Ask Ahmad Immigration Question Answered on May 28 2020
Good afternoon! I’m attorney Ahmad Yakzan, head of the American Dream™ Law Office. We have offices in Washington DC, Tampa, and an affiliate office in Beijing.
As a lawyer, I must start with the legalities by stating that the information here does not constitute legal advice; it may not apply to you personally or the specifics of your particular case. The information I provide here is general immigration information. For specific questions about your case, please do not post in the question-and-answer section; send them to me directly or call my office at 1-888-963-7326 and I’ll be more than happy talk about the details of your case.
On the last Thursday of every month at one o’clock, I’ll be going live to answer a variety of questions about immigration. Don’t hesitate to send your questions to my paralegal one week in advance, on the third Thursday of each month, to ensure that I answer them during the live session. For today’s session, we’ve received more than 10 questions.
I want to thank my wonderful staff…it’s been a trying couple of months for many, but they’ve helped make it possible for us to continue serving new and existing clients.
If you have overstayed your visa during the COVID-19 outbreak, please know that we have been able to obtain extensions for many people who came in on the visa waiver program. However, accomplishing this has depended upon which port of entry is used to come to the United States. For example, the Tampa airport has not been taking any of these requests, so we have had to send some clients to Orlando.
If your visa is set to expire soon, we will be more than happy to help you get an extension so that when you try to return, you won’t have any problems and your ESTA visa won’t be rejected. If you have a regular B1/B2 visa, your flight has been canceled, and you have to stay in the United States beyond the time on the stamp, let me know and I will be more than happy to help you obtain an extension.
I will post some links on my website (americandreamlawoffice.com), where there are many resources for you, including weekly videos and blog posts. I would very much appreciate it if you were to subscribe to my blog, visit my social media profiles, and help me reach 100 subscribers on YouTube so that we can get the great American Dream™ Law Office a vanity name.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office was closed for two and a half months, but has been open since June 4 for in-person appointments, and we have successfully gotten 400 citizenship applications approved. Fortunately, swearing in ceremonies will be resuming, although they may be limited in duration and number of people due to COVID-19. I absolutely love these ceremonies because I get to see people from all over the world. I would highly recommend that you go to one if you haven’t; it will make you proud to be an American to see so many new faces that just started their American dream™.
If you want to apply for citizenship, we are having a special until the end of June. I limited the time until the end of June because I want people to be able to be able to register to vote in November 2020; I really don’t care who you vote for—I just want to make you a citizen. If you don’t have any problems with your background, such as an arrest or criminal conviction, I can extend an offer to you for $2,020 (thank you to my Facebook friend who told me I need to change it to $2,020 because that was a very cool idea) not including filing fees. For that price, I will apply for your citizenship and go with you to the interview If you live within Tampa or Orlando. This is a great deal.
If you want to apply for citizenship, call me at 1-888-963-7326. We are open 24/7 and the staff here speaks English and Spanish.
Question: COVID-19 travel restrictions made us postpone our wedding; if I leave the country, will it be a problem?
Answer: The answer depends on the type of visa you have. In immigration law, there is something called immigrant intent. If you come in on a B1/B2 visa, which is the most common visitor visa, then you cannot have an immigrant intent. In other words, you cannot come here with the intent of getting married or obtaining permanent residency. I am not telling you to break the law, but leaving when you’re married on a B1/B2 might actually create some issues for you when you when you try to come back into the country (I’ve even seen people get denied entry after they get married). Just as I did when I applied for my green card, you should hire an attorney and get their advice before you leave.
If you have six months, can postpone your wedding, apply for permanent residency, and will eventually be married to a United States citizen, then immigration will be more likely to forgive the overstay and work with you. The best advice I can give you is to not leave the country without speaking to an attorney.
Question: I got my green card from my spouse; why do I need to remove conditions?
Answer: In 1985, Congress passed a marriage fraud act. There are many people who marry for the purposes of obtaining a green card (if this is you, please don’t call me; we have a great reputation because we don’t take fraudulent marriage cases). The marriage fraud act states that anyone whose marriage is fewer than two years old will obtain conditional permanent residency, which means it is not permanent. Ninety days before the two-year anniversary of the first green card, you have to apply for something called removal of conditions. These are some of the hardest cases, especially if you separated from your spouse after you got the initial green card. If you have any sort of problem in your marriage, then don’t try to handle your case without the help of an attorney.
If you’re happily married, then you will apply for the removal of conditions jointly with your spouse, who would sign the petition just like you. We would send that application to immigration and include as much evidence with the petition as possible. In some cases, conditions can be removed without an interview.
A cool trick: to avoid the long processing times associated with these petitions, we can help expedite the process by combining the interviews for removal of conditions and citizenship, so long as you are still happily married to a US citizen and have had your permanent residency for a certain amount of time.
Removal of conditions proceedings are very important; failing to file the petition within the 90 days before the expiration date can land you in removal proceedings. According to the statute, if immigration doesn’t believe that your marriage was bona fide, then the only person who can remove those petitions is an immigration judge. Generally, you cannot get married to another United States citizen who can petition unless those conditions were removed from the old green card.
It is very important to hire an attorney early on in order to avoid ending up in removal proceedings and ensure that you don’t wind up needing to pay an attorney to defend you in immigration court and convince a judge to allow you to remain in the United States. Call us at the American Dream™ Law Office; we’re ready and happy to help.
Question: I came as a refugee and now I have a green card; can I apply for my mom to come live here in the United States with me?
