Marriage Based Green Card Application Process in New York City

Congrads!!!!!!

You have decided to enter the wonderful world of marriage where all that matters is love.

Really?

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.


Filing for Asylum in New York City

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.


Immigration Court Defense in New York City

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.


Will one of the stars from Real Housewives of New Jersey be deported to Italy?

Theresa Guidice’s Husband Giuseppe “Joe” Guidice may be deported from the U.S. following his conviction for bank fraud.

I last wrote about this back in August 2013 following the indictment (criminal prosecution) of Joe Guidice and his wife Theresa Guidice. At that time, they had only been indicted.

What has changed? Since then, a plea of guilty took place for various charges. Most recently, a federal Judge in Newark sentenced Theresa Guidice to 15 months and Joe Guidice to 41 months.

Will Joe Guidice and Theresa Guidice be able to move on with their lives after the completion of their prison sentence and payment of fines and restitution? Joe Guidice may have many more problems brewing.

Unfortunately for Joe Guidice, he may be deported back to Italy due to his conviction, despite being a long time permanent resident (“Green Card” Holder) and despite being married to a U.S. Citizen and having US Citizen daughters. Seems somewhat unfair some may say. . . . Aren’t we supposed to give someone a second chance and attempt to rehabilitate? Unfortunately, Immigration laws are not so forgiving. It’s very possible that Joe Guidice may not get released from prison even after the completion of his sentence. Instead, he can be served with a Notice to Appear in Immigration Court by DHS (Department of Homeland Security) where DHS may seek his deportation (removal) to Italy. This usually takes the form of the prison being served with a Detainer which basically informs the facility that DHS will be picking him and putting him in immigration detention.

If DHS decides to put him in removal proceedings, he will likely face removal charges that include DHS alleging that he was convicted of an aggravated felony (the bank fraud conviction). Unfortunately for him, the relief available to him if he is charged with being convicted of an aggravated felony will be extremely limited, especially considering he is from an EU country – Italy.

I think it is prudent for individuals like Joe Guidice to have immigration lawyers work in cooperation with their criminal defense attorneys very early on to attempt to minimize immigration consequences.

I certainly wish the Guidice family the best of luck!!


Immigration Deportation Lawyer in New York City Due to Criminal Arrest or Conviction?

As most people by know by now, there are many issues that arise as a result of a criminal arrest? Many questions outside of the criminal arena must be taken into consideration. What are some of them? Will I get evicted from public housing? Will I lose my student financial aid? WILL I GET DEPORTED DUE TO MY CRIMINAL ARREST OR CONVICTION?

We are living in a technologically advanced society where information is shared among many different law enforcement agencies. As such, one needs to be aware that a criminal arrest may trigger deportation. So, an arrest for what most consider a minor criminal offense in New York City may be placed in deportation proceedings in Immigration Court in New York City located at 26 Federal Plaza, New York, New York. In fact, despite the Obama Administration appearing to head in the direction of immigration amnesty, a record number of immigrants with even minor criminal offenses are still being deported. If a loved one is going through some of these issues, get an experienced immigration lawyer involved immediately.


How can I stop my deportation case pending in the New York City Immigration Court?

Many people are surprised to hear that if you have a deportation or removal case at the New York City Immigration Court located at 26 Federal Plaza, New York, New York, you might be able to request closing the deportation case.

The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) and the Office of the Chief Counsel (which is the lawyer for the DHS) are more likely to close a deportation case pending in NYC than in any other jurisdiction . . . at least in my opinion and experience. In fact, the DHS is very generous and agrees to close an overwhelming number of cases.

I even had success in a case with a client that was in detention and had been convicted of various drug related charges. Despite the client being in custody and bond having been denied, the DHS agreed to close the deportation case, which allowed my client to walk out of detention join his family once again. Naturally, there were equities that were favorable to him which were able to show to the DHS.

