Can you vote if you're not a citizen?

Quick question - Can you vote in the upcoming election if you're not a U.S. citizen?

The answer of course is NO!

First, only U.S. citizens can register to vote.

Second, since only U.S. citizens can vote, and if you aren't a U.S. citizen and you vote in there will be serious consequences - if you apply to become a citizen, USCIS can deny your application. You may even risk getting removed/deported. You should talk to an immigration attorney if you're not a citizen and have voted in an election to see what your options are.

Now, if you are a citizen, don't forget to vote! One of the greatest privileges of being a U.S. citizen is being able to participate in the democratic process.

I'm married to a US Citizen so they won't deport me, right?

WRONG! Just being married to a US citizen won't prevent you from being deported if you are an undocumented foreign national, or even if you are a documented foreign national! Even legal permanent residents and visa holders may be deported if they've committed certain serious crimes or have committed immigration fraud (such as coming in to the country using someone else's passport). When I say serious crimes, I mean crimes like certain aggravated felonies, domestic violence convictions, certain drug convictions, but this list is in no means inclusive. 

Undocumented foreign nationals without criminal records can't rest easy either - there is still a risk that they may be deported. The road to legalization isn't quick and easy, and it isn't cheap even if the foreign national has been married to their US citizen spouse for a long time.

NVC Termination Letters

This past week, the National Visa Center (NVC) sent out letters to a number of visa applicants, stating that their case is in proceedings to terminate their immigrant visa due to lack of contact with the NVC within the last year, even when the applicant and their attorney had in fact been in contact with their attorney. The NVC is apparently working on correcting the issue, and they sent the affected applicants an update telling them that their case is still in process after all and that they should ignore the previously sent email. If something like that has happened in your case, do not be afraid to contact your immigration lawyer.

In the case where the NVC has sent you a case Termination Letter, and the letter was not in error, contact an immigration attorney because they may be able to get your case reopened.



Biometrics and Why They are Part of the Immigration Process

What's the deal with the biometrics fee and appointment?

Many immigration processes, including the processes involving getting a green card or applying for citizenship require that the applicant is fingerprinted. The reason why the applicant needs to get fingerprinted is because an FBI criminal background check is going to be run to make sure that the applicant doesn't have any criminal history that would bar them from getting their green card, citizenship or other immigration benefit. Basically, they are looking for criminal issues that would make the applicant deportable or inadmissible. The applicant has to submit a fee for "biometrics" at the time that they apply for their green card/naturalization/other immigration benefit and then get their fingerprints taken at their local (USCIS office or Application Support Center (ASC). The applicant cannot just get their fingerprints taken at the local police station and then submit it to USCIS, it must be done through one of USCIS's Application Support Centers!

What happens at the biometrics Appointment?

The applicant needs to bring their appointment notice and a valid photo ID to their biometrics appointment. At the biometrics appointment, the applicant will get their fingerprints taken and sometimes they will get their photo taken as well. The appointment doesn't take very long. The fingerprints are then sent to the FBI to review, and USCIS will also check the fingerprints against their own records.


Getting a Green Card Based on Marriage

One of the things that irritates me about the movies and TV is that they make it look like the immigration process is a lot easier than it actually is! For example, in the movies, they make it seem like the moment a foreign citizen gets married to a US citizen, the are automatically handed a green card (otherwise known as legal permanent residency). Not so fast! In reality, the US citizen spouse has to file a spouse based immigration petition with US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Then the foreign citizen spouse has to either apply for an immigrant visa to come into the US and live here, or they can file to change the immigration status if they are legally here in the US. If the foreign citizen spouse came here and did not immigrate legally, then they have their work cut out for them, and really need to talk to an immigration attorney because there is a lot more paperwork that they need to file, and time that they need to invest in the process.

Even in straight forward cases with no significant issues, it can take more than six months for a foreign citizen to get their green card.

If you have questions relating to a marriage based green card, schedule a consultation with an immigration lawyer.

Advance Parole in a Nutshell

When you're applying to adjust status to permanent residency, you need to also apply for advance parole if you anticipate traveling outside of the United States before your permanent residency is granted. If you travel outside of the United States without advance parole while your case is pending, then your case will be denied for abandonment and you have to refile your adjustment of status all over again, and pay the fees all over again! While you're waiting for your adjustment of status case to be decided, you are allowed to travel within the United States and directly to U.S. territories (like Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam), but you bear the risk of your plane getting diverted to another country in the case of foul weather or something else.

