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.  Another important consideration is the two new policy memorandums issued by USCIS.  The first allows USCIS to deny a case outright when the application does not contain the required initial evidence.  This will result in the loss of the fees paid for the application.  The second allows USCIS to refer a case to deportation proceedings if the applicant’s case is denied and, the applicant is not lawfully present in the United States.  In other words, even though you can do it on your own, the consequences for doing it wrong on your own are harsh.

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.

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