Immigration Questions: (954) 382-5378
POSTING DATE: October 14, 2019
Immigration News & Updates eNewsletter © 2011 - 2019
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Question: Me and my husband went to my immigration appointment last month and even though the officer was not friendly, she said she had everything she needed for now and gave us a paper that said they couldnt make a decision and have 120 days to do it. The officer asked us for our lease, but we didn’t have one because we live with my sister, but we had a few other papers we brought showing our marriage documents like our current car insurance and joint bank account we got together last month that has a hundred bucks in it and tried to give it to her but she didn’t take it. She said it was strange that we don’t have a lease and live with my sister and asked us why we didn’t have utility bills there and we said it was because the house is in my sister’s name. I had 2 affidavits one from my aunt and one from my husbands mom, but she didn’t look at them either. Also my husbands driver license is from his old address. Now its been a month gone by and nothing. My husband called the immigration number and tried to make an appointment to go to the office where we had our interview to get a status but the immigration lady on the phone said no we have to wait for a decision. Now we are wondering what to do should we wait or what? Is there anything you can do to speed the process up?
Answer: Sorry to hear that you didn’t have a pleasant experience, but it is very common these days to encounter USCIS officers who are seemingly applying stiffer standards in marriage immigration cases and are more skeptical about whether or not a marriage is real these days. The main issue in marriage-based immigration cases, is the critical necessity for a couple to clearly establish that the marriage is real - by providing extensive documentation from the time of the marriage until the interview, not just for the past month (for example Joint: lease, bank statements, driver’s license or state ID at the same address, auto insurance, utilities, both names on the lease, tax return “married filing jointly”, lots and lots of photos, etc. the list goes on and on. Affidavits attesting to a genuine marriage are usually not given much weight by an officer and are generally used as a last resort when a couple does not have enough other “real” documentary evidence to show. USCIS officers have a lot of discretion to decide whether a marriage is real or not, based upon the totality of all the evidence presented by the couple, as well as the way a couple presents themselves and especially the way they interact together at the immigration interview.
There are many factors which immigration officers consider when making a determination about whether or not a marriage is real. Officers like to see lots of photographs of the couple with other people and family members at celebrations or events (not selfies), a joint lease or a home deed to show that one of the spouses owns the property and utilities from each spouse at the same marital address. Officers have a mental check off list of certain factors which tend to show a marriage is more real than not and the lack of these items tends to show that the marriage may be fake. High on the list of fake marriage “red flags” is a couple who does not have a joint lease and who instead live with relatives and do not have any utilities in their names. Similarly, spouse’s who’s driver’s licenses do not match the marital address cause heightened suspicion that a marriage is not real. Joint bank accounts are also important, but can also be a cause for concern. For instance, officers are looking for the couple to have joint bank accounts for a long period and to show that it is the only account both spouses use, deposit funds into and pay bills out of. Couples who open a joint account and put a $100 in which stays in every month looks more suspicious than anything else, leading to the belief that each spouse has their own separate account which they use, not the joint one. Especially since officers know that fake marriage partners do not trust each other enough to actually share a bank account.
With all of that said, it is becoming more and more common in recent months for officers to issue notices to couples at the end of the interview which says that a decision cannot be made at this time and the officer has 120 days to make a decision. This just gives the officer time to adjudicate that case, perhaps have a supervisor review it and in many cases, issue an approval with a month or so. On the other hand, some couples often receive a Request For Evidence (RFE) to submit more marital documents, certified police reports and court dispositions for any criminal incidents or any other document the officer believes is missing to complete the case. In any event, if nothing is received within 90 days, it might be wise to contact your local congressional office to get assistance. This sometimes gets the case “out of the crack” and makes the officer either issue an RFE, schedule a second interview or approve the case. I hope this is helpful to you.
Immigration How To:
How Do I Contact The National Visa Center On My Daughter’s Immigration Case?
Tips On Contacting the National Visa Center
Once the USCIS approves a family petition (form I-130), it forwards the case to the National Visa Center (NVC), to handle processing of cases for relatives outside the U.S., by preparing the case for the U.S. Consulate in your family member’s home country. After the sponsor receives the I-130 Approval Notice from the USCIS, the NVC generally sends out a notification that it has received the case from the USCIS. 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 state 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).
Understanding When An Affidavit of Support Is Not Required
For A Minor Child of A U.S. Citizen
When a U.S. Resident or Citizen sponsors a family member to immigrate to the U.S., an Affidavit of Support (form I-864) along with supporting financial documentation is usually required to prove that the sponsor meets the minimum income requirements.
There is an exception, however for children of a U.S. Citizen parent who are under age 18 at the time of immigrating. In such cases, the U.S. Citizen parent is not required to provide an Affidavit of Support filed on their child’s behalf.
Last Minute Federal Court Decisions
Block Trump’s “Public Charge” Rule!
In sweeping decisions, Federal Courts in New York, California and Washington all issued last minute temporary injunctions on Friday to stop the Trump administration's "public charge" rule, preventing it from taking effect tomorrow on Oct. 15.
