Immigration solutions - FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I become a U.S. citizen?

You may become a U.S. citizen (1) by birth or (2) through naturalization.

Generally, people are born U.S. citizens if they are born in the United States or if they are born to U.S. citizens:

Normally you were a U.S. citizen at birth.

  1. If you were born in the U.S.. Normally you were a citizen at birth[1] (Including, in most cases, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the territories of Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and after November 4, 1986, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands),
  2. If you were born abroad to TWO U.S. citizens: And at least one of your parents lived in the United States at some point in his or her life, then in most cases you are a U.S. citizen.
  3. If you were born abroad to ONE U.S. citizen:

In most cases, you are a U.S. citizen if all of the following are true:

  • One of your parents was a U.S. citizen when you were born;
  • Your citizen parent lived at least 5 years in the United States before you were born; and
  • At least 2 of those 5 years in the United States were after your citizen parent’s 14th birthday[2].

Your record of birth abroad, if registered with a U.S. consulate or embassy, is proof of your citizenship. You may also apply for a passport to have your citizenship recognized. If you need additional proof of your citizenship, you may file an “Application for Certificate of Citizenship”


[1] The exception is persons who were born not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, such as children of foreign diplomats.

[2] If you were born before November 14, 1986, you are a citizen if your U.S. citizen parent lived in the United States for at least 10 years and 5 of those years in the United States were after your citizen parent’s 14th birthday.

 

When does my time as a Permanent Resident begin?

Your time as a Permanent Resident begins on the date you were granted permanent resident status. This date is on your Permanent Resident Card (formerly known as an Alien Registration Card or “Green Card”). The sample cards on this page show where you can find important information such as the date your Permanent Residence began.

If I have been convicted of a crime but my record has been expunged, do I need to write that on my application or tell a USCIS officer?

Yes. You should always be honest with U.S.C.I.S. about all:

  • Arrests (even if you were not charged or convicted);
  • Convictions (even if your record was cleared or expunged);
  • Crimes you have committed for which you were not arrested or convicted; and
  • Any countervailing evidence, or evidence in your favor concerning the circumstances of your arrests, and/or convictions or offenses that you would like U.S.C.I.S. to consider.

Even if you have committed a minor crime, U.S.C.I.S. may deny your application if you do not tell the U.S.C.I.S. officer about the incident. Note that unless a traffic incident was alcohol or drug related, you do not need to submit documentation for traffic fines and incidents that did not involve an actual arrest if the only penalty was a fine less than $500 and/or points on your driver’s license.

If my Permanent Resident Card expires while I am applying for naturalization, do I still need to apply for a new card?

If you apply for naturalization 6 months or more before the expiration date on your Permanent Resident Card (formerly known as an Alien Registration Card or “Green Card”), you do not have to apply for a new card. However, you may apply for a renewal card if you wish.

If I am a U.S. citizen, is my child a U.S. citizen?

A child who is born in the United States, or born abroad to a U.S. citizen(s) who lived in (or came to) the United States for the required period of time prior to the child’s birth, is generally considered a U.S. citizen at birth.

A child who is:

  • born to a U.S. citizen who did not live in (or come to) the United States for the required period of time prior to the child’s birth, or
  • born to one U.S. citizen parent and one alien parent or two alien parents who naturalize after the child’s birth, or
  • Adopted (stepchildren cannot derive or acquire citizenship through their stepparents) 
  • and is permanently residing in the United States can become a U.S. citizen by action of law on the date on which all of the following requirements have been met:
  • The child was lawfully admitted for permanent residence; and
  • Either parent was a United States citizen by birth or naturalization; and
  • The child was still under 18 years of age; and
  • The child was not married; and
  • The child was the parent’s legitimate child or was legitimated by the parent before the child’s 16th birthday (children born out of wedlock who were not legitimated before their 16th birthday do not derive United States citizenship through their father); and
  • If adopted, the child met the requirements of section 101(b)(1)(E) or (F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and has had a full and final adoption; and
  • The child was residing in the United States in the legal custody of the U.S. citizen parent (this includes joint custody); and
  • The child was residing in the United States in the physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent.