Now, there may be times when you may not want to close a deportation case, such as when you want to present a particular case in front of the immigration judge. However, many clients also do not want to risk deportation and would rather close out their deportation case and try to legalize through other methods.

One must carefully evaluate each case and make a decision based on a careful balance of the positives and negatives with respect to being in front of the Immigration Court.


Asylum Application at Fed Plaza

How to Find the “Best Immigration Lawyer” for your Asylum Application or Case at in New York City

So, the other day our office received a call from an individual that had an inquisitive question about finding a lawyer to represent him with his asylum case scheduled to be heard at the Immigration Court at 26 Federal Plaza, New York City.  His question was pretty direct:  “How do I find the best immigration lawyer for my asylum case at the Immigration Court in New York City?”

This was a pretty interesting question.  The reason was because the answer is so subjective and open for debate. We tried to explain to the client that the term “best immigration lawyer” was subjective and depending on both who you ask and what you mean by the term “best” the answers can vary greatly.

The best analogy I was able to come up with for the client was to ask him questions such as:  “Who is the best athlete?” . . . “What is the best car?”

So, if there is no one way to measure the performance of a lawyer, are there some things you can look out for?

In my opinion and experience, there are some questions and inquiries that are worthy of making:

1)  How long has the immigration lawyer been practicing law? 

Although this is an inquiry worthy of making, by no means should this be interpreted to mean that an attorney practicing longer is necessarily a “better” lawyer than someone right out of law school.

2)  How many cases has the immigration lawyer handled? 

Naturally, the more cases a lawyer has handled, the more “experienced” he would be.  However, “experience” is only one criteria.  It is never a substitute for hard work, preparation, diligence, etc.

3)  Does the lawyer have support staff? 

Why is this important?  Well, for one thing, do you think it’s a good idea for your lawyer to spend valuable time doing administrative tasks instead of working on your substantive case?  For example, the average asylum application package in my office usually entails documents that range between 100 to 300 pages. Now to actually file these documents, copies need to be made, the documents need to be put in order, paginated, etc.  Do you think it makes sense for the lawyer to spend time doing this instead of preparing, researching and studying your case?  Obviously, I have simplified this significantly for purposes of this article.  There are many other tasks that support staff, such as paralegals and legal assistants, do extremely well and their contribution to the case is imperative and in some ways parallel the lawyer’s contribution.  I can tell you in my office, the success of any cases is certainly also contributable to my support staff.

The point of this blog is that there is no one way to determine who is “the best immigration lawyer”.  Any such determination is simply an opinion.  One should always make their own inquiry after diligent research.


Arrest, Criminal Case or Criminal Record Issues Related to Deportation or Immigration Court at 26 Federal Plaza, New York City

If a loved one has ever been arrested or had a criminal case, or perhaps even a criminal record, that loved one usually feels that a heavy weight has been lifted off their shoulders  when that case is finally over.

However, at some point that prior criminal case can come back to haunt the person.  Almost every other day, my office receives calls by individuals that had a criminal case many years ago. All of a sudden, they receive notice that Immigration is looking for them or has placed them in Deportation or Removal Proceedings due to that old criminal case.

This usually takes the form of a Notice to Appear commanding that the person appear at 26 Federal Plaza, New York, New York (presuming the person is within that jurisdiction). These people begin to wonder why they have to deal with this again since they already paid their dues to society. I try to explain to them that the immigration case is separate and distinct from the criminal case.

In addition, I let them know that even the simplest criminal charge within the criminal court context may be a very serious matter for immigration issues.

I’ll give an example. I have a client that was convicted of a minor drug offense and just decided to plead guilty because he was allegedly told by his criminal lawyer that it was a slap on the wrist. Well, when Immigration found out after travel abroad, he was placed in removal proceedings and did not fit within any waiver relief (meaning he could not effectively stop his removal). This was shocking to him, and understandably should be. So, what can someone like that do? Well there may be various options. In that particular case, we had to vacate (get rid of / reopen) the criminal case. After doing that, the charge was amended to a non-removable / deportable offense.


