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Lawful Permanent Resident (green card)
The goal for most immigrants to the United States is to become a Lawful Permanent Resident of the U.S. This is recognized by the U.S. government with a Lawful Permanent Resident identification card, known as a “green card” because they used to be green. The green card holder has many of the privileges of a United States Citizen, and for most green card holders, they can apply for U.S. citizenship after a few years of holding a green card.
Family Visa (Petition for Close Relative in Foreign Country)
With the goal of a green card, one of the principal ways to get a green card is through a family visa. In a family visa, a close family member already in the United States can file a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), formerly the INS, to allow their close family member to immigrate from their home country to the U.S. and to get a green card on arrival in the United States. Depending on whether or not the relative is an immediate family member or simply a close relative, the home country they are immigrating from, and the quota of visas allowed, the petition process can take from a few months to many years.
Fiance Visa (K-1 Visa on entry, then Green Card)
If a United States Citizen is engaged to be married to a foreign national and wants to bring their fiance to the United State to be married, the United States Citizen can file a fiance visa petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to bring their fiance to the United States. The visa that results from a fiance visa petition is a K-1 visa and is often referred to as a fiance visa. The process begins with the petition in the United States, Consular processing in the home country of the fiance for the K-1 visa and then entry to the United States where the couple must marry within 90 days of arrival on the K-1 visa.
Adjustment of Status (Changing status in US to Green Card)
Under certain circumstances, a person who is physically present in the United States under one immigration status, may be able to change or “adjust” that status to that of Lawful Permanent Resident (green card). This requires special circumstances in order to be allowed by the USCIS. The most common method is through marriage to a United States Citizen, and I have a fee ecourse on many more details on this process.
The usual path to citizenship is to apply for citizenship after having had a green card for five years as an individual and three years as the spouse of a United States citizen. Citizenship is not awarded automatically, you must apply for it and meet all of the standards set for naturalization to citizenship.
Impact of Crimes on Immigration (How to Lose Green Card or Prevent New Status)
Many green card holders get comfortable with the privileges afforded the Permanent Resident, and begin to believe that they have the same status as a U.S. citizen. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and if they commit a crime, including domestic violence, the USCIS may confiscate their green card and put them into “removal” proceedings. Under some of the old immigration laws, being forced to leave the U.S. was called deportation, but some recent changes in the immigration law have changed the terminology to removal from the U.S. rather than deportation. A crime, particularly an aggravated felony, can have immigration consequences far beyond the state law penalties.
If a non-citizen with or without valid immigration status commits a crime, particularly an aggravated felony, after they serve their state time, they may then be picked up by USCIS and placed in an immigration detention facility. Such a person will be held until the immigration bond is determined, granted and paid, and then they will be released, subject to appearing in immigration court for removal (deportation) proceedings. If the bond is not granted, depending on the nature of the crime and other factors, the person must remain in custody until their merits hearing on their immigration status after the crime.
Immigration Court Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)
When a person runs afoul of the immigration laws and faces the possibility of being removed from the United States, they are placed in proceedings before the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), better known as the Immigration Court. During the course of the proceedings before the Immigration Court, the person will have an opportunity to present their case to an Immigration Judge in the hopes of canceling the removal proceedings and thereby remaining in the United States. Such a person would be best advised to seek the representation of an attorney, to defend them in the proceedings.
Asylum (Fear of Return to Home Country)
A person who cannot or will not return to their home country due to fear of persecution or torture, can apply for asylum in the United States. In addition to other requirements for asylum, the person must apply within 12 months of their arrival in the United States. If they fail to meet this requirement, their application for asylum may be denied and they will be placed in removal proceedings.
Immigration is a very complicated and fact-intensive area of the law. You need an experienced Attorney to help with your case. I offer a free initial consultation by phone or email so I can advise you on options.