VISAS

INTRODUCTION

Everybody (except of course United States citizens) who wants to come to the United States needs a visa. There are two types of visas, immigrant visas and non-immigrant visas. A visa allows the holder to travel to a borderpost of the United States, where an officer of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol determines whether the visa is valid, and for how long the holder is allowed to enter. Some visas, like a tourist, student, or work visa are of a temporary nature, and require that the holder return to their country after it expires. Some visas, like the immigrant visa, are of permanent nature, and allow the holder to live and work in the United States. There are more than 60 different types of visas available. Each non-immigrant visa is identified by a letter (such as a B-2 for tourists, F-1 for students, I for journalists, K-1 for fiancés or P for artists and athletes). Immigrant visa holders will receive their green cards a few weeks after admission. We can help you select the right visa for your situation. Schedule a consultation with me to find out which visa is best for you!

FAMILY IMMIGRATION

My practice concentrates on family immigration. We can help you and your loved ones immigrate or remain here through any of the available options. Most immigrants come to the United States as the spouse, parent, brother or sister, of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident of the United States. The date your petition is filed becomes your priority date. Most petitions carry a long waiting period, because each year more family members apply than there are immigrant visas available. There is no limitation on the number of spouses and minor children of United States citizens.

Each month, the State Department issues an UPDATED LIST for the various preference categories. Once your priority date has become current, you may apply for permission to enter the United States and, provided you abide by the laws of our country, you can remain here for the rest of your life.

FIANCÉ(E)S

If your fiancé(e) is a United States citizen, or if you are engaged to a citizen from another country, there is a special visa for you that will allow the foreign fiancé(e) to travel to the United States and remain here for three months. Provided the two of you marry within that period, the fiancé (now spouse) may then file an application for permanent residence as the spouse of a United States citizen. Often the waiting times for fiancees are much shorter than for spouses or other family members. Because of the many instances where unsuspecting foreign fiancées have been subjected to abuse once they arrive in America, U.S. citizen petitioners are now required to disclose their criminal records, and the Department of Homeland Security has the right to deny fiancé visas in certain circumstances. To qualify for a fiancé visa, you and your fiancé must have met in person (and yes, I do realize that many of you meet in internet chat rooms!) A fiancé may only adjust status through marriage with the petitioner. The minor children of a fiancé may also be eligible to immigrate and adjust status.

Only United States citizens may petition for their fiancé. Permanent residents who have resided in the United States for at least five years and who are of good moral character, may file an application for naturalization to United States citizens.

UNITED STATES CITIZENSHIP

Once you have been a lawful permanent resident for 5 years (3 years if you are married to and living with your United States citizen spouse), you may have become eligible for naturalization to United States citizen. You must establish physical presence in the United States, good moral character, and you may not have been convicted of serious crimes. A naturalized citizen may also file an application for their parents, their brothers and sisters, and their married children. Lawful permanent residents may only apply for their spouses and unmarried children. There are many benefits to citizenship, it will offer you the right to vote and, of course, United States citizens cannot be deported. There are two ways to obtain citizenship, you may get it automatically through your parents or your grand-parents, or you could naturalize. Come talk to me about becoming a citizen, or maybe you already are!

U VISAS

The U visa was created by by the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and allows survivors of domestic violence and other violent crimes to seel legal status in the United States. The visa was created to encourage victims of domestic violence to come forward and help law enforcement agencies prosecute the abusers. VAWA was recently extended by the Congress. It was hoped that the availability of a U visa would encourage undocumented immigrants to report their abusers, and find a way to a safer life, away from the abuser. See also THIS page. My office works with many law enforcement agencies around the Tampa Bay area to obtain the documents necessary to help you apply for this visa. If you have been a victim of a violent crime in the United States and if you have reported this to the police or sheriff's offices, you may be eligible to apply. You can apply for this visa regardless of your status, and you can apply whether you are inside the United States or even if you are back in your country. If you are here, your U-visa will give you legal status in the United States, a work permit, and access to certain federal benefits. If you are now outside the United States, the approved application will be forwarded to the U.S. consulate in your country, and you can use your U visa to enter the United States legally. Your immediate family members, such as parents, spouse or children (but not the abuser!) may be eligible to apply with you! A U-visa is issued for 4 years, and after you have been physically present in the United States for 3 years, you may become eligible to apply for lawful permanent resident status (green card). Come talk to me! All consultations are confidential.

DEFERRED ACTION for CHILDHOOD ARRIVALS

It is amazing how many immigrants are living in the United States who came here as a child. For years, the government has discussed the Dream Act, but even though approximately 80 % of the American people believes this is a good thing, it hasn't happened. Fortunately, President Obama announced last year a program that will offer temporary help. If you arrived in the United States before our 16th birthday, if you were still under 31 on June 15, 2012, you may qualify. The program was introduced to offer immigrants who arrived as children an opportunity to succeed in the United States. Once your application has been approved, you get an 2-year work permit, and "deferred status" which means that ICE can not deport you while you are in status. With a work permit, you can obtain a social security number and a State ID or driver license. You may not have been arrested for any serious crimes (including DUI), and you must either be enrolled in high school or GED program, or you must have graduated from high school. We charge $ 500.00 for a basic application.