Immigration Interview

Immigration Marriage Related Interview at 26 Federal Plaza, New York City

In general, there are two marriage related interviews that are ordinarily scheduled at 26 Federal Plaza, New York City by Immigration – DHS.

When a married couple files a family petition (also known as an I-130 application) in conjunction with a green card application, the couple is generally scheduled for an interview to determine whether the marriage was entered for legitimate reasons.

In support of such application, the couple is expected to bring documents which would corroborate and prove that they reside together.  Naturally, in certain circumstances a couple may have to reside apart, perhaps due to jobs in different cities.  These documents ordinarily are presented for purposes to prove that they share a residence and that they have commingled some assets.  Again, although this may be a general rule of thumb, Immigration cannot force a couple to commingle their assets.  I’m sure everyone is aware that some couples strategically make sure that each retains their own separate assets in order to avoid a nasty divorce proceedings, should the marriage fall apart.  As such, although immigration officers may expect to see these documents, in certain cases, one can and should perhaps educate officers about one’s rights to plan their family and financial structure in a way that works best for them and not in a way immigration assumes they should.

Another type of interview usually conducted in a marriage based petition is an interview that is scheduled to determine whether a marriage is still a valid and viable marriage.  An applicant usually receives conditional permanent resident status if at the time the status is granted, two years have not passed since the marriage was entered.  In such cases, the status is granted for two year and within 90 days of the two year anniversary of being granted the status, the applicant must file an application to remove the conditions (also known as an I-751 application).  When these applications are filed, Immigration may approve the case based simply on the documents presented, or an interview may be scheduled.  These interviews are usually scheduled either because the documents were not convincing or due to a random computer audit.

Do applicants need an attorney for these types of interviews????

My opinion on these interviews is that an applicant should be represented by an attorney.  Why?  These interviews must be conducted fairly and should not be adversarial.  All too often, I will walk by an Immigration officer’s room during an interview and can hear an interviewing officer speak to applicant’s in a condescending manner.  This is inappropriate and in fact a violation of their own manual of how interviews should be conducted.  If there is no other reason, this alone is enough reason to be represented by an attorney during these interview.  Of course, there are many other just as important reasons.


Marriage Falling Apart and Need Green Card (Permanent Residency)?

What happens if someone is married to a green card holder (permanent resident) or a U.S. Citizen and the marriage deteriorates or falls apart before the other person obtains a green card or adjusts their status?

Family sponsored immigration forms a great part of the immigration process. When people enter into marriage certainly the hope is that the marriage lasts forever. “Until death do us part . . . ” However, statistics show that most marriages do fall apart and the reason most of the time fortunately is not death. Well, at least not death in the sense of the end of life. Death most often is to the marriage.

So, what can I do if my marriage is falling apart and I haven’t yet obtained my permanent residence? The answers to these questions usually leads to a host of other questions. In many cases, persons decide to file an abuse related case under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The name is a little misleading because it is not only filed for women. Let’s delve into some?

I’m married to a U.S. citizen, but my spouse is abusive. What can I do?
My answer will be limited to solely the immigration issue. If you are married to an abusive spouse, you should know that you can pursue and file for your permanent residency on your own and without the cooperation of your spouse.

What constitutes abuse to qualify filing for an Abuse Immigration Case?
Abuse can take many forms. The obvious one is physical abuse. However, the abuse can also be emotional or mental abuse, which is very common with these types of cases.

Does the victim have to be female to file an Immigration Abuse Case?
No. In fact, about half of the clients we represent are male victims that are abused by their female spouses.

How do I prove abuse for my Immigration Case?
In most cases, abuse is proven by evidence that is indirect. What I mean by that is that most cases do not have a police report or arrest report of the abuser. Most cases are proven by documents such as statements by the victim or witnesses.

Will my spouse find out that I filed an Abuse Immigration case?
Immigration will not notify the spouse of the filing and filings are confidential