Phones answered 24/7 414-383-6700

Immigration Law

Home/Immigration Law

Green Card FAQ

Green Card FAQ - Carlos Gamino

By Carlos Gamino

If you’re like many people, you’d like to get a green card and become a lawful permanent resident, or LPR, of the United States. Whether you’re in the U.S. on a visa right now or you’re just beginning the process, this green card FAQ will answer all your questions – and if you don’t see the answers you need here, call us at 414-383-6700 to schedule a consultation with a Wisconsin immigration lawyer.

Related: Immigrant visa information

Green Card FAQ

Check out the questions and answers below to get the information you need about becoming a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. and getting a green card.

What is a Green Card?

A green card, which is officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, allows you to live and work permanently in the United States. This immigration document shows that you’re authorized to travel anywhere in the U.S. for any lawful purpose, that you can work for any employer you wish to work for, and that you can live in any city in any state without restriction.

How Many Green Cards Are Issued Per Year?

During Fiscal Year 2019, U.S. Customs and Immigration Services issued just under 577,000 green cards. The number varies each year, but USCIS is working through its backlog of applications to reduce wait times for applicants.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Green Card?

Typically, it takes between 7 and 36 months for USCIS to process a green card application. It depends on several factors, including where your application is processed. Some types of green cards take even longer – for example, it can take between 1 year and 10 years for USCIS to approve a family preference green card.

You can check your case status online here.

Can I Travel While Waiting for a Green Card?

You can travel inside the U.S. without restriction while you’re waiting for your green card. If you want to leave the United States, you’ll have to fill out and file a Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. Typically, if you’re waiting for your green card and you leave the U.S. without an advance parole document, the U.S. government can conclude that you’ve abandoned your application.

Related: Permanent residency in the U.S.

How Long Can You Stay Out of the Country With a Green Card?

If you have a green card, you can generally stay outside the U.S. for up to 6 months at a time. If you stay outside the U.S. for more than 6 months but less than a year, you’ll most likely face additional questioning when you return. If you stay outside the U.S. for a year or more, you’ll need a reentry permit – but you can’t apply for it when you’re outside the U.S. You must apply for it when you fill out and file Form I-131 before you leave the country.

How Long is the Green Card (I-485) Interview?

Your green card interview, which USCIS uses to determine whether to permit you to change your status and become a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., should take less than 30 minutes to complete. Some interviews are very short, and others are a bit longer. Either way, the immigration officer assigned to your case will ask you a series of questions and let you know whether your petition is approved on the spot – unless he or she needs more information. In that case, you’ll be given time to provide additional evidence. You’ll receive USCIS’s decision by mail.

What Happens After the Interview for a Green Card?

In many cases, the USCIS officer who conducts the green card interview will approve the application on the spot. If that happens to you, the officer may put an I-551 stamp inside your passport and USCIS will mail you a green card. However, sometimes USCIS needs more information to make a decision. If that happens to you, you’ll have time to provide evidence; then, you’ll wait for USCIS’s decision to arrive in the mail.

Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Immigration or These Green Card FAQ?

If you have questions about immigration that we haven’t answered here, please feel free to schedule a consultation with an immigration attorney by calling 414-383-6700.

Carlos Gamino

By |2020-05-16T17:32:07-05:00June 15th, 2020|Immigration Law|Comments Off on Green Card FAQ

I-485 Interviews

I-485 Interviews - Carlos Gamino

By Carlos Gamino

An I-485 interview is probably the last step you’ll need to take in the green card application process – and for many people, the interview results in a decision from U.S. Customs and Immigration Services. Here’s what you need to know about the I-485 Adjustment of Status interview.

What Happens During a Green Card Interview?

During your I-485 interview, the officer in charge of interviewing you will ask you questions about your application. If he or she needs clarification on something, you’ll be given a chance to explain. If you’re adjusting your status based on a marriage, your interviewer may ask you questions about the history of your relationship, what you do together as a married couple, and your future plans together. All these questions are USCIS’s way of determining whether you have a bona fide marriage.

Related: Adjustment of status

What Should I Bring to My I-485 Interview?