Had the controversial rule been allowed to take effect, the new policy would have made it more difficult for immigrants to get green cards by allowing U.S. immigration officials to unilaterally decide whether or not the an immigrant will use public benefits including medical and healthcare assistance in the future.
Tips On Filing A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
To Request A Copy Of Your Immigration Case
Lawsuit Claims Feds Are Using Marriage Interviews
To Arrest Immigrant Spouses
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently filed a lawsuit claiming that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials routinely use marriage interviews at local USCIS offices to lure immigrants, using the scheduled appointment as “bait”, in order to arrest immigrant spouses and take them into custody for deportation.
Lately there have been frequent reports of such arrests nationwide, showing a pattern of conduct by local immigration offices in states including Florida, where the USCIS field office schedules a couple for the required marriage interview as a ruse, pretends to conduct the interview, only to allow federal agents to take the immigrant spouse into custody during the proceedings.
Called "Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds," the rule expanded the types of prohibited public aid, including cash assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), state and local cash assistance and long-term medical care at government expense, "non-cash" benefits, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (known as food stamps), Section 8 housing and rental assistance, Medicare Part D prescription drug benefits, and Medicaid in non-emergency situations. The strict policy further required immigrants to provide extensive information and documentation, including those regarding finances, assets, savings, debts, and credit scores among others. The rule granted broad discretion to immigration officials to weigh a wide variety of "negative factors," including the applicants' age (specifically if an applicant is under 18 or over 61), health, education, work skills, income and family status, in order to deny their applications for residency (green cards).
As a result of these temporary court orders, USCIS immigration forms which were specifically revised to implement the new public charge rule have been removed from the USCIS website, including the updated Form I-485 application for residency, Form I-129 and the new form specifically created for immigrants to complete to provide information about income, assets and credit, called Form I-944, Declaration of Self-sufficiency.
This latest rule is just one in a series of efforts by the White House to limit both legal and illegal immigration to the U.S.. Trump recently signed a proclamation barring the entry of legal immigrants who cannot prove they will have health care coverage or the means to pay for it within 30 days of their arrival in the U.S., which is set to take effect on November 1st. Under this proclamation, entitled: Presidential Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry of Immigrants Who Will Financially Burden the United States Healthcare System, only immigrants who can show they can pay for "reasonably foreseeable medical costs" or are already covered by approved health insurance would be allowed to enter the U.S.. As yet, no guidelines have been released by the administration which outline the proof necessary to meet the requirements and to date, no federal lawsuits have been filed to stop implementation of the terms of the proclamation, although challenges may be filed at the last moment!
All in all, last week was a big winner for immigrants and clear repudiation of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies. Seems Trump has proven to be a real loser, having lost not only three federal lawsuits against his public charge rule, but also a fourth Federal Court in Texas last week ruled against his use of emergency powers to divert public funds to build the border wall against the will of Congress. On a personal level, in yet another major loss, last week a Court of Appeals in D.C. ruled against Trump, ordering that his personal financial records be turned over to House Democrats investigating his alleged illegal conduct, conflicts of interest and violation of the Constitution's Emoluments Clause.
However, it is important to note that this temporary halt of the public charge rule is not permanent, and the Trump administration has the option of appealing the temporary injunctions while the lawsuits continue through the regular process in the state courts. The Supreme Court may ultimately grant a review of the issue and with a five to four conservative majority, may well rule in Trump’s favor. As a result, early filings for residency under the current more liberal policies would still be advisable. Stay tuned….
Such arrests are becoming more and more common for immigrants with existing deportation orders, which most are unaware of. The reason is that when an immigrant receives a notice to appear in immigration court, the notice is sent to the last known address of the immigrant, who is likely no longer living at the same address, since the removal process can take several years or more before a court hearing is actually scheduled. When the immigrant does not show up to the hearing because they never received the notice, an order of deportation “in absentia” (meaning the order is entered without the immigrant being present at the hearing) is entered by the court, which the immigrant is often never aware of.
Existing Obama era policies allowed immigrants who were approved for a waiver of the deportation order to provide proof of the real marriage, then travel to the immigrant’s home country to attend a consular interview in order to be issued an immigrant visa which would allow the immigrant spouse to return to the U.S. legally and obtain a green card. In light of these harsh policies, immigrants with any previous contact with Customs and Border Patrol (ICE) or immigration court, should be wary of attending a scheduled immigration interview without first consulting with an immigration attorney and apprising them of their immigration history and circumstances which resulted in any previous encounters with ICE or other immigration officials.
But as is often the case, many immigrants do not have copies of the of past applications and USCIS or other immigration notices they received during the process. In addition, since most have lost vital documents pertaining to those cases and in some instances, they do not even fully remember what their immigration status is or what immigration requests might have been filed on their behalf. As the years go by, families move and documents get misplaced or lost, leaving some immigrants unable to know whether they qualify for legal immigration status or not. Some who applied for asylum or other benefits many years ago swear that they never got an answer on their case, only to later realize that an order of deportation was issued by an immigration court against them, which they were never aware of.
