Immigration Law FAQs
Our Skokie Immigration Attorneys Are Here to Help
Immigration is one of the most complex areas of U.S. law. Facing ever-changing rules, policies, and procedures, foreign nationals need all the help they can get as they work toward their immigration goals.
Below, we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions about U.S. immigration law. We hope this proves useful as you navigate your case.
How can I become a permanent resident of the U.S.?
To become a permanent resident of the U.S., you must apply through the UCSIS, which includes the following steps:
- File Form 1485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
- Pay applicable fees set forth in Supplement A of Form 1485
- File Form G-325A Biographic Data Sheet (between the ages 14 and 79)
- File Form I-693 Medical Examination Sheet (not required if applying based on continuous residence since before 1972, or if you have had a medical exam based on a fiancé visa,
- Provide two color photos taken within 30 days (Form I-485 has instructions)
- File Form I-864 Affidavit of Support (completed by sponsor)
- File Form I-765 Authorization for Employment (if seeking employment while the case is processed)
- Provide evidence of inspection, admission or parole into the US (Form I-94, Arrival Departure Record)
There may be additional forms and other materials to submit if you were initially admitted as the fiancé of a U.S. citizen, if you are a Cuban citizen, if you have been a continuous resident of the US for a certain number of years, or other special circumstances.
Can I appeal the denial of my petition or application?
Should a petition or application be denied or revoked by the USCIS, in most cases you may appeal that decision to a higher authority. The Administrative Appeals Office (“AAO“) has jurisdiction over 40 petitions and applications.
If you receive a denial notice, it will advise you of your right to appeal, the correct appellate jurisdiction (AAO or BIA), and provide you with the appropriate appeal form and time limit. There are strict deadlines that must be met to properly file an appeal.
The appeal must be filed with the correct fee at the office that made the original decision. You may file a brief (explanation) in support of the appeal.
After review, the appellate authority may agree with you and change the original decision, disagree with you and affirm the original decision, or send the matter back to the original office for further action.
In addition to the right to appeal (in which you ask a higher authority to review a denial), you may file a motion to reopen or a motion to reconsider with the office that made the unfavorable decision.
By filing these motions, you may ask the office to reexamine or reconsider its decision.
How can I enter the U.S.?
You can enter the U.S. through over 300 ports of entry (POE). A POE is any station—land, air, or water—through which a person can enter the country.
Immigration officials inspect all persons entering the U.S. at a port of entry. At the port of entry, an official must authorize the visitor’s admission to the U.S.
At that time Form I-94, Record of Arrival/Departure, which notes the length of stay permitted, is stamped.
Those visitors who wish to stay beyond the time indicated on Form I-94 must contact the USCIS to request Form I-539, Application to Extend Status.
The decision to grant or deny a request for extension of stay is made solely by the USCIS.
What are the prerequisites to obtaining U.S. citizenship?
Certain guidelines determine whether one is eligible to obtain U.S. citizenship.
- Age: Applicant must be at least 18 years old.
- Residency: Applicants must be a permanent resident and have resided in the U.S. continuously for the past three years.
- Good moral character: Full disclosure of all facts pertaining to one’s character is necessary, including an applicant’s criminal history.
- Attachment to the Constitution: A demonstrated commitment to upholding the U.S. Constitution’s principles.
- Language: The ability to read, write, and speak some English.
- U.S. government and history knowledge: Passing the immigration test and taking the Oath of Allegiance.
How can I obtain an immigrant visa so that I may live here permanently?
There are three basic ways in which someone can obtain an immigrant visa:
- By having a family member who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident file a family-based immigrant visa petition on their behalf;
- Through employment; or
- By entering and “winning” an immigrant visa through the annual diversity visa lottery.
What are some of the responsibilities of a U.S. citizen?
Some of the responsibilities of a U.S. citizen include:
- Participating in jury duty or armed forces if called upon
- Paying taxes
- Respecting the rights of others
- Obeying the law
What are some of the benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen?
There are many advantages of becoming a citizen of the United States.
Some benefits include:
- The right to vote
- The reuniting of families
- Protection of children’s right to remain in the U.S.
- Freedom to travel with U.S. passport
- SSI (Supplemental Security Income), based on certain contingencies
How do I become a naturalized U.S. citizen?
The naturalization process is a way for individuals who are not U.S. citizens by birth to obtain citizenship. If you are at least 18 years old, you can start by filing Form N-400 “Application for Naturalization.”
If you acquired citizenship through your parents when you were under 18, you can file Form N-600 “Application for a Certificate of Citizenship” to document your naturalization. Adopted children can file Form N-643.
Who has citizenship by birth?
You will be automatically granted citizenship if you were born in the United States unless you were born to foreign diplomats. You will also be automatically granted citizenship if you were board abroad to two U.S. citizens and at least one of them lived in the U.S. at some point in their life.
If you were born abroad to only one U.S. citizen after November 14, 1986, you may be eligible for citizenship if:
- Your U.S. citizen parent lived in the U.S. at least five years before your birth
- At least two of those five years were after the parent’s 14th birthday
If you were born abroad to only one U.S. citizen before November 14, 1986, you may be eligible for citizenship if:
- Your U.S. citizen parent lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years before your birth
- At least five of those 10 years were after the parent’s 14th birthday
Who is eligible for asylum and how do I apply?
