Below are some common questions relating to immigration law and the immigration process. If you have any more detailed questions, please do not hesitate to contact us to see how we can assist you.
1. How can I become a US citizen?
There are two ways:
- Be born in the United States
- Become naturalized
2. What is a “green card” and how do I obtain one?
A permanent resident is someone who has been granted authorization to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. As proof of that status, a person is granted a permanent resident card, commonly called a “green card.” You can become a permanent resident several different ways. The steps to become a permanent resident are different for each category and will depend on if you are currently living inside or outside the United States. The process of obtaining a green card is broken down into 3 steps and normally takes about 2-3 years to complete. The first step is for a qualifying family member or employer to file a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Individuals may also self-file a petition, though this process can be more difficult to complete. Next, if your petition is approved, then the State Department issues an immigrant visa number. Finally, if you are already in the United States, you may apply for adjustment of status. If you are a permanent resident age 18 or older, you are required to have a valid green card in your possession at all times. Current green cards are valid for 10 years, or 2 years in the case of a conditional resident, and must be renewed before the card expires. Permanent residence based on marriage to a United States citizen is conditional, and expires after 2 years, which must then be renewed.
3. How do I become a lawful permanent resident while in the United States?
An immigrant is a foreign national who has been granted the privilege of living and working permanently in the United States. You must go through a multi-step process to become an immigrant.
- USCIS must approve an immigrant petition for you, usually filed by an employer or relative.
- The State Department must give you an immigrant visa number, even if you are already in the United States.
- If you are already in the United States, you may apply for Adjustment of Status to permanent resident status. (If you are outside the United States, you will be notified to go to the local U.S. Consulate or Embassy to complete the processing for an immigrant visa.)
4. If I am a US citizen, can I sponsor a non-citizen family member?
Yes, you can file an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. This is true even if you were not born in the United States. This Petition is applicable for relatives including parents, siblings, children, or spouses. Aunts, uncles, and cousins are not included under the I-130. If your petition is granted, then your relative will be able to live in the United States as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR).
Warning: filing an I-130 Petition is a lengthy and complicated process. We have extensive experience with them, and would welcome the opportunity to help you every step of the way to ensure that the process is smooth and your Petition has the greatest chance of success.
5. What if I am working in the United States and would like to become naturalized?
There are several options for aliens who wish to work in the United States to become legal residents. You must obtain a Work Visa. Work Visas are structured into preferences, called EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, etc. Whether a Visa is available for you depends upon your level of expertise in your field of work. The most common preferences are EB-1, 2, and 3.
A First Preference Immigration Petition (EB-1) is an employment-based petition for permanent residence reserved for those who are among the most able and accomplished in their respective fields within the arts, sciences, education, business, or sports. There are three types of EB-1 petitions:
- Alien of Extraordinary Ability EB-1(a)
- Outstanding Researcher/Outstanding Professor EB-1(b)
- Managers and Executive Transferees EB-1(c)
A second preference Immigration Petition (EB-2) is an employment-based petition which includes: aliens who are “members of the professions holding advanced degrees or their equivalent” and aliens “who because of their exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business will substantially benefit the national economy, cultural, or educational interests or welfare of the United States.”
A third preference Immigration Petition (EB-3) classification includes:
- Aliens with at least two years of experience as skilled workers;
- Professionals with a baccalaureate degree; and
- Other workers with less than two years experience, such as an unskilled worker who can perform labor for which qualified workers are not available in the United States.
While eligibility requirements for the EB-3 classification are less stringent than the EB-1 and EB-2 classifications, be aware that a long backlog exists for visas in the “other workers” category.
A fourth preference Immigration Petition (EB-4) classification is made up of all special immigrants as defined in INA 101(a)(27), not including returning residents and former U.S. citizens who are eligible to become citizens again. This category includes, among others:
- Religious workers
- former employees of the U.S. government and U.S. Armed Forces
- Retired employees of International Organizations and their families
- Foreign medical graduates
- Special agricultural workers
- Battered spouses and children
- Refugees and asylum seekers
- Returning permanent residents
- Juvenile foreign children
A fifth preference Immigration Petition (EB-5), or “investor green card,” is reserved for alien entrepreneurs investing $500,000 in certain circumstances or $1 million in a new commercial enterprise which directly creates 10 or more new jobs in the U.S. The government criteria for this preference are:
- Investment must be in a business, not a passive security
- Invested funds must belong to the individual, though they may be part of a gift
- The business must have been created after November 29, 1990, or the investor must substantially change an older business
- The amount invested may be $500,000 in rural or high unemployment areas
- The business must create 10 new jobs, or 5 new jobs in rural or high unemployment areas
6. Once I have obtained LPR status, how long do I have to wait to file for citizenship?
Once you have become a Lawful Permanent Resident, you may elect to keep that status indefinitely, provided you renew your green card every 10 years, or you may apply for U.S. citizenship, provided you have met the eligibility requirements discussed below. This is a very important decision to make, as citizenship carries certain privileges and duties which only apply to U.S. citizens, such as the right to vote for public officials.
Generally, permanent residents over the age of 18 who meet the eligibility requirements may apply for citizenship by filing a form N-400 Application for Naturalization. The eligibility requirements have been set forth by Congress in the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA). The eligibility requirements are as follows:
- You have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years and meet all other eligibility requirements
- You have been a permanent resident for 3 years or less and meet all eligibility requirements to file as a spouse of a U.S. citizen
- You have qualifying service in the U.S. armed forces and meet all other eligibility requirements.
- Your child may qualify for naturalization if you are a U.S. citizen, the child was born outside the U.S., the child is currently residing outside the U.S., and all other eligibility requirements are met.
If you meet the eligibility requirements, the next step is to take a naturalization test covering your knowledge of English, U.S. history and government.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services: The government’s official website for USCIS. A very useful site providing information including filing fees, forms, and procedures for immigration matters.
National Visa Center: The U.S. Department of State website providing pertinent information on the availability of visas, as well as procedures for visa processing. This website can be a bit tricky to navigate, so please contact us if you need help with your visa.
Visa Bulletin: The Visa Bulletin provides information regarding the cut-off dates which govern visa availability in the numerically limited visa categories and other immigrant visa related information.
LOCATION OF JACKSONVILLE USCIS OFFICE