Immigration FAQs

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What is a green card?

A “green card,” gives an immigrant lawful permanent resident status, which means you can live and work anywhere in the United States as long as you renew your green card before it expires. Green card holders can apply for citizenship after five years in the country (or three years if they are married to a U.S. citizen).

How Long Does It Take to Get a Green Card?

Only a certain amount of green cards are distributed each year, and your wait time varies depending on which kind of visa you are applying for. If you apply for a family-based or employment-based green card, and if the quota has been met, then your application may be pushed to the next year. Family-based green cards are also staggered depending on a relationship, with siblings taking the longest.

What is USCIS?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is a part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and they handle all matters regarding legal immigration. USCIS is primarily responsible for approving green cards, naturalized citizenship, work permits, and travel permits.

What is a Lawful Permanent Resident?

A lawful permanent resident is a visa holder that can remain in the United States as long as they follow certain protocol. Lawful permanent residents have to remember to renew their visas every few years, and committing certain crimes of moral turpitude will get them deported. Lawful permanent residents can live and work in the United States, sponsor certain relatives for their own visas, and ultimately apply for U.S. citizenship.

What is Good Moral Character?

The United States wants to make sure that immigrants are going to contribute to the country in a positive way. Before a lawful permanent resident is approved for naturalized citizenship, the USCIS must determine if they have good moral character. This means they have not been convicted of any crimes within the past five years.

How is a Naturalized Citizen Different From a Native-born Citizen?

A naturalized citizen will be held to the same level as a native-born citizen; they are not second-class citizens in any way, meaning they can vote and sponsor others for visas.

How Long After My Marriage Can I Apply for a Green Card?

It can take up to two years for your marriage-based visa to be processed, and this may take even longer if you’re living outside the U.S. during this time.

What Are the Income Requirements for a Marriage Visa?

The minimum income required for a marriage-based visa varies depending on where the sponsor lives, how many kids they have, and other factors. Generally, the sponsoring spouse must make 125% above the Federal Poverty Guidelines, and the minimum combined income is generally $21,137 for a couple with no children.

What is the Difference Between a Fiancé Visa and a Marriage Visa?

A K-1 visa, or “fiancé visa,” is a non-immigrant visa available for fiances of U.S. citizens who are preparing to come to the U.S. They must get married within 90 days of arriving in the country. A marriage visa can be applied for by both spouses of both U.S. citizens and U.S. visa holders. Unlike the K-1 visa, the marriage-based visa provides permanent residence.

Do I Have to Open the Door if ICE Comes to My House?

Being confronted by ICE can be scary, but you don’t have to immediately open the door should they come knocking. You should always ask if they have a judicial warrant, and if they do, ask them to slide it under the door. They can only enter if they have a warrant.

Can I Plead the Fifth Amendment When Questioned by ICE?

The Fifth Amendment guarantees you the right to remain silent when questioned by authorities. You can “plead the fifth” while being interrogated by ICE, and this means that you do not have to answer any questions. If they are asking you about another person’s legal status, you can also remain silent, as lying to the authorities can get you deported.

What Crimes Can Get You Deported?

Various crimes can get green card holders deported, but not all crimes. Crimes that can result in deportation include smuggling, fraud, domestic violence, drug possession, illegal gun sales, and terrorism. Other serious crimes can also get you deported, such as murder and rape.

Can You Get a Visa for Helping Solve a Crime?

If you are a victim of the same perpetrator yourself, you can get rewarded with a U-visa if you help law enforcement bring them to justice. Giving a police officer information that helps them solve a crime can result in them giving a visa for victims of crimes.

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