Answer: If you’re only a green card holder, then you cannot apply for your parents to come to the United States. Once you become a United States citizen, you can apply for your immediate relatives (including parents) to come to the United States.
The asker of this question came in as a refugee. This is something we absolutely love to hear. We are reminded of Lady Liberty whenever we hear the word “refugee.” Thank you to the person who asked this question.
I absolutely love doing asylum cases when they’re here in the United States. If you are a refugee when you come to the United States, that data admission is very important. This is because when you are applying for citizenship down the road, the date of your admission is the date that you use—not the date that you actually receive the green card. So, you backtrack a year or so when you enter as a refugee. After you get your green card, you only have to wait four years to apply for US citizenship.
Once you become a permanent resident, you apply for citizenship; after you become a citizen, you can apply for an immediate relative, such as a parent. You would not be able to file an immediate relative petition for a brother or sister. You would have to wait for a visa number to be available in order for a sibling to come to the United States. You could also apply for a spouse or unmarried child.
If you applied for refugee status and you are married or have children, then hopefully you applied for your spouse and children to come with you so that you do not have to wait. If you came here as a refugee, became a permanent resident, and you eventually get married, then you could apply for your spouse and your children, but would have to wait for a visa number to become available. The good news is that the numbers are current for that category right now, so if you have a green card and want to apply for your spouse and children to come to the United States, call me at 1-888-963-7326.
Question: I want to marry my cousin and bring them from overseas; what do I do?
Answer: This is a really complicated question. For immigration purposes, the place of marriage is what dictates whether the spouse can come here on an immigrant visa from overseas. If the marriage was legal in the country where it occurred, then you can bring your spouse to the United States. For example, if you get married in Lebanon, Jordan, or Saudi Arabia where it is allowed, then you can bring your spouse to the United States.
The distinction has to do with your status as the petitioner (i.e. whether you are a United States citizen or green card holder). If you’re a United States citizen, then you would file an immediate relative petition and your spouse would be able to come to the United States within a year to a year and a half. If you are a green card holder, then you would have to wait for a visa number to become available.
Question: Can I adjust my status if I overstayed my visa?
Answer: If you are here in the United States and are married to a United States citizen and you want to adjust your status, then immigration will be more forgiving than they would be if you were married to a green card holder. If you were married to a green card holder, then you would have to be in status at the time of the adjudication of the green card petition.
For example, I handled a case a couple of years ago for someone who was a permanent resident and submitted a green card petition for their spouse with the help of another attorney. When we went to the interview, they told us they couldn’t accept the petition, and I had to explain what actually happened. We were successful in getting the client permanent residency in a different way, but it is important to remember that you have to be in status at the time of the interview in order to successfully submit a green card petition for someone else. If you are married to a green card holder and your H-1B is current at the time of the interview, then you won’t have any problem getting permanent residency.
Question: Can I apply for my green card in immigration court?
Answer: You can absolutely apply for your green card in immigration court, and there are some tricks involved. Again, the distinction has to do with the petitioner being a United States citizen versus a green card holder. If you do petition for someone as a green card holder and then down the road become a US citizen yourself, then we will remove the condition that you have to be in status to receive permanent residency.
Oftentimes, we will apply for an immigrant visa petition and citizenship at the same time; the chances are that the beneficiary will become a United States citizen within a shorter amount of time than the I-130 would be approved. In essence, we would move the category for the immigration visa petition to the category of immediate relative.
If you were to be denied asylum but get married to a United States citizen while you are in the US and want to apply for a green card in immigration court, then there are a couple things that you would have to do. Since you would be in removal proceedings, USCIS would not have jurisdiction to give you permanent residency. We would have to apply for the immigrant visa petition by itself and then apply for permanent residency down the road before the immigration judge. When you are in removal proceedings, you have to prove that your marriage is real, and the criteria for doing so is more stringent than would be if you were not in removal proceedings. Immigration will ask a lot of questions, and a lot of evidence will have to go along with the petition. Once the I-130 gets approved, you have to apply for the green card in front of the immigration judge.
We do a lot of removal proceedings work. The immigration court in Central Florida is in Orlando, but I take cases from all over the country, including Boston, Miami, and Jackson. If you have a relative who is in removal proceedings, please call us at 1-888-963-7326.
Question: Can I apply for asylum after I come in on a visitor’s visa to the United States?
Answer: Usually, the answer is yes, but the law for asylees is very complicated. After you come to the United States, you have one year to apply for asylum unless you qualify for an exception to that deadline. For example, if John Smith comes to the United States from the Bahamas on May 28, 2020, then he would have until May 27, 2021 to apply for asylum. If he wanted to work, he would have to wait between 115 to 180 days to submit an application. It used to take about three weeks to process these applications, but now there is a backlog, so it is taking four to five months. After 180 days, John Smith would receive an employment card. Usually, they move very quickly on getting the interviews, so if you are in status when you get your interview, you will get your decision. If you are not in status, then they will refer your case to the immigration judge. This is technically not a denial of your asylum application, but would require you to go in front of the immigration judge in order to apply for asylum.
Thank you very much for watching. Please visit my Facebook page, subscribe to my YouTube channel, and visit my social media profiles, including Instagram and Twitter. We have lots of visitors…we just need more followers.
If you have any questions, send us a message and we will call you. We are open 24/7 and can be reached at 1-888-963-7326. If you’re calling from outside of the United States, the number is 727-317-9757. Call today to schedule a strategy session with me, and I will be more than happy to help make you an American. Again, I’m Ahmad Yakzan, head of the American Dream™ Law Office.