Immigration Q & A

Immigration Q & A November 2013

Author by Edward Boreth

Q. I What’s going on with the new immigration law? Did they pass something that lets illegal immigrants get green cards?
A. Although the Senate passed a bill this summer that would allow many undocumented immigrants to get work permits and eventually permanent residence, the House of Representatives has not yet taken up that issue. Although the House has introduced some limited immigration bills, and just last month a bill similar to the Senate’s comprehensive reform package, the House has not voted on it yet. For the bill to pass, it must first be brought to a vote and then voted on. Then, the bill would go to a conference committee made up of both Senate and House members in order to resolve any differences. The conference committee then submits the bill to a final vote. If the bill makes it through, then it is sent to the President to sign, and only then will it become law. Keep reading my column. If a new immigration law passes, I will let you know.

Q.I How old do I have to be in order to sponsor a family member?
A. If you are sponsoring your parents or brother or sister, you must be at least 21 years of age in order to be eligible to sponsor a parent or sibling for an immigrant visa. For parents, the immigrant visa is immediately available. For siblings, there is a long wait (currently around 11 years).

For all other immigrant visas – including spouses and children – there is no age requirement. However, every sponsor for an immigrant visa must be at least 18 years old in order to execute a valid affidavit of support. Thus, for all practical purposes, you must be 18 years old to sponsor your spouse or children for an immigrant visa and 21 to sponsor your parents or siblings.

Q. My mother-in-law would like to visit me and her daughter, and I would like to get her a visitor visa. What do I need to get that and how do I get one?
A.She needs to contact the US consulate closest to where she lives. Normally, they will be able to tell her what she needs to bring and what the procedure is. This information should also be available on consular web site. Most consulates also respond to e-mail enquiries. The most important thing is to prove to the consulate that your mother-in-law has no plans to stay in the US beyond her short visit and that she has no plans to work here. The consulate will consider her ties to her country, such as other family members who live there, house, business, work, as well as which family members are in the United States and what status do they have.

Q. I’m 79 years old and I’m a permanent resident. How long do I have to be a resident to file for US citizenship without taking the English and civics test?
A. You must be at least 55 years old and have had your green card for 15 years, or 50 years old and have had you green card for 20 years, to be able to take the test in your native language and not need a writing or reading test. If you are 65 or older and have your green card for 20 years, you may take the simple version of the test.

If you have not had your green card for those periods, you may still be able to get your citizenship without taking the test, but only if you prove to USCIS that you have a medical condition that prevents you from learning. The medical condition has to be explained by a doctor on a special form. Some examples of conditions that affect learning are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia (caused by a stroke) and mental retardation, but there are other medical conditions as well. If you think this is the case, talk to an immigration attorney about properly documenting the condition.

Q. I am a Canadian citizen and would like to work here for a US company. How do I get a work visa?
A.It depends on your education and your profession. If your profession is on the list of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) professions, and you have the proper education, you may be able to get a TN visa. TN visas allow Canadians with certain professions to work for US employers. 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 (although it can be filed if you wish) 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 the professions on the list and only if you have the educational credentials as listed.

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 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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