You have decided to enter the wonderful world of marriage where all that matters is love.
That may not be the case if your marriage also involves filing for permanent residency (green card) based on your marriage to a U.S. Citizen. You may even find it surprising or perhaps troubling that immigration (USCIS) looks at your marriage with a certain degree of suspicion. Is your marriage real or did you enter the marriage for purposes of obtaining a green card? How do they make this determination? What is the process?
I’ll go through the process in New York City a nutshell.
First, the applications are filed.
The applicant will then be called for a biometrics appointment. (Fingerprints, etc)
Thereafter, the applicant and the U.S. Citizen spouse are called in for an interview.
Wow . . . sounds simple enough. However, that’s not the entire comprehensive process. The applicant should prepare all relevant documents evidencing their bona fide marriage. Make sure the documents clearly evidence the bona fide marriage. Don’t show up with a minimum of documents.
Is a lawyer necessary to process the paperwork for a marriage based green card application and/or to go to the immigration interview?
Look, this may sound like a sales pitch, but I could try to explain why it is important. However, instead let me ask another question. Do you think this process (meaning the green card) is an important event in your life? If the answer is yes, then you should strongly consider hiring a lawyer. The truth is you have likely never gone through this process. Lawyers on the other hand like myself have likely gone to hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of interviews. We all know repetition is the key to success. How does an athlete become an elite pro athlete . . . . through repetition. Don’t take the silly position that if you show up with a lawyer, immigration could interpret that to mean you have something to hide. It’s absurd. We are a country of laws. We have brave military personnel that have died to protect our constitutional rights. Exercise these rights!!!!!! Use it or lose it.
Potential clients often call my office to find out about how one can stay in the U.S. My answer is usually the same. I tell them that generally speaking (although not exhaustive), the paths to permanent residency (green card) are based on some family relationship and/or employment based relationship. Unfortunately, even within these broad categories there are same prerequisites that are necessary. For the most part (with some minor exceptions) unless you are basing your application based on marriage to a US citizen, or based on an application filed by your son or daughter (21 and over), you must be in status at the time the priority date is current. This usually takes the person out of that category’s eligibility, as most callers are already out of status.
However, before ending my call I usually ask the caller what country the person is from and whether they are afraid to go back to their country based on one of five grounds that asylum provides. I will not take up these five grounds in this article and save that for a future blog. The caller is usually surprised to find out that the law allows such persons to file an application for asylum and be entitled to work authorization five months after filing even if they are out of status. Some ask how they can prove their claims. I explain to them that the law may consider their testimony alone enough to win their case, but that usually we can provide extrinsic evidence through third parties to further bolster and corroborate their claims.
Most callers are pleasantly surprised to find out about this permanent residency path. Some even ask if they marry a U.S. citizen while their asylum is pending whether they can change the case to a marriage based application. The answer is usually yes.
The point is that there may be avenues of relief in immigration law. So, think outside the box and explore all options.
So, you have been issued a Notice to Appear and are now being summoned to appear in Immigration Court at 26 Federal Plaza, New York City.
What do you do?
Let’s first start with what not to do? Do not ignore it and do not panic. Many people call our office and inquire as to whether they will be deported that day. I tell them that we are a country of laws and due process rights are respected by Immigration Judges in every Immigration Court. This fear is unnecessary.
Now that we have some basics on what not to do. Let’s also briefly discuss what you should do. Act wisely and be prepared. You should hire an experienced immigration lawyer that is familiar with the Immigration Court and issues pertaining to removal and deportation. There are many different laws which provide relief for individuals in Immigration Court. This is particularly true for the New York City (Manhattan) Immigration Court. So, take advantage. In fact, many times the deportation process in Immigration Court is a blessing and may lead to permanent residency that may otherwise not be available outside of Court.