You should bring a complete copy of your adjustment of status application, including your Form I-485 and other forms you’ve submitted, to your green card interview. You should also bring:

  • Government-issued ID
  • Your appointment notice
  • Originals of any supporting documents you submitted to USCIS
  • Your passport and any travel documents you have (such as an advance parole document)
  • A letter from your employer if you’re applying based on employment
  • Your marriage certificate and evidence of your bona fide marriage (such as a lease or mortgage, joint bank account information, kids’ birth certificates and other types of evidence) if you’re applying based on marriage

Related: Family-sponsored visas

How Long Does an I-485 Interview Take?

Usually, an I-485 interview takes less than 30 minutes to complete.

What Questions Do They Ask in a Green Card Interview?

Many of the questions your interviewer will ask will be about your I-485 application, such as whether you’ve had any major changes since you filled it out. If you’re applying based on marriage, the interviewer will ask questions to establish that you have a bona fide relationship with your spouse. He or she might ask things like:

  • How, when and where did you meet?
  • Where did your spouse work when you met?
  • How much money does your spouse make?
  • When did you decide to marry, and how did you or your spouse propose?
  • Did you go on a honeymoon? Where?
  • How many bedrooms are in your home, and who sleeps in each?
  • What size bed do you and your spouse have
  • Who pays for your housing, and how?

The USCIS officer in charge of your case can ask a wide variety of questions to see if you and your spouse have a genuine relationship.

Do You Need to Talk to an Immigration Attorney About an I-485 Interview?

Many people choose to work with an immigration attorney during the entire green card application process. If you’re applying for a green card, we may be able to help you – whether you’re only considering filing or you’ve already started the process. Call us at 414-383-6700 to schedule a consultation with a Milwaukee immigration attorney today.

Carlos Gamino

By |2020-05-16T18:17:49-05:00June 8th, 2020|Immigration Law|Comments Off on I-485 Interviews

What is a Public Charge?

By Attorney Carlos Gamino

What is a Public Charge - Carlos Gamino

In immigration, a public charge is someone who’s likely to – or who already has – used certain public benefits for 12 months out of any 36-month period. Being a so-called public charge can affect a person’s immigration application, whether he or she wants to become a lawful permanent resident or a naturalized citizen. Here’s what you need to know.

What is a Public Charge?

The U.S. government considers someone to be a public charge if that person uses one or more of the following benefits for 12 months out of any 36-month period:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Any federal, state, local or tribal cash benefit programs for income maintenance
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation)
  • Public Housing
  • Federally funded Medicaid (with some exclusions)

That means if you’re a lawful permanent resident who has used Temporary Assistance for Needy Families for more than 12 months out of any 36-month period, you’re considered a public charge.

Who is Exempt From the Public Charge Rule?

Some people are automatically exempt from being considered public charges. These people include:

  • Refugees
  • Asylees
  • Afghans and Iraqis with special immigrant visas
  • Some nonimmigrant trafficking and crime victims
  • People who apply under the Violence Against Women Act
  • Special immigrant juveniles
  • Others who have received a waiver of public charge inadmissibility from the Department of Homeland Security

Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Lawful Permanent Resident Status or Adjustment of Status?

If you’re considering applying for a green card, or if you’re ready to apply to become a naturalized U.S. citizen – whether or not you’ve ever used public benefits – you may want to talk to an attorney about your case. Call us at 414-383-6700 to schedule your consultation today. We can provide you with the answers and legal guidance you need.

Carlos Gamino

By |2020-03-20T08:32:34-05:00April 11th, 2020|Immigration Law|Comments Off on What is a Public Charge?

New Public Charge Rule

By Attorney Carlos Gamino

New Public Charge Rule - Carlos Gamino

The Department of Homeland Security’s new Public Charge Rule may have an impact on your green card eligibility or your citizenship application. It’s most likely going to decrease the number of people who are eligible for green cards – so here’s what you need to know.

2020 Changes to the Public Charge Rule

The Public Charge Rule is officially being implemented after several lengthy court battles. (The U.S. Supreme Court stayed the final injunction on it in March 2020.)

A “public charge” is a person who receives certain types of public benefits. If USCIS feels that a person is likely to become a public charge, which means that person would (or did) use certain benefits for more than 12 months out of any 36-month period, it can reject a green card application or a citizenship application.

Under the previous rule, USCIS would look at an applicant’s Affidavit of Support and make a determination – but now, it can use other factors to weigh its decision. These are the factors an individual USCIS officer can look at to make an independent decision (and all officers may have different criteria):

  • Age
  • Health
  • Family status
  • Education and skills
  • Assets, resources and financial status
  • Expected period of admission

What Public Benefits Count Against the Public Charge Rule?

