Immigration Questions: (954) 382-5378

  POSTING DATE: April 8,  2019
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Immigration News & Updates eNewsletter ©  2011  - 2019 
For questions about U.S. Residency, Green Cards and Immigration Visas, Visit our Website at: or  call our office at: (954) 382-5378
Questions & Answers
This Week's Immigration News 
By Immigration Attorney Caroly Pedersen
Question: Hello, I have a question, I am married to a US citizen for 18 years, I got my green card last year, and I know that I have to be a green card holder for 2 years 11 months to apply for a naturalization. Can I apply before that time considering the processing times? I think is taking from 11 to 15 months in Texas to get it. Thanks.
Answer: Since you are married to a U.S. Citizen, you can apply for naturalization early, when you have been a green card holder for 2 years and 9 months, not 11 months. So once you have been a green card holder for at least that time (not before) you can apply for early naturalization.
Helpful Immigration Tips You Can Use...

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How Do I  Contact the National Visa Center?
Immigrants going through the residency process inside the U.S. are increasingly required to wait longer and longer periods of time to be scheduled for their residency interviews, sometimes up to two years or more. Beginning November 1, 2018, the USCIS announced that medical examinations performed after that date would be valid for two years, however prior to that, medical reports submitted along with residency applications were only valid for a year. 

As a result, the medical report initially provided to the USCIS by most immigrants in the past few years has likely expired. And since residency interview notices generally do not advise immigrants to obtain updated medicals to give to the officer at the interview, most show up at their appointed date without it and end up receiving a request from the officer to provide a new medical, which significantly delays Green Card approval. In most cases, the interviewing officer sends the immigrant a notice in the mail to have the medical done and gives a deadline for them to provide it to the USCIS field office, usually by mail. Once the immigrant submits the new medical examination, it can then take another 30 to 90 days or more for the residency case to be approved. The delay is caused by several factors, including the time it takes to route the new medical from the mailroom to the immigrant’s file, then back to the officer and finally having the officer review the medical and then enter the immigrant’s residency approval in the USCIS system and order the Green Card. 
Don’t Let Your Expired Medical Exam Delay Your Green Card!  
Benefits Of Notifying The Social Security Administration 
That You Have Become A U.S. Citizen

Most Naturalized U.S. Citizens know that they should immediately apply for a U.S. Passport and register to vote, but many are not aware that they are required to notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) once they obtain citizenship status, so that changes can be made in their Social Security records. U.S. Citizens are eligible for benefits, which many others are not, so it’s vital that your SSA records are up to date to reflect your eligibility. Benefits include eligibility for certain disability benefits which are only available to U.S. citizens, easier qualification for retirement, social security benefits, ease in obtaining replacement of lost Social Security card, status as a U.S. Citizen across government agency databases, including E-Verify. 
Understanding The Difference Between Spousal And Fiancé Visas
The National Visa Center (NVC) handles processing of cases for relatives outside the U.S., in order to prepare the case for the U.S. Consulate in your family member’s home country. Once the I-130 family petition is approved by the USCIS, the NVC will generally send a letter to the sponsor letting them know that the case has been transferred by the USCIS to the NVC. 

If the family member is in a “preference category”, (for all relatives who are not the Spouse, Parent or minor child of a U.S. Citizen), the letter will also say that there are no visas presently available for the foreign family member and that he or she should not make any plans to immigrate to the U.S. until a visa becomes available (which can be many years down the road).
There is often a lot of confusion and misinformation about the difference between spousal and fiancé visas, which is best and who is eligible? The K-1 Visa Fiancé Visa is used by U.S. Citizens to bring a foreign fiancé to the U.S. in order to get married within 90 days and file for residency to get a Green Card. From that point, the residency process can take up to two years, given the increasingly long USCIS processing delays. U.S. Residents, Green Card holders cannot file for a fiancé, only Citizens can. 