So in these turbulent times, with constant government threats against even legal immigration, it’s more important than ever for immigrants to fully understand their immigration status and have possession of any immigration documentation they may need to help determine whether or not they are eligible to obtain residency through a family member or by other means. In these cases, filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with federal immigration authorities can be very useful to obtain critical information on an individual’s immigration history and even some documents to prove legal entry, when the I-94 card or old passport has been lost over the years.
FOIA requests do not trigger any kind of negative action on an immigrant’s case, but they can often take many months to process. The key to success is to provide full and complete information to enable the agency to locate the file and any related case information pertaining to the applicant. Depending on an immigrant’s particular case, documentation may sometimes be held by various government agencies, including: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Department of State (DOS), the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), and, for some, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). In these cases, a separate FOIA must be requested from each agency separately.
Before undertaking a FOIA request, it is important to understand that not all documents are available under FOIA, including requests to obtain duplicate approval notices or original documents submitted to the USCIS. Typically, documents which can be obtained are copies of Immigration case filings, applications, including supporting documents and immigration court documents. FOIA’s can also be particularly important when an immigrant has lost a copy of a vital document such as an I-94 which was previously submitted to the USCIS as part of an Immigration application. We can make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on your behalf, just give us a call at: 954-382-5378.
Learn more about filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for Immigration case copies:
Immigrants who have been living in the U.S. for many years often become frustrated and try to legalize their immigration status. Commonly, during the countless years they have spent in immigration limbo in the U.S., many have been sponsored by family members, have filed a request for a green card through marriage or have applied for work authorization or for another immigration status. And for any future immigration application, it is vital to have a complete history of an immigrants case history before filing any immigration request, since nearly any immigration application which is denied by the USCIS these days can result in a referral to immigration court for deportation.
Question: my boyfriend is a green card holder since 2017 (through his aunt who filed for his parents). I recently came to the us to visit him and we heard through a friend that if we get married, I can stay here and file for my green card. We decided to do it, but I have a question about travelling. My sisters wedding is coming up in January and I need to go home to be a brides maid. If I file for my green card once we get married next week, will I be able to go home in January for the wedding?
Answer: Good question. It is very important for immigrants who are filing for adjustment of status (residency) in the U.S. to understand that once the application is filed, they cannot leave the U.S. until they receive their travel permit, called “Advance Parole”. Under delayed Trump processing times, this is now often taking 6+ months to receive! If an immigrant leaves the U.S. after filing for adjustment, without the travel permit, the entire residency case is automatically cancelled. So, in your case, if your residency case is filed next week, it would likely take until May of next year to receive your work and travel permit. That means you will not be going home for the wedding. The other option is to leave the U.S. and come back for a visit after the wedding.
Question: hi I got my green card from my parents about 8 years ago. I met my wife a few years ago and got married. She had came here on a student visa then overstayed for 3 years. We want to file her immigration papers but I heard that since I just have my green card she cant get her green card through me until I get my American citizenship. I filed my citizenship papers last month, but we know it takes a long time and we are wondering if I can go ahead and file for her residency and work permit now even though im not a citizen to get her started, then later once I get my citizenship, she will be eligible. We just want to get her papers in and get her work permit since she has been waiting all these years. What do you think?
Answer: No, not a good idea, since your wife must establish eligibility at the time the residency application (form I-485) is filed, not later during processing. If you were to mistakenly file her case now when she is not eligible, then to naturalize (become a U.S. Citizen) during the process, her application would not be approved, since you would have had to be a U.S. Citizen before she filed her adjustment of status application. The result would be that you would need to refile her application all over again, another $1,225 USCIS filing fees and likely even a referral to deportation. So be patient, wait until after you swear in as a citizen before filing for her residency.
Eligible children under age 18 who become U.S. Residents (Green Card holders) through their U.S. Citizen parents also automatically become U.S. Citizens, and are therefore not required to have an Affidavit of Support filed on their behalf.
This is true for children immigrating from abroad through a U.S. Consulate, as well as children adjusting status to U.S. Residency inside the U.S. through a U.S. Citizen biological parent.
In these cases, the U.S. Citizen parent must file form I-864W, Intending Immigrant's Affidavit of Support Exemption, instead of form I-864 Affidavit of Support.
Click Here to view the form I-864W Intending Immigrant's Affidavit of Support Exemption
Find out more about Affidavits of Support and exemptions by calling our office at: (954) 382-5378
And during the long wait for an Immigrant Visa, family circumstances may change and addresses need to be updated in order for the NVC to have current contact information for the U.S. Citizen or U.S. Resident sponsor. Similarly, when a U.S. Resident becomes a U.S. Citizen, or a married child divorces the process for immigrating family members may speed up, but the NVC may not be aware of the change unless they receive a copy of the new Citizen’s Naturalization Certificate or the child’s divorce certificate.
To contact the NVC, call: (603) 334-0700. You may often hear a message saying that due to high call volume, operators are assisting other customers, directing you to call back at another time. Do not let this dissuade you, simply use redial to keep calling back every few moments until you are able to be put in the wait queue. Be sure to have the USCIS or NVC case number, your full name/ birth date and the same for your relative. You can also contact them by mail (making sure your letter contains all the above information, send to: National Visa Center, Attn: DR, 31 Rochester Ave. Suite 100, Portsmouth, NH 03801-2914.