The benefits that count against the rule include:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Any federal, state, local or tribal cash benefit programs for income maintenance
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation)
  • Public Housing
  • Federally funded Medicaid (with some exclusions)

Benefits that won’t count include Medicaid benefits received for emergency treatment or in connection with the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act.

Will the 2020 Changes to the Public Charge Rule Affect You?

If you think the changes to the Public Charge Rule will affect your case, you may want to talk to a Milwaukee immigration attorney. Call us at 414-383-6700 now to schedule a consultation about your case.

Carlos Gamino

By |2020-03-20T09:06:18-05:00March 25th, 2020|Immigration Law|Comments Off on New Public Charge Rule

What is H-4 EAD Removal?

H-4 EAD Removal - Carlos Gamino

By Carlos Gamino

Thousands of H-4 visa holders are living – and working – across Wisconsin. However, some H-4 dependent spouses are on the verge of losing work authorization in the U.S. Here’s what you need to know.

H-4 Employment Authorization

Some spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants qualify for employment authorization. This authorization allows the husband or wife of an H-1B visa holder to work anywhere, including as a self-employed businessperson, in the United States. But right now, that authorization hangs in the balance for many families.

The current presidential administration has been working overtime to roll back rules put in place during former President Obama. One of those rules provided H-4 visa holders the ability to work while residing in the U.S. The rule in question had been in place since 2015, and it allowed H-4 visa holders who were waiting for green cards to apply for an employment authorization document, or EAD. Two years later, the current administration unveiled its plan to discontinue these work permits – and it’s been battled in court since then.

Related: The challenges of legal immigration

Some companies, including Pepsi, American Airlines and Apple, are fighting to keep H-4 visa holders in the workforce. Their argument is that the highly skilled H-4 workers they employ will be forced to take their skills to other countries because they can’t work here. The consequences could be dire – especially in fields involving science, information technology, engineering and mathematics – where there are already significant shortages.

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Your Immigration Status and EAD Removal?

If you’re married to an H-1B visa holder and you have H-4 status, you could still qualify for another type of business immigration if your EAD is removed. We may be able to help you find realistic alternatives, so call us at 414-383-6700 today or contact us online.

Carlos Gamino

By |2020-02-16T12:51:04-06:00March 14th, 2020|Immigration Law|Comments Off on What is H-4 EAD Removal?

The Asylum Process in the United States

The Asylum Process in the United States - Carlos Gamino

By Carlos Gamino

The U.S.’s asylum process can be complicated – and many people end up working with an attorney to ask for safe haven within the country. Asylum is only available to people who are being persecuted (or who are in danger of being persecuted) in their home countries, so here’s what you need to know if you’re considering it.

The Asylum Process in the United States

If you want to obtain asylum in the U.S., you must present yourself to immigration authorities and claim a credible fear of persecution based on:

  • Religion
  • Race
  • Nationality
  • Political opinion
  • Membership in a social group

You must have a valid fear or past experience with persecution in your home country. Otherwise, your petition for asylum will be denied.

Related: Proposed changes to the public charge rule in immigration

What is Persecution for Purposes of Asylum in the U.S.?

Persecution can fall into several categories, including discrimination, physical abuse, harassment, unjust arrest or imprisonment, or another type of harm. However, the U.S. will only grant you asylum if the persecution you experienced is due to one of the five factors listed above. The persecution can’t be from just anyone, either – it must come from your home country’s government or from forces that your government can’t control, like guerrilla groups.

Related: 3 current immigration myths, debunked

The Asylum Interview

U.S. Customs and Immigration Services will require you to come in for an interview if you’re asking for asylum in the United States. You’ll have to talk about all the facts you listed in your asylum application to prove that you have a credible, well-founded fear of persecution (or that you’ve been persecuted in the past). After your interview – but not on the same day – the U.S. government will make a decision about your application.

Are There Alternatives to Asylum?

If you’re outside the U.S., you won’t apply for asylum. Instead, you’ll ask for refugee status. You must meet the same criteria for persecution that you would to become an asylee.

Related: Asylum vs. refugee status

There are other alternatives, though. If you cannot prove a well-founded fear of persecution or show that you’ve been persecuted in the past (and that your persecution is likely to continue), there may be other ways for you to enter the United States lawfully.