If you and your child meet all of these requirements, you may obtain a U.S. passport for the child as evidence of citizenship. If the child needs further evidence of citizenship, you may submit an “Application for Certificate of Citizenship”.

How do I help my relative to become a Legal Permanent Resident when I only hold a Permanent Residency Card (a.k.a. Green Card)?

As a permanent resident of the United States, you may help a relative become a lawful permanent resident based on your status. To do so, you will need to sponsor your relative and be able to prove that you have enough income or assets to support your relative(s) when they come to the United States.

Which relatives may I petition for?

A permanent resident of the United States can file a petition for the following relatives:

  • Husband or wife; and
  • Unmarried child(ren), regardless of age.

Note: Only U.S. citizens may petition for married children.

What about my relative’s family?

In most cases, when your spouse’s place in line is reached, his or her unmarried children under 21 years old can follow to join the relative on the same visa petition. However, if an unmarried child turns 21 years old before reaching the front of the line, you will need to file a new separate petition for each child included on the original petition. Please following instructions and include a copy of the receipt notice for the original petition.

What if my unmarried child marries?

A petition for an unmarried child will be automatically revoked if he or she marries, since there is no visa category for a married son or daughter of a permanent resident. However, if you become a U.S. citizen before your child marries, you can continue the immigration process by filing a new I-130 visa petition for your child.

Can I come back to the U.S. once I have been ordered removed?

Usually a person who has been deported may come back to the U.S. if he/she has an immigrant petition pending (i.e. spouse of U.S. Citizen) and he/she files the required waivers.

I have been convicted of a crime. Can I still obtain Legal Permanent Residence?

It depends on several factors. Criminal acts are interpreted differently in Immigration law. For example, a ‘continuance without a finding’ (CWOF) is considered to be a guilty please for immigration purposes. Thus it is essential to consult an experienced immigration attorney before making a plea in Criminal Court or prior to filing any paperwork with U.S.C.I.S.

How can I obtain a Work Permit?

An individual can apply for an Employment Authorization Document only under certain situations. For example, a person who has been granted Temporary Protected Status, a Student in valid F1 status, an individual with a pending Asylum Application, an individual with a pending I-485 Application to Adjust Status, individuals under a Order of Supervision and certain dependents of H1B and L visa workers. [This list is not exhaustive there are other scenarios under which an individual may work in the United States].

I am a U.S. Citizen how do I help my relative to become a Legal Permanent Resident

As a citizen of the United States, you may help a relative become a lawful permanent resident of the United States by obtaining what
is often referred to as a “Green Card.” To do so, you need to sponsor your relative and be able to prove that you have enough income or assets to support your relative(s) when they come to the United States.

  • Which relatives may I petition for? A U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years or older may also petition for the following relatives:
  • Parents;
  • Brothers or sisters.

When you submit your petition, you are required to provide evidence to prove your relationship to the person for whom you are filing.

  • What about my relative’s family? In most cases, when your relative reaches the front of the line, your relative’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age can join him or her by also applying for an immigrant visa.

Can my relative wait in the United States until becoming a permanent resident?

No. If your relative is outside the United States, filing an I-130 does not allow your relative to live or work in the United States. An I-130 petition only establishes your relationship with your relative. Your relative should wait outside the United States to immigrate legally. If your husband or wife, unmarried child under 21 years, or parent is already in the United States after having entered legally, they can apply to adjust their status to permanent resident at the same time you file their I-130 petition.

What if I filed a petition for a relative when I was a permanent resident, but I am now a U.S. citizen?

If you become a U.S. citizen while your relative is waiting for a visa, you can upgrade your relative’s visa classification and advance the processing of that petition by notifying the appropriate agency of your naturalization. When you are a U.S. citizen, your husband or wife and any unmarried children under age 21 will have visas immediately available to them.

As an Employer how do I sponsor an employee for Permanent Resident Status?

As an employer (or prospective employer), if you want to sponsor a foreign national to become a permanent resident based on a permanent job offer, you and the foreign national need to go through a multi-step process.

