A green card, officially called a lawful permanent resident card (or “LPR” card), allows a person to live and work in the United States.
Although applying for a green card may appear to be as simple as filling out some forms, it is actually a complicated legal process that has many potential pitfalls. For example, if your green card application is not completed correctly with the necessary information, fees, and supporting documentation, it can be denied and put your ability to live in the United States in jeopardy. In fact, it can prevent you from becoming a United States citizen in the future or put you at risk of landing in deportation proceedings.
However, applying for a green card is not all doom and gloom when you have the right legal counsel to guide you through the process. Indeed, an experienced immigration attorney can minimize your risk of having your green card denied by ensuring that your application is complete, accurate, and filed in accordance with the law.
Below are six* reasons why you should have an immigration attorney’s help with filing your green card application.
*Please note, this blog only discusses a few of the common issues. This is not a comprehensive list. Because immigration is a complex process, it is highly recommended that you make an appointment with an experienced immigration attorney to discuss your case. Click here to contact Cynthia V. De Los Santos to make an appointment and discuss your specific eligibility for a green card.
First, you must be eligible for a green card.
The law provides different eligibility categories (also called visa categories) for a green card. For example, a U.S. citizen or LPR family member or employer may file a visa petition on your behalf. Additionally, if the U.S. government has classified you as an asylee or refugee, a victim of abuse, crime, or trafficking in the United States, you may be eligible for a green card. Also, if you are from a specific country, like Cuba, you may be eligible for a green card under special laws. You may even fall within more than one eligibility category and it is, therefore, important to strategize with your attorney about which avenue to use.
Depending on your specific circumstances and which avenue(s) you fall into, you may be eligible to immediately get your green card or you may have to wait until there is a visa available to you.
Second, you must file your application with the correct agency.
Your immigration history will determine where you file your application and where you have your interview.
You may have to apply through the U.S. Department of State and have an interview outside the United States at the consulate in your home country. This is called “consular processing.”
Alternatively, you may be eligible to apply with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and have your interview at the local field office. Or, you may apply with the immigration judge if you are already in deportation proceedings. This is called “adjustment of status” and you do not need to physically depart the United States to obtain your green card.
In addition to filing the form with the correct agency, you must also provide the correct fees or risk having the government reject your application.
Third, you must not have a disqualifying criminal history.
If you have committed certain crimes or have been convicted of certain offenses, you may be ineligible for a green card. When you meet with your immigration attorney, make sure you bring all of your documents from your criminal case so they can evaluate the immigration consequences of any criminal conduct and determine if it impacts your eligibility for a green card.
A waiver, which provides legal forgiveness, may be available in some cases, but they are not always granted and require additional eligibility requirements, fees, and supporting documentation.
Fourth, you must not have any disqualifying immigration history.
If you have applied for any visa in the past, your past forms and documentation will be scrutinized during your green card application process. If you have any inconsistencies, misrepresented any facts in prior applications, or committed fraud, you will likely be deemed “inadmissible” and ineligible for a green card. If you have copies of your prior applications, make sure you show your attorney. If not, your attorney may be able to file a “Freedom of Information Act” Request to obtain a copy of your file from the relevant government agencies.
Another potential issue is if you have overstayed a visa or lived in the United States without permission for more than 6 months.
Again, there are waivers (legal forgiveness) available if you meet the specific eligibility requirements.
Fifth, you must meet the financial requirements.
To get your green card, you may have to show that you will not become a “public charge” meaning someone primarily dependent on the government for subsistence. A number of factors are considered including your age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education and skills.
You may also need to submit an “affidavit of support,” to show that you have a “sponsor” once you become a lawful permanent resident. Your sponsor will need to meet specific income requirements.
Sixth, you must meet the health requirements.
When you apply for your green card, you must undergo an immigration medical examination to show you are free from any conditions that would render you “inadmissible” under the health-related grounds in the law.
These requirements change based on policy. For example, now you must now be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before the civil surgeon can complete an immigration medical examination. For those of you located in Austin, Texas or surrounding areas (such as San Marcos, New Braunfels, Kyle, or Le Grange) click here for where you can obtain your COVID-19 vaccine.
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The information provided in this blog does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information and content are for general informational purposes only. Readers of this blog should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to their specific legal matter. No reader or browser of this blog should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on this site without first seeking legal advice from counsel. Only your individual attorney can provide assurances that the information contained here – and your interpretation of it – is applicable or appropriate to your specific situation. Use of and access to this blog or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader or browser and the Law Office of Cynthia V. De Los Santos.