If you’re considering immigrating to the U.S. for any reason, we may be able to help you. Call us at 414-383-6700 to schedule your immigration consultation today, or contact us online.

Carlos Gamino

By |2020-02-16T12:32:02-06:00March 2nd, 2020|Immigration Law|Comments Off on The Asylum Process in the United States

Family Immigration in Wisconsin

Family Immigration in Wisconsin - Carlos Gamino

By Carlos Gamino

U.S. citizens and some lawful permanent residents are eligible to bring certain family members into the United States using family immigration processes. Not all relatives are eligible – but if yours are, a Wisconsin immigration attorney may be able to help.

Family Immigration: Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas for Family Members of U.S. Citizens

The immediate relatives of U.S. citizens are often eligible to come to the U.S. on an immigrant visa. Unlike other types of visas, these visas are unlimited in number – there are no caps or waiting periods associated with them. The family members eligible for this type of immigration benefit include:

  • Spouses
  • Unmarried children (and their minor children)
  • Parents
  • Orphans adopted abroad
  • Orphans to be adopted in the U.S.
  • Fiancés

U.S. citizens can petition on behalf of siblings, siblings’ spouses and siblings’ minor children, but there are limits on the numbers of visas available to these immigrants.

Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas for Family Members of Lawful Permanent Residents

Immigrant visas for family members of lawful permanent residents who hold green cards are limited in number, but they’re available to:

  • Spouses
  • Minor children
  • Unmarried children over the age of 21

Requirements for Family Immigration Petitions

Before you can file a petition on behalf of a relative, you must determine which category that person belongs in – and your attorney can help you. When you know the appropriate category, your attorney can file either an I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, or an I-129f, Petition for Alien Fiancé. You’ll have to pay the appropriate fees and wait until your petition is reviewed. You’ll also have to file supporting documentation, such as:

  • An affidavit of support, which says that you’ll financially support your relative if necessary
  • Photographs and birth certificates, marriage and divorce certificates, and other important documents
  • Court and prison records
  • Police certificates
  • Adoption documents
  • Other documentation that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or the State Department deems necessary

Your relative will also have to pass background checks and meet admissibility criteria to get approval to come to the U.S.

Do You Need Legal Advice on Family Immigration?

Because U.S. immigration law can be complicated – and because it can be a long, drawn-out process, many people turn to a Wisconsin immigration attorney for help. If you’re considering petitioning the U.S. government for a relative, we may be able to assist you. Call us at 414-383-6700 today to learn more.

Carlos Gamino

By |2020-02-16T13:14:34-06:00January 27th, 2020|Immigration Law|Comments Off on Family Immigration in Wisconsin

What Relatives Can a U.S. Citizen Sponsor

What Relatives Can a U.S. Citizen Sponsor - Carlos Gamino

By Carlos Gamino

U.S. citizens can petition the government to bring foreign family members into the country. To do so, the citizen must sponsor his or her family members – but not all family members count. In fact, there’s a popular “chain migration” myth that says an immigrant can sponsor his or her whole family, but it’s almost completely untrue. So what relatives can a U.S. citizen sponsor to come to the United States?

What Relatives Can a U.S. Citizen Sponsor?

If you’re a U.S. citizen, whether you were born here or you naturalized, you can only sponsor your:

  • Parents
  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Siblings

There are restrictions on each category, too, and every family member you sponsor must meet admissibility criteria to come to the country. For example, if U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services finds that one of your family members isn’t of “good moral character,” it will deny your petition to sponsor him or her. In most cases, you must also file an affidavit of support, which says that you’ll provide financial support so that the person you’re sponsoring doesn’t become a public charge (someone who relies on social safety nets, like welfare and federal- or state-funded medical coverage).

Here’s a closer look at each sponsorship category.

Parents

To sponsor your parents for immigration purposes, you must be 21 or older. There are no limits on these types of visas, which means your parents don’t have to wait for a number to come up in the government’s system. They can come as soon as the State Department and USCIS process and approve their applications.

Spouses

Spouses count as immediate relatives, and as such, they’re not subject to visa limits. Like parents, spouses can come to the U.S. when their petitions are reviewed and approved. You must be at least 18 years old to petition for a spouse.

Children

Many children count as immediate relatives, and you must be at least 18 years old to petition for kids to come to the U.S. If your children are minors and they’re unmarried, they’re not subject to visa caps (like parents and spouses). However, if your children are married or they’re over the age of 18, they’re considered “preference relatives,” and they must wait for visa availability.

