Law Office of Randi Megan Otwell


Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

Q:  Do I need an attorney?  It’s just filling out forms, right?

The completion of the forms is the “easy” part.  The bigger question that should be answered before any forms are started is: “Should this application be filed?”  The answer depends on the facts of the case.  Even though you can do it on your own, the consequences for doing it wrong on your own can result in the initiation of removal proceedings or case delays.

Q:  How long does it take to get a green card?  My friend received one in less than a year.

The length of the process can vary greatly depending on how the green card is being sought.  For example, a person married to a U.S. citizen spouse has a visa immediately available and can file their green card application at the time their spouse files their petition.  In contrast, a person married to a lawful permanent resident is subject to the visa priority system.  Their spouse must file their petition, and he or she must wait for a visa to become available before filing their green card application.  Additionally, every application is subject to USCIS case processing times, which vary according to the application type and the current caseload of USCIS.

Q:  Should I file an application with USCIS if I have a criminal history?

It depends what the criminal history is, how recent it is, and the benefit that you are seeking.  Let’s take a DWI for example.  If you were applying for a DACA renewal, this is a significant misdemeanor that would result in the application being denied.  In contrast, a single DWI with no jail time served would not statutorily bar a person from obtaining lawful permanent resident status.  Although, it could be considered as a matter of discretion; thus, the recency of the offense and the penalty imposed are still important considerations.

Q:  Should I file a fiancé visa or get married and file a spouse visa if my significant other is abroad?

It depends on what is more important to you: time or money?  A fiancé visa and a spousal visa follow the same process.  A petition is filed, the approved petition is processed by the NVC with an affidavit of support and certain civil documents, and then the interview occurs at a consular office abroad.  A person with an approved spouse visa enters the U.S. as a conditional lawful permanent resident (or lawful permanent resident if the marriage is at least two years long).  In contrast, a fiancé enters the U.S. on their fiancé visa, must get married within 90 days of the date of entry, and they must file their green card application.  This additional step in the fiancé process usually makes fiancé visas more expensive.  However, the fiancé petition (first step) usually processes faster than the spouse petition.

Q:  When can I file for citizenship?

A:  Generally, you can file for citizenship if you are at least 18 years old and you have been a lawful permanent resident for at least 5 years.  You can also file if you are at least 18 years of age and have been a lawful permanent resident for at least 3 years, but only if you have been married to a U.S. citizen spouse for those three years, have resided with that U.S. citizen spouse for those three years, and your U.S. citizen spouse has been a citizen for at least 3 years.

Q: What is family-based immigration, and who can benefit from it?

A: Family-based immigration allows certain family members to file a petition to obtain permanent residency in the United States.. U.S. citizens can petition for their spouses, children, parents, and siblings. Lawful permanent residents can petition for their spouses, children (under age 21), and unmarried sons and daughters (over age 21).

Q: Can you help me sponsor a family member for a green card?

A: Yes, the firm assists U.S. citizens and permanent residents in preparing and filing family-based immigration petitions (Form I-130) for their eligible relatives.

Q: How long does the family-based immigration process typically take?

A: Processing times vary, but it often takes several months to years. Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens usually have shorter wait times, while other family members may face longer processing periods.

Q: What is the Affidavit of Support, and when is it required?

A: The Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) is a commitment by the petitioning family member to financially support the immigrant. It’s always required for family-based petitions to ensure that the sponsored immigrant will not become a public charge. The exception to this rule is when the petitioner and applicant are the same person, such as a widow/widower petition or a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) petition.

Q: Can a conditional permanent resident remove conditions of residence after a divorce in the marriage through which they obtained residency?

A: Yes, conditional permanent residents can utilize a waiver of the joint filing requirement if a divorce occurs. They must show the marriage was bona fide at its inception and terminated via divorce.

Q: What happens if my petitioning relative passes away during the immigration process?

A: In some cases, surviving relatives may be eligible to continue the immigration process. The firm can help you explore options and file a humanitarian reinstatement request and/or a request for Section 204(l) relief for surviving relatives

Q: Can you assist with fiancé(e) visas (K-1 visas)?

A: Yes, the firm can guide U.S. citizens through the K-1 visa process, which allows them to bring their foreign fiancé(e) to the United States to marry within 90 days of their entry into the United States..

Q: What is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and how can it help abused family members?

AVAWA allows certain abused spouses of U.S. citizens or permanent residents, abused children (under age 21 and unmarried) of U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and abused parents of U.S. citizens (age 21 or older) to self-petition for a green card without relying on the abuser.

Q: Can DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients file a petition for their family members for green cards?

A: While DACA recipients cannot directly file a petition for family members, they can benefit from family-based immigration if their close relatives are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents in some circumstances.

Q: What is the role of an immigration attorney in family-based immigration cases?

A:. The most important thing an immigration attorney does, that a document preparer cannot, is ensure that you or your family member are eligible for a particular benefit under the law, determine whether certain waivers are needed, and determine eligibility for said waivers, if needed.

Q: What is a green card, and why is it important?

A: A green card, also known as a permanent resident card, is evidence of a non-U.S. citizens right to live and work permanently in the United States. It’s a crucial step towards obtaining U.S. citizenship.

Q: Who is eligible to apply for a green card?

A: Eligibility varies but can be based on family relationships, employment, refugee or asylee status, and more. Consult with an immigration attorney to determine your specific eligibility.

Q: Can I renew my green card if it’s about to expire?

A: Yes, green card holders should apply for renewal if their cards are set to expire within six months. Renewal ensures that you have legal proof of your lawful permanent resident status for employment, driver’s license renewal, etc.. Additionally, lawful permanent residents over the age of 18 are required to carry their green card at all times.

Q: What is the process for green card renewal, and how long does it take?

A: The renewal process involves completing Form I-90. Processing times vary but generally take several months. It’s best to apply well in advance of your card’s expiration date.

Q: What should I do if my green card is lost, stolen, or damaged?

A: If your green card is lost, stolen, or damaged, you should apply for a replacement card using Form I-90.

Q: Can I travel internationally with an expired green card?

A: It’s not advisable to travel with an expired green card. To avoid complications, renew your green card well before it expires. Effective 26 September 2022, USCIS is automatically extending the validity of Permanent Resident Cards for 24 months for lawful permanent residents who file a Form I-90 (renewal).

Q: How can an immigration attorney assist with the green card application and renewal process?

A: An immigration attorney can determine your eligibility for a green card, help you complete forms accurately, gather necessary supporting documentation, navigate any complications, appear at an interview, and represent your interests throughout the process.

Q: What are the government fees for applying for a green card or renewing one?

A: The fees vary based on the type of green card application or renewal. It’s important to check the most current fee schedule on the USCIS website.

Q: What happens if my green card renewal application is denied?

A: If your renewal application is denied, you have the option to file a motion to reopen, a motion to reconsider, or reapply. .If the renewal is denied based on a ground of deportability, you may be referred to removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge. Consult with an attorney to explore the best course of action.

Q: Can I apply for U.S. citizenship with an expired green card?

A: Effective 12 December 2022, USCIS is automatically extending the validity of Permanent Resident Cards for 24 months for lawful permanent residents who file a Form N-400 (citizenship application). If the green card is expired by more than 24 months or if the citizenship application will not be adjudicated prior to the termination of the extension, it is best to renew your green card and obtain an ADIT stamp as proof of status.

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