aka How to get a Green Card
For many individuals who have left their home country to chase the American dream, citizenship is the ultimate goal. Becoming a United States citizen protects against deportation or involuntary removal from the country these individuals now call home. Citizens can also participate in specific and important aspects of American society, such as voting. This can often be a lengthy and complex process that often begins with achieving Lawful Permanent Resident Status, commonly known as getting a green card.
Lawful Permanent Resident status offers many of the benefits that a citizen has, such as being able to live and work legally in the United States, and even joining the U.S. military. Green Card holders can also apply for green cards on behalf of family members. Having Lawful Permanent Resident status does not however grant someone the right to vote in most elections or qualify for most government benefits such as Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, Social Security, etc. Green Card holders can also have their status revoked and be deported if they violate certain state and federal laws.
Obtaining a Green Card while already in the United States often requires one to have an existing valid visa to be here. There are exceptions to this rule, and a qualified and experienced attorney will be able to help you identify those that apply to you. If the following applies to you, you may be eligible to apply for legal status:
- You have a family member who is a United States citizen or Legal Permanent Resident. If you have certain family members living in the United States with citizenship or Green Card status, there may be options available to you. However, what these options are and how long the process will take depends on your relationship to that person and their status.
- If you are an “immediate relative” of a U.S. citizen you may be eligible to apply for a green card immediately. An “immediate relative” is a spouse, a child under the age of 21 who is unmarried or a parent of a U.S. citizen that is age 21 or older. If this applies to you, there are no yearly numerical limitations on the amount of people who can apply under these circumstances and there is no waiting period for you to apply.
- There are other instances where you may be able to apply for legal status through a family member, however, there are annual numerical limitations on how many individuals can apply and there is usually a waiting period that varies month to month depending on your relationship to the U.S. citizen or Green Card holder and your country of citizenship. Some of these qualifying family relations include:
- Married son/daughter of a U.S. citizen;
- Son/daughter over the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen;
- Brother/sister of a U.S. citizen;
- Spouse of a Legal Permanent Resident;
- Unmarried child of a Legal Permanent Resident; and
- Falling into certain special categories, such as victim of domestic violence or being the surviving spouse of a U.S. citizen.
- You may also be eligible for a Green Card through employment by a United States company. Certain types of employment and careers make this possible. Even if your employment does not qualify you for a Green Card, certain employment may allow you to qualify for a temporary “non-immigrant” visa. There are annual numerical limitations to the number of these types of Green Card that are granted, in general they are first come first serve, and certain types of employment/careers receive preference over others.
- You may also be eligible for a Green Card or a visa if you fit into a special category, such as victims or witnesses of certain crimes who cooperate with law enforcement and assist in the investigation/prosecution, human trafficking victims and refugees seeking asylum. These visas are generally very difficult to receive as they have very strict eligibility requirements. Attempting to file an immigration petition/application on your own without an attorney is never recommended, but especially not for these types of visas.
Even if you technically qualify for one of the pathways to legal status, your application may be denied if you are found to be legally inadmissible to enter or remain in the United States. Committing or being convicted of certain crimes, being present in the United States unlawfully or without legal status for certain periods of time, previous immigration law violations and/or security concerns the federal government has concerning the applicant, may make an applicant inadmissible to enter or remain in the United States. There are exceptions and waivers to some of these issues, but the majority of people will not be able to figure this out and properly present these arguments to the government without the assistance of an attorney.
Naturalization and Acquiring Citizenship
Citizenship is often the ultimate goal for many individuals coming to the United States seeking the American dream. You may qualify to naturalize if:
- You have maintained Legal Permanent Resident status for five or more years, meet specific requirements related to residency and presence in the U.S., as well as other eligibility requirements;
- You received your Green Card through a U.S. citizen spouse, have had your Green Card for over three years, and meet certain eligibility requirements; or
- You have sufficient qualifying service in the United States’ military and meet certain eligibility requirements.
- If you are a United States citizen, your child may also be eligible for citizenship even if they were not born in the Unites States, under certain circumstances.
Contact an Experienced Florida Immigration Attorney Today!
Although these are the most common paths to legal status or citizenship, an experienced and knowledgeable attorney will be able to determine if there are other paths available to you and your family, and which path is best for your situation. Contact Gian-Franco Melendez at the Dolman Law Group to discuss your immigration situation. You can call us at 727-451-6900 or contact us online here.