Siblings

You can petition to bring your brothers and sisters to the U.S., but like married adult children, the government considers them preference relatives. Additionally, you must be 21 or older to petition for your sibilings.

Do You Need to Know More About What Relatives a U.S. Citizen Can Sponsor?

If you need to know what relatives a U.S. citizen can sponsor, or if you’re ready to start the process of bringing your immediate family members to the United States, we can help. Call us at 414-383-6700 for more information.

Carlos Gamino

By |2020-02-16T13:18:49-06:00January 21st, 2020|Immigration Law|Comments Off on What Relatives Can a U.S. Citizen Sponsor

Proposed Changes to the Public Charge Rule in Immigration

Proposed Changes to the Public Charge Rule in Immigration - Carlos Gamino

By Carlos Gamino

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director recently claimed that the famous poetry on the Statue of Liberty – “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus – referred mostly to European immigrants. Cuccinelli also added his own twist in an interview with NPR, stating that it should say, “Give me your tired, your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”

So what is a public charge, and what kinds of changes has the current administration proposed?

What is a Public Charge?

The term public charge refers to a person who is primarily dependent on the government for support. That could include using a form of welfare or public assistance that tax dollars pay for. The government currently determines who’s likely to become a public charge by having an immigration officer look at a person’s “totality of circumstances,” such as the person’s:

  • Age
  • Health
  • Family status
  • Financial status
  • Education and skills

Not all immigrants have to undergo this “public charge test.” Some immigrants who fall under humanitarian categories, like refugees and asylees, may not have to show that they won’t become a public charge; in some cases, certain immigrants qualify for a public charge waiver.

Related: 3 myths about Mexican immigration debunked

What Changes Could Occur?

If the proposed changes take effect:

  • More programs can be considered when determining whether someone is likely to become a public charge, like some healthcare, housing and food programs
  • Income levels may be considered
  • Other standards might fall under the “totality of circumstances,” such as a person’s ability to speak English, as well as physical and mental health conditions that could affect the person’s ability to work

The proposed changes have not yet taken effect, but if they do, they could cut down legal immigration as early as October 15 of this year.

Do You Need to Talk to an Immigration Attorney in Milwaukee?

If you’re considering immigrating to the United States, we may be able to help you. Call us at 414-383-6700 to set an appointment for a consultation to discuss your situation with a Milwaukee immigration attorney today.

Carlos Gamino

By |2019-11-27T22:18:20-06:00November 27th, 2019|Immigration Law|Comments Off on Proposed Changes to the Public Charge Rule in Immigration

Exceptions to Naturalization Requirements in the U.S.

Exceptions to Naturalization Requirements in the U.S. - Carlos Gamino

By Carlos Gamino

When a person wants to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, he or she must meet several requirements – including a requirement to speak English, take a civics test, and recite the Oath of Allegiance. However, there are some exceptions available to people who qualify. Here’s what you need to know.

Exceptions to Naturalization Requirements in the U.S.

Some people qualify for exceptions to the U.S.’s naturalization requirements that involve speaking English and taking a civics test, as well as taking the Oath of Allegiance to the U.S.

English Language Exceptions

You could be exempt from the English language requirement if you are:

  • Age 50 or older, if you have been in the U.S. as a permanent resident with a green card for at least 20 years
  • Age 55 or older, if you have lived as a permanent resident with a green card for at least 15 years

If you’re exempt under these rules, you’ll still have to take the civics test – but you can take it in your native language, provided that you bring an interpreter with you to your interview.

English and Civics Exemptions for Medical Disabilities

If you can’t speak English or take the civics test because you have a physical or developmental disability (or a member of your family does), you could be exempt from both. You must bring in a form completed by a licensed medical doctor or psychologist to prove that you (or your family member) has a disability that would prevent you from doing either of these things.

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Exceptions to Naturalization Requirements?

We may be able to help you file your paperwork for U.S. naturalization, as well as help you prove that you’re exempt from either the English language requirement or the civics test requirement – or both.

Call us at 414-383-6700 now to schedule a consultation with a Milwaukee immigration attorney who can help.

Carlos Gamino

By |2019-11-27T22:03:19-06:00November 27th, 2019|Immigration Law|Comments Off on Exceptions to Naturalization Requirements in the U.S.