At the Law Office of Marino A. Branes Jr., we are passionate about helping people achieve their dreams of immigration. For many people, the hurdles to safely immigrate to America are significant, but with the expertise of a qualified immigration lawyer, you can more easily overcome these obstacles and secure your residency for good. There are many nuances to each immigration case, but with our experience and skill, we can make sure you are aware of all the options available to you for immigrant visas and green cards so that you can succeed.
In the past, we have united families through family-based petitions, assisted with deportation and removal cases, and we have helped businesses and investors with non-immigrant visas. Because of the federal nature of immigration law, we are qualified to represent clients based in the United States as well as internationally. If you need counsel on an immigration case or would like to further explore your paths to citizenship, we would love to help you through the process.
For those who would like to permanently move to the United States and do not currently have family here, an immigrant visa (also known as a green card) is the avenue to pursue. Those who qualify for these types of visas will most often do so through investor visas or employment-based visas, both of which we have extensive experience in winning for our clients.
To qualify for this type of visa you must meet certain requirements. Below is a list of various visas available for those who want to immigrate permanently to the United States. Please call for more details.
Under the 1990 Immigration Act, EB-5 Investor Visas are available to up to 10,000 people each year for those who are immigrating to invest in commercial enterprises and are creating employment for at least 10 individuals. Under the program, there are two groups of investors. One group consists of those investing at least $500,000 in “targeted employment areas” of the nation where unemployment is high, and the other is for those who are investing $1,000,000 in any location. At least 3,000 of these visas must be awarded to investors of targeted employment areas each year.
Employment-Based Visas come in four main types and offer the opportunity for people to receive permanent residency based on their employment status.
These visas are awarded to people in this special category who are able to petition for permanent residency without having to endure the labor certification process
Visa holders in this category normally must have a job offer and the potential employer must complete the labor certification process. The labor certification involves a testing of the job market to demonstrate that the potential visa holder is not taking a job away from a U.S. worker. In cases where an individual can show that his entry is in the national interest, the job offer and labor certification requirements can be waived.
Visa holders in this category normally must have a job offer and the potential employer must complete the labor certification process.
Ministers and other workers who hold certain religious positions can be eligible for permanent residency under certain circumstances.
While these are certainly the most common types of visas and green cards that are awarded to immigrants, there are plenty more avenues to citizenship which we will discuss in detail below.
Family-based immigration is the most common way that people are able to become permanent residents of the United States. If someone is a United States citizen, whether through birth or legal status, they can put forth a petition for their family members to receive a green card and ultimately achieve permanent residency. This method is the easiest for immediate relatives, including:
The citizen who is sponsoring their immediate relative must be able to prove that they can support their family at above 125% of the poverty line. Additionally, their own citizenship status and their relationship to the person they are sponsoring must be verifiable as well.
For more distant relatives of United States citizens, the requirements are more stringent—but it is still possible for them to receive their green card. This is called the Family Preference Category and there are 480,000 of these types of green cards that can be awarded each year. These are given to unmarried children over 21, married adult children, and siblings of current citizens, but are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis with wait times ranging from 3 to 24 years.
U.S. citizens may petition for spouses, parents, children and siblings. Permanent residents may petition for spouses and children. If the beneficiaries are in the U.S., when the visa number is available, they are eligible to apply for green card in the U.S., which is called adjustment of status. If they are overseas or ineligible to adjust status in the U.S., they may obtain their permanent visa/green card through the American Consulate, which is called Consular Processing. For applicants who previously had immigration violations, they may need to apply for I-601 waiver or I-212 waiver.
Special immigrant green cards are designed for workers that will increase the productivity and diversity of the country but are not covered by other types of employment-based visas. Every year, there are only 10,000 special immigrant green cards available, and non-clergy religious workers are ineligible to receive more than half of this reserve.
Some of the categories of people who might qualify for a special immigrant green card are unmarried children under 21 who are in need of protection or services, workers for certain religious organizations who have been employed for at least two years, and foreign medical graduates who have been in the United States since before 1978. For those seeking special immigrant status, the requirements and documentation required will vary based on what specific category the person falls into.