A Spousal visa is used by both U.S. Citizens and U.S. Residents to bring a foreign spouse to the U.S. as a U.S. Resident, without the need to file for residency once they arrive in the U.S.. Spouses actually obtain U.S. Residency the moment they enter the U.S. at the airport or port of entry, and border officials review their immigrant visa documents and put an order in the USCIS system for production of the new resident’s Green Card right then and there upon their arrival. They usually receive their actual Green Card in about 30-60 days or so after entering the U.S.. Once a foreign spouse has been a resident for at least two years and nine months, he or she is eligible to file for early naturalization.
Question:  I got my citizenship in 2017. In 2018 I got convicted of shoplifting and had to pay some fines and do community service. My parents have been depending on me to do their immigration status but I am afraid to because I don’t want for them to know that I was involved in shoplifting and also I think maybe now I wont qualify to sponsor them because of the conviction. Can you tell me if I am still qualified to sponsor them and if so, is there any way they can find out about my shoplifting case?
Answer: No worries, under U.S. immigration law, only convictions for certain crimes potentially disqualify a U.S. citizen from sponsoring a spouse or child for a green card (not parents). These offenses include certain domestic violence offenses, kidnapping, false imprisonment, sexual crimes against minors, solicitation, etc. Your shoplifting conviction will not disqualify you in any way to sponsor your parents and the issue will not come up during their immigration process. Generally, only the criminal background of the immigrant is an issue in most sponsorship cases. 
So don’t let your residency be seriously delayed simply as a result of an expired medical exam! Here is what you need to do: Once you receive your residency interview notice, make sure 1) the edition date of your medical exam has a date of 10/19/17 or after and 2) If you submitted your medical exam along with your residency case before November 1, 2018, it is only valid for a year. If the edition date on your medical exam is not 10/19/17 or after, you will need to obtain a new once to present to the officer at your interview and even if the edition date is correct, if your medical exam was submitted before November 1, 2018, it is only valid for a year and you will still need a new one.
So which route is better? Is it best to bring a fiancé to the U.S. and file for residency or just get married and bring your spouse to the U.S. as a resident? Well, in the old days, the fiancé visa process was pretty quick, about three months for approval, then a quick interview at the consulate abroad and once the couple got married and filed for the new spouse’s residency, he or she could get their Green Card in as little as six months or so. But these days, the fiancé visa process can take upwards of eight months or more to be approved, then another few months to get the interview at the consulate abroad. Then once the fiancé comes to the U.S. and the couple marries, another possible two more years to get a Green Card, so that is about three years more or less for the process. Contrast that with a spousal case, where the U.S. Citizen and foreign spouse get married and once the immigration petition is filed, it takes about eight – twelve months for approval and another two to four months for a consular interview, where the foreign spouse is issued an immigrant visa, which automatically converts to residency (Green Card) once he or she enters the U.S.. So the entire spousal process takes about twelve to fourteen months or so, in contrast with the fiancé process which can take upwards of three years all together to get the Green Card.

Given the current timing, spousal visas are much faster and more efficient these days. The only time that a fiancé visa would normally be in order, is when the foreign fiancé has minor children who are over age 18 and still under age 21. It’s a really strange and wonderful fluke in the law. For background, under the “Immediate Relative” law, a minor child of foreign spouse qualifies as a “Step-child” which can be sponsored by the U.S. Citizen or Resident, as long as the marriage to the child’s parent took place before the child turned age 18. One day over age 18 and the child loses the ability to obtain Residency from the Stepparent. But, under the fiancé visa (K-1), minor children of the fiancé, under age 21 are eligible to be issued a K-2 Visa, which allows them to accompany their parent to the U.S. up until they reach age 21 and obtain a Green Card along with the parent. In this case, there is no requirement that their parent and step parent marry before the child reaches age 18! Strange, but true! 