If you need to get advance parole at the last minute, you can emergency advance parole by scheduling an Infopass appointment, filling out the advance parole form, and going to a USCIS Field Office to physically submit the application and fee, and then you can get a stamp in your passport. One thing to keep in mind though is that the Infopass appointments are usually scheduled for two weeks out.

If you want to learn more about advance parole, you should talk to an immigration attorney.

USCIS Announces DACA Renewal Process

USCIS has announced the process for renewing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).  On June 5th, USCIS announced that it will immediately accept renewal requests. To file for renewal of DACA status, you need to file I-821D along with I-765 and I-765WS along with a filing fee of $465 and two passport style photos.

If you want to file for DACA for the first time, you need to file the previously mentioned forms, along with proof that you arrived before the age of 16, proof that you graduated high school or you are currently enrolled in school, proof that you've been in the U.S. from June 2007 until now, proof that you were in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, and proof that you were under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012.

You should consult with an immigration attorney before filing for DACA, to ensure that you are eligible, since having a criminal record may make you ineligible to apply.


Submitting a FOIA request with CBP

If you want to know more about your entries and exits into the United States or other border records, you can submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). Here's a list of what records you can get from CBP under a FOIA request.

If you want to get your I-94 information, go here.

If you want to submit a FOIA request with CBP, you can submit one online here.

If you want or need help with obtaining your CBP FOIA records, you should contact an immigration attorney.


FOIA requests and why you might want to get one

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows people to request federal agency records, including records by the agencies involved in immigration to the United States: Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Department of State. There are some limitations to what federal agencies can and will disclose, as provided by three exemptions under law enforcement record exclusions, and nine exemptions under the law.

Anyone can submit a FOIA request. You might want to submit one if you're an immigrant and want to access records that you no longer have yourself. You might also want to submit a FOIA request if you are undocumented  or overstayed your visa and were picked up by ICE and now are planning on applying for a visa or adjustment of status.

If you have additional questions about FOIA requests and immigration, you should contact an immigration attorney.


Can your citizenship be revoked? - Part II

If you became a citizen through naturalization, it is possible that your citizenship can be revoked, but only a couple of circumstances will trigger that possibility. One example is if that naturalized US citizen obtained their citizenship by knowingly performing fraud or knowingly making a misrepresentation to USCIS in order to obtain their citizenship. If USCIS determines that a person obtained their citizenship through fraud or misrepresentation that person may be criminally prosecuted.

If this scenario has happened to you or someone you know, you should consult with an immigration attorney.

Can your citizenship be revoked? - Part I

If you became a citizen through naturalization, it is possible that your citizenship can be revoked, but only a couple of circumstances will trigger that possibility. One example is if that naturalized US citizen was convicted of a crime involving drugs before they were naturalized and didn't disclose this during the citizenship process they may have to worry about their citizenship getting revoked once USCIS finds out.

If this scenario has happened to you or someone you know, you should consult with an immigration attorney.

How much can you expect to pay in filing fees for a spouse visa?

Applying for an immigrant visa for a spouse of a US citizen involves a few steps and several fees along the way.

Step 1: Filing the Petition for Alien Relative (I-130) - $420 fee paid to US Department of Homeland Security.

Step 2: Filing the Immigrant Visa (DS-260) - $230, and Affidavit of Support (I-864) - $88 paid online to the Department of State.

Step 3: Medical Exam Fee - Usually between $100-$300, and paid to the clinic where the exam is held. This fee does not include any vaccinations.

If you are interested in applying for an immigrant visa for your spouse, you should consider consulting with an immigration attorney.

How much can you expect to pay in filing fees for a fiance visa?

Applying for a fiance visa to the United States involves several steps with filing fees to be paid along the way.

Step 1: Filing the fiance petition (I-129F): $340 Fee to US Department of Homeland Security

Step 2: Once the fiance petition is approved, one needs to file for the visa application and pay for the visa application fee: $240 paid to the Consulate/Embassy where the applicant is going to have their visa interview. The visa applicant will also need to undergo a medical exam and that fee varies - usually between $100-300, paid to the clinic where the exam is performed. This fee does not include the cost of any vaccinations that the applicant might need to get.

Step 3: After the couple gets married, the foreign national fiance will be eligible to apply to adjust his/or her status and obtain legal permanent residency. The filing fee for Adjustment of Status is $1070 (including the fee for biometrics, or fingerprints, to be taken), paid to the US Department of Homeland Security.

If you are considering filing for a fiance visa for your spouse, you should consult with an immigration attorney.



