Immigration Q & A

Immigration Q & A March 2013

Author by Edward Boreth

Immigration Q & A

I have been in the US for 6 years. I entered with a tourist visa, but never renewed it. Will the government pass immigration reform this year and will it help me get legal status?

Both the President and a group of Senators have made proposals to allow undocumented immigrants stay legally in the US. At the moment, these are just proposals, not law. The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on what to include in these proposed laws. There is quite a long and complicated process before a law is written. Only then will we know whether it can help you in your specific situation, or which other people it can help. Then, of course, Congress must still vote on whether to pass the law, and if the law passes, the President must sign it for it to become law. If this happens, it will probably take many months.

Although we cannot say exactly what the requirements will be if the law passes, we know several key points of the proposals. The idea is to have undocumented immigrants register with the government, pay a fine, prove payment of taxes and receive a work permit. Then the government is supposed to process all the green card petitions that have already been filed and are pending because of immigration quotas. It has been suggested that visa numbers will be added to speed up processing for all the people who are already waiting to get their green cards legally. After that, the undocumented immigrants will be able to apply for their green cards.

If this proposal is enacted into law, it will be good news for both people who are here without papers, and for people already waiting for employment and family based green cards. In fact, those US citizens and permanent residents that have put off filing for their families because the wait is so long, should file those petitions now, because of the possibility that the wait times will strongly decrease.

Of course, the reform proposals will probably not help people with serious criminal convictions, and we do not know yet if it will help people with deportation orders already in place.

I married a US citizen and filed my immigration paperwork. Now I have an interview coming up. I am worried that immigration officers will not think our marriage is real. We are different religions, different races, and my wife is 10 years older than me. What are the questions that immigration will ask us and what are the chances that they will deny my green card?

You will need to prove to the immigration officer that you married so that you and your wife can have a life together, not just to get your green card. The outcome of the interview will depend not only on the questions and answers at the interview, but also on the documents that you bring to the interview. You should bring every kind of document to show that you and your wife really live together as husband and wife. This could mean bringing a lease in both names, bills, joint accounts and everything else to show that you share expenses. If you have photos of the wedding, wedding invitations, photos of the two of you with family and friends, and photos of the two of you on vacation, bring them. The officer will put them in your file. Generally, the more documents you have, the less questions are asked.

If you have very little to show for your marriage, and because you and your wife have so many differences, the immigration officer may want to conduct a separate interview of you and your wife. The officer will ask you and your wife questions about your life and see if the answers match. There are not set questions. Each officer has their own list of favorites. They often include questions about how the two of you met, how the relationship developed, the wedding, your home, your daily schedule, how you spend holidays, and how much you know about your spouse’s family.

It is important to prepare and it helps to have an attorney present to make sure the officer is actually asking the same questions. If the officer asks different questions of the husband and wife, the answers will of course be different. If you have inconsistencies in your answers, immigration will want to deny your case. Preparation is very important, because it is much better to have all the documents and answers ready, than to try to explain away inconsistencies, when the offices has already decided that they would like to deny your case.

I am a Canadian citizen. How can I work legally in the U.S.?

In addition to the H-1B and L-1 visas, Canadian citizens may obtain TN visas. TN visas allow Canadians with certain professions to work for US employers. If your profession is listed on the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) list, and you have the required educational credentials for your profession, your U.S. employer may ask the Department of Homeland Security to admit you in TN status, so that you can work here for the U.S. company. The process does not require a petition to be filed with USCIS, and is relatively fast. Most of the professions on the list require a baccalaureate degree, such as accountant, architect, computer systems analyst, engineer, pharmacist, and many others. TN status is given for three years at a time, but can be renewed indefinitely. This status is only available for he professions on the list. If your profession is not on the list, but requires a college degree, you may consider the H1-B visa.

Edward BorethThe 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 18 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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