The most common case would involve a foreign fiancé whose children are age 19 or younger. A 20 year old child may still have a chance, as long as the child only recently turned age 20, given the time required for the fiancé visa to be approved and the consular interview to be scheduled for the fiancé and his or her children. As long as the visas are issued and the K-2 children enter the U.S. before they turn age 21, they remain eligible for residency. One day over age 21 and they become ineligible.
As you can see, when minor children are involved, its crucial that parents preplan the immigration process very carefully to ensure that children are able to immigrate to the U.S. along with their parent. Once a child turns age 21 (called “aging out”), they fall into an immigration category called F1 (for single children of U.S. Citizens) and F2B (for single children of U.S. Residents), which then takes 6-7 years waiting time for them to be able to immigrate to the U.S.. That is like an eternity for a family and very tragic indeed. 

Get Free Information about the benefits of the Spousal and Fiancé Visas and find out how to protect your minor children from “aging out”, by calling our office at (954) 382-5378.
Tips On Sending Your Immigration Applications 
To The USCIS – Use USPS!
Immigration applications and any follow-up correspondence with the USCIS are such important matters, that you should take the additional step of sending these documents to the USCIS by a safe, quick method, which allows you to verify the date and time of delivery to the USCIS. This is especially critical when you have received a Request For Additional Evidence from the USCIS and must provide the requested documentation by a specified deadline. Many applicants do not know that if their response sent to the USCIS is postmarked before the deadline date, but is actually delivered and received by the USCIS after that date, the case is likely to be denied. 
Not only is this a tragedy for the beneficiary of the immigration application, but in such instances, all the USCIS filing fees are lost, which in some cases can be thousands of dollars. 

Certified Mail is a very slowwwwwwww service and other private courier services like Fed-ex cannot be delivered to the regular USCIS P.O. box address. The cheapest and best way to send applications/documents and to safeguard against the unfortunate situation above is to use U.S. Postal Service’s Priority Mail, which takes between 2-4 days. The cost is about $7.00 and well worth it. You will receive a tracking# so you can go online and confirm delivery. Be sure to send any responses requested by the USCIS at least 10 days before the deadline. Also, make a copy of everything you send to the USCIS including the initial application, supporting documents, checks and all follow-up responses before sending to the USCIS and never send originals! Good luck!
Question:  I have been planning to file for my us citizenship but I was laid off in 2017 and on unemployment and didn’t make enough to file taxes, and the same for 2018 and I am still looking for work. I live with my girlfriend and she has been helping me out. She has a home business so I help her out with that, but I don’t get paid. I heard that to qualify for citizenship I have to give them 5 years of my tax returns to prove I am eligible. Is there anything I can do to get a waiver of that? Do I need 5 full years of employment before I can file?
Answer: Great question. No, under current regulations you are not required to be employed in order to qualify for naturalization. However, you need to be able to explain to the officer how you are supporting yourself without receiving public assistance, for instance in your case you live with your girlfriend and she supports you. The Trump administration has been trying to tighten the rules and some proposals would require actual proof of your support, however for now, that would be very rare. I hope this has been helpful to you.
To change your status, you can download form SS-5, then visit a local Social Security Administration office in person, to register the change and speak with a representative about your social security record. Bring your Certificate of Naturalization or your U.S. passport and some other form of picture ID such as a driver’s license.  

Find a local Social Security Administration office near you 
Often, family circumstances and addresses change and the NVC needs to be notified in order for them to have the sponsor and family members current updated contact information. Further, when U.S. Resident s become U.S. Citizens, that speeds up the process for their family member, but the NVC may not be aware of the change unless they receive a copy of the new Citizen’s Naturalization Certificate. To contact the NVC, call: (603) 334-0700. Be sure to give them the case number on the correspondence provided to you by the NVC or mail documentation or correspondence to them at: National Visa Center, Attn: DR, 31 Rochester Ave. Suite 100, Portsmouth, NH 03801-2914. Make sure that all correspondence includes a letter containing the NVC case number, your name/ birth date and the same for your relative.