Immigration Q & A

Immigration Q & A November 2014

Author by Edward Boreth

I have been a permanent resident for five years. After I got my green card, I stayed in the US three months, then left for my country for five months. When I returned, I stayed for another three months and then left for my country for another five months. After that, I have been living in the US until last month, when I left for three weeks. When I returned at the airport, the immigration officer asked me how long I was away and I told him. Will I have a problem filing for my citizenship now?

Your travel history should not be a problem for citizenship. Your long trips were less than 6 months and took place more than two and half years ago. Your last three week trip should make no difference. It is common for immigration officers to ask how long was your trip. If you had been gone more than one year, you would have lost your green card. When applying for citizenship, you will have to list all your trips in the last 5 years. Of course, you still need to make sure you qualify for citizenship with respect to other requirements, such as good moral character.

I am filing for my mom’s green card. I just became a US citizen. I own a small business. How much money do I need to show on my taxes to be able to file for my mom? Can I provide my business taxes returns to immigration?

Anyone filing a petition for a relative needs to submit an affidavit of support. The purpose of the affidavit of support is to guarantee to the United States government that the immigrating relative will not receive financial assistance from the government. In order to qualify as a sponsor on an affidavit of support, you must show that your income is 125% of the poverty level for your family (including your immigration relative). The numbers change every year, but for 2014, if you are single and have no dependents, you must show a net income of $19,662. If you have dependents, you must show about $5100 more for each dependent. So if you have a spouse and 2 children, you must show an annual net income of $34,887. Net income means your personal income after you have taken deductions. You cannot use your business income tax returns, because they show the income of your business, not your personal income. You may need to include parts of your business tax returns to explain how you made the income that is on your personal tax return. You still need to include your personal tax return. The net income is usually shown on the last line of the first page. A lot of people think they have enough for the affidavit of support because their business earned a lot of money. However, after the business expenses and after the personal deductions, the amount left over could be very small. If this is your case, don’t despair. Even if you do not make the right amount, you can get a co-sponsor to do the affidavit of support. You will still need to file your own affidavit with your own taxes, and the co-sponsor will need to file a separate affidavit of support, with their taxes. The co-sponsor does not have to be a family member, but he or she must be a US citizen or permanent resident.

I am a green card holder for ten years. I would like to apply for citizenship. I have had seven traffic tickets and a DUI since I got my green card. Will that prevent me from getting my US citizenship?

To get your US citizenship you must show good moral character for the five-year period immediately before filing. As long as the traffic tickets are simple moving violations (speeding, failure to obey traffic sign, etc), it is not considered a lack of moral character. In most cases, even one conviction for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is still not a sign of bad moral character. However, some DUI convictions involve damage to property or injuries. If that is the case, have an immigration attorney take a look at your specific case. Multiple DUI convictions can also become a problem on the citizenship application. Also, some “tickets” are actually issued for certain misdemeanors. Not all misdemeanors bar you from US citizenship, but some may. One example is petty theft within the last five years. Even if a conviction is not a “bad moral character” conviction, you can be denied citizenship if you lie about it (of fail to disclose it). USCIS will want paperwork from all arrests, no matter how long ago. When applying for citizenship, if you have had any sort of brush with the police, talk to an immigration attorney. It may not be a problem at all, or it may cause a big problem.

The advice in this column may not apply to your specific situation, even if it seems similar in nature. The only way to obtain legal advice is by speaking with a qualified attorney and reviewing your specific circumstances. If you have any questions, please call me at (954) 522-4115.

Edward Boreth is an immigration attorney who has practiced law for 19 years. He is a partner at Shapovalov & Boreth and a director of the Citizenship Clinic. He is also an avid cricket fan.

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