While the terms refugee and asylee are often used interchangeably, they have important differences that change the way that one goes about applying for green card status. A person who arrives in the United States and requests asylum is referred to as an asylee, while a person who requests protection from outside the United States is considered a refugee. Both asylees and refugees are eligible for green cards once certain conditions are met, and there is no limit on the number of these types of green cards that are given out each year.
For those who are refugees or asylees, they are eligible to apply for a green card one year after being granted asylum status or entering the United States as a refugee. The families of those groups are also eligible to apply one year after entering the United States. The person must be able to prove that they suffered persecution or are likely to suffer persecution in their home country on the basis of race, religion, nationality, and/or membership of social or political groups. It is important to note that only time spent in the United States will count towards the one-year requirement, so the person is not eligible to spend time outside of the United States throughout the process.
In order to provide immigration relief for those trafficked into the United States, a new category of immigration status has been created called T nonimmigrant status (often called the “T Visa”). This allows victims of human trafficking and other extreme crimes to remain in the United States for up to four years when they comply with law enforcement and assist with the investigation and prosecution process of human trafficking facilitators.
Those who receive a T Visa are able to receive work permits, can qualify for state and federal benefits in some cases, and are provided a path to green card status. The recipient will receive four years of lawful immigration status, four years of employment authorization, and can then apply for permanent residency if certain conditions are met. They can also petition for T visas for other family members whether they are located in the United States or abroad.
Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), those who are currently living in the United States and suffering abuse may self-petition for a green card. If the victim was not living in the United States, if they were abused by a United States citizen or permanent resident while present in the United States, they may also be able to apply. The issuance of these visas depends on the relationship of the person to the abuser, but are generally extended to spouses, parents, and unmarried children under the age of 21. Additionally, the recipient must be cooperative with law enforcement to assist with the prosecution of their abusers.
This type of green card will allow the recipient to receive the opportunity to work in any occupation, the ability to leave and re-enter the United States while carrying your green card, as well as some state and federal benefits that are awarded to United States citizens.
In some situations, if an immigrant has been residing in the United States for an extended time period, they may be able to receive what is called a green card through registry. The person must have been present in the United States since January of 1972 (either lawfully or unlawfully) and be eligible for naturalization. The person must be able to provide their birth certificate, a government-issued photo ID, evidence that they entered the United States before January of 1972, and evidence that they maintained continuous residence in the United States since their arrival.
Those who apply are required to fill out Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) and are also able to apply for a work permit while their case is in process using Form I-765.
If you are awarded a green card, it is important to keep it up-to-date to avoid any lapses in your legal status. If your card is invalid, it may be difficult to prove your residency status and accept employment in the United States. It is recommended that you start the process between 5 and 6 months before your card is scheduled to expire. If you apply too early, the USCIS may reject your application—but if you submit it too late, it may not be renewed in time for you to receive your new card before the old one expires. Waiting too long to renew can impact your employment, your eligibility for travel outside of the United States, your driver’s license renewal, and your home mortgage process.
If you have a 10-year green card, you will file Form I-90 (Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card), which is the form for renewals despite the name. For those with a two-year green card, you will have to file I-751 (Petition to Remove Conditions of Residence) or Form 1-829 (Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions) depending on your specific situation. Additionally, the list of supporting documents you must provide will vary on your situation, especially if you have had a name change due to marriage or divorce.
The Immigration Act of 1990 made it possible for up to 50,000 lawful permanent resident visas to be awarded each year through a randomly selected Diversity Visa Lottery. This lottery is only open for applicants during certain periods and is designed to diversify the United States’ immigrant pool and provide those without immediate family or special situations a path to citizenship. Around 13.3 million people submit their applications every year.
To be eligible, the person has to be a resident of a low-admission country, which is defined as a country that has fewer than 50,000 people admitted to the United States over the previous 5 years. Additionally, out of the visas that are awarded, no more than 7% can go to residents of any one country. Applicants must have a high school education (or equivalent), at least two years of qualifying work experience, and must be admissible to the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
While the chances of winning the lottery are slim, being selected does not guarantee that the person will be admitted to the United States, and instead only gives them the opportunity to apply. The person who wins the lottery is still required to go through electronic and in-person screenings before they are awarded their visa, which applies to any family members they petition to bring to the United States as well.
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