Asylum may be granted to people who are arriving in or are already physically present in the United States. To apply for asylum in the United States, you may ask for asylum at a port of entry (airport, seaport, or border crossing), or file Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, at the appropriate Service Center within one year of your arrival in the United States.
You may apply for asylum regardless of your immigration status, whether you are in the United States legally or illegally. You must apply for asylum within one year of your last arrival in the United States, but you may apply for asylum later than one year if there are changed circumstances that materially affect your eligibility for asylum or extraordinary circumstances directly related to your failure to file within one year.
How do I obtain refugee status?
U.S. immigration law grants refugee status and asylum status to persons who have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, nationality, religion, or membership in a particular social group or political opinion.
If you are outside the United States and wish to apply for refugee status through the United States Resettlement Program (USRP), you must first get a referral from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or, in rare instances, the U.S. Embassy in your country.
A referral is not the same thing as being registered with the UNHCR. If you are already registered with the UNHCR but wish to apply for resettlement in a third country under P1, you need to make a formal application through the UNHCR.
This means that you must go to the UNHCR and request to be considered for a Priority-1 interview with the U.S. Resettlement Program. Without this referral, you cannot be considered under Priority-1 processing.
What is the benefit of being a permanent resident?
As a lawful permanent resident, you receive a permanent resident card, commonly known as a green card. This card is evidence of your status as a lawful permanent resident and of your registration in accordance with United States immigration laws.
The benefit of the becoming a permanent resident is that you obtain a right to live and work permanently in the United States.
What is a green card?
A green card is, technically, a United States Permanent Resident Card. This card serves as identification for one who is a lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the U.S. Holders of this card may conditionally reside and work in the U.S. This card was previously referred to as the Alien Registration Receipt Card and still may be called form I-551. Although the green card has not been green since 1978, the term remains commonly used.
How long can I stay in the U.S. as a student?
You are allowed to stay in the United States for as long as you are enrolled as a full-time student in an educational program and making progress toward completing your course of study.
If approved, you also will be allowed to stay in the country up to 12 additional months beyond the completion of your studies to pursue practical training. At the end of your studies or practical training, you will be given 60 days to prepare to leave the country.
How do I apply to study in the U.S.?
You first must apply to study at a USCIS-approved school in the United States. When you contact a school that you are interested in attending, you should be told immediately if the school accepts foreign national students.
If you are accepted, the school should give you USCIS Form I-20 A-B/ID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status – for Academic and Language Students).
If you require a visa, then you should take the USCIS Form I-20 to the nearest U.S. consulate to obtain a student visa. Only bring the USCIS Form I-20 from the school you plan on attending for visa processing at the U.S. consulate.
You must also prove to the consulate that you have the financial resources required for your education and stay in the United States.
I am in love. I want to bring my fiancé(e) to the United States. Can I?
Yes, you can. There is a procedure whereby the petitioner (the U.S. citizen individual) petitions for the foreign-born fiancé(e) to come to the United States.
After the fiancé(e) is issued a visa, he or she can come to the United States. However, he or she must marry the petitioner within 90 days after entry to the United States, otherwise the visa is dead.
How do I know what government agency I am dealing with?
The answer depends on whether the problem involves a visa, a petition requesting permission to enter the United States, or labor certification.
If the problem involves a visa, it probably involves the Department of State, which is the only federal agency that can issue a visa.
There are two types of visas:
- Nonimmigrant visa: A multicolored stamp placed in the passport allowing the bearer to enter the United States temporarily for a specific purpose identifies this visa.
- Immigrant visa: Not stamped in a passport but is a packet of documents surrendered to an immigration officer at the port of entry. The packet includes an approved petition filed by an individual, a business, or an organization (such as a religious group) seeking to sponsor an immigrant’s entry into this country.
If the problem involves a petition requesting permission to enter the United States as an immigrant, or under certain circumstances, as a non-immigrant, such as for employment or as a fiancé, the situation involves USCIS. If the problem involves labor certification, it involves the Department of Labor.
What if I would like to live and work in the U.S. and I have family already living there?
A lawful permanent resident is a foreign national who has been granted the privilege of permanently living and working in the United States. If you want to obtain a green card through sponsorship from a U.S. citizen or LPR relative, you face a multi-step process.
First, your relative will have to file form I-130 on your behalf. The Department of State will determine if an immigrant visa number is available to you immediately. When an immigrant visa number is available, it means you can apply to have one of the immigrant visa numbers assigned to you. You can check the status of a visa number in the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin.
If you are already in the U.S., you can seek an adjustment of status to obtain a green card after a visa number is available to you. If a visa number becomes available while you are outside the U.S., you must go to your local U.S. consulate to complete your processing.
How do I apply for immigrant status based on employment?
An immigrant is a foreign national who is authorized to live and work permanently in the United States.
You must go through a multi-step process to become an immigrant based on employment:
- The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USICS) must approve an immigrant petition (application) that was filed for you, usually by an employer.
- In most employment, a U.S. employer must complete a labor certification request (ETA 750) for you from the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration.
- The State Department must give you an immigrant visa number, even if you are already in the United States.
- If you are already in the United States, you must apply to adjust to permanent resident status when a visa number becomes available.