When To Seek Legal Counsel While Immigrating To The United States

4 min


One of the primary purposes of this article is to inform undocumented immigrants, or those who are concerned that their immigration status may prevent them from obtaining a green card and later becoming U.S. citizens, about when they should seek legal advice before applying for permanent residency in the United States through a process called consular processing.

In addition to informing potential applicants about consular processing basics, this article provides an overview of how an experienced immigration attorney can help individuals determine if they are eligible for either amnesty or authorized residence under certain provisions in current law authorized by Congress. These categories include: 

1) Crime victims’ rights under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA); 

2) Special immigrant juvenile status; 

3) Battered/Abused spouse waivers; 

4) Special immigrant visas for Iraqi and Afghan translators; 

5) Newly enacted law created by Congress under the Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits, and Security Act (AgJOBS); 

6) Military naturalization; 

7) Persons who are American Samoans or permanent residents of Guam; 

8) Victims of domestic violence who have suffered battery or extreme cruelty committed by their lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen spouses/parents.

When To Seek Legal Counsel – The Basics Of Consular Processing For Those Who Entered Without Inspection (EWI’s), Falsely Claimed U.S Citizenship Applicants must be aware that applicants cannot file both an adjustment of a status petition with USCIS while they are in the United States and a consular processing petition at the U.S. consulate in their home country simultaneously although applicants may have both procedures pending at the same time.

USCIS prefers that those who are eligible to adjust status do so because it is less expensive, more efficient for USCIS, and can be completed within two to six months after filing compared to consular processing which can take four months or longer before an immigrant visa number becomes available.

When To Seek Legal Counsel – Applying For An Employment-Based Immigrant Visa Category Applicants should seek legal counsel if they fall under certain employment categories where there are specific evidentiary requirements including 1) Certain Special Immigrants; 2) Afghan or Iraqi Translators; 3) Professional Athletes; 4) Religious Workers; 5) International Organization Employees and Family Members.

Where To Go For Legal Assistance In Order To Apply For Citizenship Applicants will need to research the immigration law in their own country in order to ascertain all of the documentation that they must bring with them to their consulate when filing for an immigrant visa after a USCIS approval of a permanent residency petition. The following is a list of many necessary documents: 

1) Valid Passport, 

2) Police Certificate from Applicant’s country where he/she resided for at least six months since age 16, 

3) Medical Examination Report, 

4) Two passport photos, 

5) Copy of your birth certificate, 

6) If married two years or more – Marriage certificate and copy of spouse’s birth certificate, 

7) If divorced – Decree of Divorce and Death Certificate of a former spouse, 

8) If widowed – Death certificate of deceased spouse and Marriage Certificate of widow/widower, 

9) Police Clearance from each place the applicant has resided for one year or longer since age 16.

Where To Go For Legal Assistance In Applying For An Immigrant Visa At A U.S. Consulate Applicants must be aware that they should choose a U.S.-competent lawyer who specializes in immigration law, is familiar with dealing with consulates abroad on such cases, and has good knowledge about the visa process at the consular post where their case will be adjudicated. The following are helpful tips: 1) The more information that the lawyer asks about the case, the better his/her chances of being able to provide a high-quality legal opinion. 

2) The more evidence an immigrant visa applicant has as to their ties to their home country and family relationships there, the better chance they have of obtaining a visa. 

3) An immigrant visa applicant must know what he/she wants from their immigration case so that they can explain those reasons succinctly to their lawyer. 

4) Applicants should not come with a laundry list of problems because it will only complicate things for everyone but instead should research the U.S. immigration law that applies directly to them and then tell their lawyer everything relevant about themselves which would show that they deserve a green card or immigrant visa.

Are You Eligible To Receive Adjustment Of Status Or Immigrant Visa – Know The Practical Differences Applicants who are awaiting the approval of an immigrant visa petition or adjustment of status application must be aware that there are some practical differences between them. 

1) An immigrant visa is more difficult to obtain than permanent residency because applicants must establish that they will not become a public charge in the United States; 

2) There can be long waiting periods, sometimes for years, before an immigrant visa number becomes available; 

3) Some consulates abroad do not like to process certain cases such as self-petitions (where the applicant filed on their own without assistance from a U.S.-based employer or relative); 

4) Once approved by USCIS, applicants generally have more freedom to travel than those who are still waiting for an immigrant visa number; and 

5) It is often easier to consider the merits of a consular case once it has been approved by USCIS.

Why Does My Spouse Or Children Need To Be My Petitioner If I Am Eligible For Adjustment Of Status Applicants must realize that both spouses and children can be petitioners on Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) if they were listed on the application as beneficiaries of the original petition? However, it is also possible to file new or separate petitions for family members who meet certain eligibility requirements such as age, marital status, and relationship with the principal applicant. Applicants should keep in mind that all individuals who are eligible to be included in Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status) must have separate petitions filed on their behalf through either USCIS or U.S. consulates abroad.

When Is The Best Time To Receive A Request For Evidence From USCIS Applicants who are waiting on the approval of an immigrant visa petition or adjustment of status application may receive a request for evidence from USCIS if it appears that not all is required documentation has been submitted with his/her case. 

1) Applicants should always do their best on every document they file with immigration authorities because missing important information on one form can lead to having another form rejected; 

2) If more evidence is needed, applicants will always be notified; 

3) Applicants should not assume that more evidence is needed until they receive notification of what is missing or insufficient; 

4) The most common reasons for receiving a request for evidence are missing photos, birth certificates, marriage licenses, and financial documents.

For more information, you may ask or consult with immigration lawyers in Houston.

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