A Green Card is proof that a lawful permanent resident (LPR) has gained immigration benefits, such as permission to reside and take employment in the United States. This does not make you a citizen, but a Green Card is an important step to achieving citizenship. You may become a permanent resident through many avenues, most commonly, through the family. Sometimes an employer may sponsor a potential employee and other times, refugee or asylum status can grant one permanent residency.
A Green Card is issued to people who intend to remain permanent residents in the United States, so it is important to maintain continuous residence and permanent residence in the United States. You may still travel abroad. You can travel internationally for periods up to six months or a year, but you must prove that you intend to remain a lawful permanent resident of the United States. If you need to travel for greater periods, there are applications that give permission to re-enter after a longer period of time. A Green Card begins as a conditional, or parolee Green Card. Removing those conditions is an adjustment of status starting the process of naturalization.
Adjustment of Status/ Family Sponsorship
If your Green Card is based on marriage to a U.S. citizen spouse, the first two years of your residency are conditional. You must file an I-751 to remove the conditions and make your green card permanent. If you entered your marriage in good faith and continue to be married to the same spouse, you are eligible to file an I-751. There are exceptions to that if your spouse has died or if you have divorced. As long as you entered the marriage in good faith, you may still apply.
An I-751 removes the conditions of a conditional Green Card obtained through marriage. An I-751 changes a conditional status to a permanent Green Card status. Immigration will require evidence that you are still a couple in a bona fide marriage and that you have been commingling your assets and finances for the past two years. With evidence proving the marriage was conducted in good faith, plus other documentation, you may continue to apply for an I-751 after a divorce or death of a U.S. citizen spouse. You may travel while your I-751 is pending, even if your Green Card expires during that process.
A 601-A Waiver is a provisional unlawful presence waiver for certain individuals who are unlawfully living in the United States. If you are applying for immigration benefits, you must apply for this waiver to excuse the fact that you entered without permission. This waiver protects families from being separated for a long period of time, allowing you to stay inside the United States while your case is pending. You must have an immediate relative petition (I-130) filed on your behalf. If the petition is approved, you must be able to prove overwhelming hardship to the immediate relative if you left the United States or they left with you. One condition to the 601-A waiver is that you must leave the United States at some point. You can wait in the United States until your application is approved before you go home. You will know when it is time to leave.
A fiancé visa, or a K1 visa, allows a US citizen to bring his or her fiancé into the United States for the purpose of marrying that person. They can also bring the fiancé’s children with them. They must marry within 90 days of arriving in the United States. Form I-129 will grant a fiancé visa. You must demonstrate that you met your fiancé in person and maintained a relationship for the past two years. Both parties must possess police clearance to demonstrate that you have not been arrested anywhere in the world.
Consular processing is the way that people living outside of the United States can achieve permanent residency status. They attend an interview at the U.S. Consulate in their country once their eligibility for the programs that they’ve applied for are verified. They have an interview with a U.S. Consulate officer and their application proceeds from there, all before entering the United States.
Similar to a Green Card, an I-765 allows its holder a legal right to work in the United States, but only for a fixed period of time. It is a temporary work permit that allows non-residents to continue working for any employer based on their immigration status. Form I-765 is a request of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The worker must identify what category applies to their immigration status, including but not limited to: foreign students, employment-based and family-based nonimmigrant, and EAD Applicants who have already filed for Adjustment of Status.
An immigrant who enters the United States without inspection or permission, illegal immigration, or who overstays a visa for a period of 180 days or more, but less than one year, faces a three-year bar on their ability to apply for immigration benefits and must return home for three years. Someone who stays, or overstays, for a period greater than one year, faces a ten-year bar and must return to their home country for ten years before they would be eligible to achieve immigrations benefits in the United States.
The U-Visa program, or the I-130 petition, allows undocumented victims of serious violent crimes to remain in the United States and receive authorization to work while they get treatment for their suffering, and participate in helping law enforcement prosecute the offender of their crime. This program allows undocumented people to freely report crimes without fear of repercussion because they are illegal immigrants.
Beware of Notarios
“Notarios” or “Notarios Publicos” are not immigration attorneys. They are unlicensed immigration consultants who may or may not have the qualifications necessary to do a good job on your immigration filings. Many notarios take advantage of people in desperate situations; some try to do a good job and fail; some take the money and have no intention of actually filing the necessary paperwork. It is very important to hire an experienced immigration attorney to help you with any immigration pleadings. Immigration attorneys can help avoid delays and costly mistakes. The risk of filing the wrong paperwork can be detrimental to an applicant’s ability to receive benefits. Avoid notarios at any cost. It is always worth it to have an experienced immigration attorney. Speak to an attorney at Mattleman, Weinroth & Miller, P.C. to discuss your immigration matter.