NWIRP and partners launch website:

A group of several organizations launched a new website: The groups backing the website include the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, the Legal Action Center of the American Immigration Council, and the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties.

The goal of the website is to document abuses made by US Customs and Border Patrol agents and to promote more accountability by that agency.





What might cause the denial of a fiance visa?

There are several reasons why a K-1, or Fiance Visa might be denied:

  1. Lack of Eligibility - you weren't eligible for a K-1 Visa in the first place because:
    • the marriage wouldn't be legal, due to age or the fact that one half of the couple hasn't finalized their divorce for a previous relationship
    • You haven't met in person within two years of filing the petition
  2. Petitioner has been convicted of a "specified offense against a minor"
  3. You made a misrepresentation on the K-1 petition

There are waivers available in certain circumstances, so you should contact an immigration lawyer if your K-1 Visa was denied, or if you think that your case might be deniable.

I applied for a K-1 visa before but didn't go through with it. Can I apply again with a new relationship?

A common question is whether you can apply for a K-1 visa more than once.

The answer is yes, but be prepared for additional scrutiny from USCIS and the State Department in the applications following the first one.

Be prepared for a denial if the K-1 visa petitioner (the US citizen in the relationship), filed petition for 2 or more fiancées and they had a previously approved petition filed within the last 2 years.

It is a possible to get a waiver of the time/numerical bars, and USCIS will concern factors like unusual circumstances such as the death or incapacity of a previous foreign national fiancée, among other factors.

Immigration and eligibility for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)

It shouldn't be a surprise that your Immigration status may affect your eligibility under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

There are several immigration statuses eligible for coverage under the ACA, including:

  • Lawful permanent resident (LPR/Green Card holder)
  • Asylee
  • Refugee
  • Paroled into the U.S.
  • Victim of trafficking and his or her spouse, child, sibling, or parent
  • Granted Withholding of Deportation or Withholding of Removal, under the immigration laws or under the Convention against Torture (CAT)
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
  • Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)
  • Deferred Action Status (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) isn’t an eligible immigration status for applying for health coverage.)
  • Applicant for:
    • Adjustment to LPR Status with an approved visa petition
    • Victim of trafficking visa
    • Asylum who has either been granted employment authorization, OR is under 14 and has had an application for asylum pending for at least 180 days.)
    • Withholding of Deportation or Withholding of Removal, under the immigration laws or under the Convention against Torture (CAT) who has either been granted employment authorization, OR is under 14 and has had an application for withholding of deportation or withholding removal under the immigration laws or under the CAT pending for at least 180 days.)
  • Certain individuals with employment authorization documents
  • Lawful temporary resident
  • Granted an administrative stay of removal by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

For additional eligible categories, check the list here.



What happens if your Adjustment of Status Case is Denied?

If your Adjustment of Status case is denied, you have a couple of options, including appealing or refiling your application for Adjustment of Status. Keep in mind that the appeal process can drag on, so you might get a resolution quicker if you just refile, unless you are pretty sure that USCIS truly made an error in denying your case.

If your Adjustment of Status case was denied, you really, really need to consult with an immigration attorney to go discuss your options.

What is the fiancé visa application process?

The fiancé visa is a several step process, and can become complicated very quickly.

Here are the steps (in a nutshell):

1) File a Fiancé Petition (I-129F) with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This petition needs to be accompanied by documents that prove that you've met in person in the last two years, documents that show that you have a bona fide relationship, and proof that you intend to get married with 90 days of your fiancé's arrival in the United States.

2) After the fiancé Petition is approved it is transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC), which will then forward your petition on to the consulate. During this time your fiancé should get his or her police certificate, gather proof that he or she is eligible to get married, and gather together the documents that he or she will need at the interview (birth certificate with translation, passport, etc.). When the consulate is ready they will send you a letter and then you'll submit the Non-immigrant visa online to the Department of State. Fiancé visas are considered non-immigrant since your fiancé will have to return home if you don't get married. Your fiancé will also need to get a medical examination and get any necessary vaccines. After the interview your fiancé will receive his or her passport with the visa attached to it within a week or so.

3) Fiancé travels to the US and you get married!

4) Once you are married your fiancé can apply for Adjustment of Status and get legal permanent residency (a green card) which enable him or her to travel in and out of the US and work in the US.

Things that may complicate the process are either party having a criminal record, trouble with immigration before (like a prior removal order), among other issues, so you should consult with an immigration attorney if you are interested in pursuing this process.