In most cases, the process begins when the employer obtains an approved Application for Permanent Labor Certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). After the labor certification has been approved by the DOL, the employer continues the process by filing Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, on behalf of the foreign national with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (U.S.C.I.S.). If prior DOL certification is not required, the sponsoring process will start when you file a Form I-140 with U.S.C.I.S.

  • Which employees may I file for? A U.S. employer may sponsor a prospective or current foreign national employee who is inside or outside the United States and who may qualify under one or more of the employment-based (EB) immigrant visa categories. The EB visa categories are divided into several preference categories. These EB visa categories are organized by occupational priorities as mandated by Congress. The first four of these EB visa categories are available to otherwise eligible foreign nationals sponsored by U.S. employers:
  • EB-1 Priority Workers
    • Aliens with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics;
    • Outstanding professors and researchers;
    • Multinational executives and managers.
  • EB-2 Professionals With Advanced Degrees or Persons With Exceptional Ability
    • Aliens who, because of their exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, will substantially benefit the national economy, cultural, or educational interests or welfare of the United States;
    • Aliens who are members of professions holding advanced degrees or the equivalent.
  • EB-3 Professional or Skilled Workers
    • Professionals with a baccalaureate degree;
    • Aliens capable of performing skilled labor (requiring at least 2 years of training or experience) for which qualified workers are not available in the United States;
    • Aliens capable of performing unskilled labor for which qualified workers are not available in the United States.
  • EB-4 Special Immigrants
    • Religious workers;
    • Panama Canal Company Employees, Canal Zone Government Employees, or U.S. Government in Canal Zone Employees;
    • Certain physicians;
    • Certain others.
  • What does the petition do for my employee?
    Filing a petition shows that you have the intent to hire the employee upon the approval of the petition. By proving that you will have an employer-employee relationship and that the employee has the necessary qualifications for the job, you provide the employee with a place in line among others waiting to immigrate based on the same kind of EB visa category.

When the foreign national employee reaches the head of the line, he or she may be eligible to apply to immigrate to the United States.

 

How can I obtain a drivers license in Massachusetts?

In order to be eligible for a Massachusetts driver’s license, you must have a valid social security number.  This generally means that you are eligible for a Massachusetts driver’s license if you are in lawful immigration status and you are authorized for employment in the United States.  You can learn more about the process of applying for a driver’s license at Mass.Gov. 

How can I apply for a Social Security Number?

You are eligible to apply for a social security number if you are authorized to legally work in the United States.  In order to obtain a social security number, you need to contact the Social Security Office.  There is a Social Security office at 10 Causeway Street, Boston, MA.  You will need to prove your ability to work legally in the United States, so be prepared to show one of the following your valid Employment Authorization Card, Work Visa or your valid green card. 

What is the difference between a Social Security Number and a Taxpayer Identification Number?

Social security numbers and taxpayer identification numbers are similar insofar as they are numbers assigned to individuals by the government for purposes of identification, however the two are not interchangeable.    

A social security number is generally necessary to secure legal employment in the United States.  Employers typically need to have this number so that appropriate taxes can be taken out of an individual’s paycheck.  You must have work authorization in order to get a social security number. 

The sole purpose of a taxpayer identification number is to enable an individual to file taxes in the United States.  A taxpayer identification number is not related to employment.

How can I apply for Asylum?

In order to apply for asylum, an applicant must submit an I-589, Application for Asylum.  If the applicant is in removal proceedings (meaning that he or she has a hearing scheduled in front of an Immigration Judge), the application for asylum must be submitted to the Immigration Court.  Otherwise, the application must be submitted to U.S.C.I.S.  Generally, an application for asylum must be filed within one year of the applicant’s date of entry to the United States. 

A successful asylum application must show that the applicant fears persecution in his or her home country because of his or her race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.  Asylum cases can be very complicated and often require extensive evidence in order to be successful.  Due to the complicated nature of these cases and the potentially severe consequences for an unsuccessful application, it is highly advisable to contact an immigration attorney before attempting to file.

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