Green card & Citizenship
The answers to the most frequently asked questions
Maria Zarakhovich, is licensed by the Florida Bar and practices immigration, family and federal criminal law. The answers to the reader's questions do not constitute specific legal advice, are not intended as such, and are only intended for general information, guidance, and education of the public. Every situation is fact-specific and requires a full consultation with an attorney. An answer to your question does not form an attorney-client relationship or an attorney-client privilege in any way.
Question: I married a Mexican woman in Houston on Aug. 14th, 2004 and she had been in the states illegally for 5 years and she has a driver's license and a job. We got married in a church and have a certificate, but I don't know what to do. Now I'd like to start working on her legal status. I need something immediate because she wants to go to college and I want her to go. She couldn't get in school in Mexico because her family could not afford it. What is the most immediate and best way of obtaining her citizenship that want cost a fortune?
Answer: In general, those persons who entered the United States illegally (i.e. persons who crossed the border without any visa) may not legalize within the United States. Persons who entered the country unlawfully (without any papers whatsoever) and remained here for more than 181 days are subject to the unlawful presence bar to reentry, which is ten years long. The bar is triggered when the person crosses the border again and returns to the home country (whether lawfully or unlawfully). The bar may be waived, if the US citizen relative (spouse, parent, child, sibling) proves that he or she will suffer extreme and unusual hardship if the alien relative is not allowed to return. To translate this from legalese, if your wife entered the country illegally, she may only legalize through consular processing. That is, she would have to go home, you would have to petition for her, and you all risk a ten-year long separation. If your wife entered lawfully (e.g. with a visa or a commuter permit, or she has an I-94) then you may petition for her within the United States, and the unlawful presence bar would not be triggered. I recommend that you obtain a consultation with an immigration attorney for details. Please remember that this is only general statement of the law, and it may or may not apply to you.
Question: I have a new wife and child from Ukraine. We were married and are now filing our I485 forms. My question is this. Do I need to file a separate I130 form for my 16 year old son? Does my new son also need a medical examination? They both had medical examinations prior to coming to the US (interview). If not what must we do to complete forms for the medical examination? Is the alien registration number the number that shows on the passport visa starting with A? We are still confused about the "A" number in part 1 I485 form The only other question we have is in filling out these forms, should my wife use her Russian name or her current married name?
Answer: Yes, you need separate packets for each individual who seeks immigration benefits. You should take form I-157, medical examinations, to a certified civil surgeon who is authorized to prepare form I-693 for immigration purposes. A list of civil surgeons in your area is available at www.uscis.gov. An "A" number is an alien registration number. It is permanently assigned to each immigrant and corresponds to his or her file. You can locate the "A" number on form I-94, usually on the back of it. I recommend that you hire an immigration attorney to assist you in this process because it is not as simple as filling out a form.
Question: If I met a Russian woman who was married and she wasn't happy with her husband, how will it affect her status in America if she divorces him? She has been married to him for a little over a year and living in America for 6 months. What are our options? How long must she live in America to become a citizen?
Answer: The answer to your question depends on a great many variables. Immigration law is very complex, and it is impossible to answer based on the information provided. At any rate, you and the Russian lady should consult with an immigration attorney.
Question: We just got married and we have our marriage certificate, but I don't know what to do. My wife was in the USA 1 year illegally before she became married. And now I'd like to start working on her legal status.
Answer: Congratulations! What you do now is consult an immigration attorney to determine whether your wife now qualifies for a green card. Immigration law and procedure can be very tricky. Her status is not derived from you automatically. You have to file a number of forms for her: first, a family petition to qualify her as an immediate relative of a US citizen; a green card application, and a work authorization document. You can start researching at www.uscis.gov.
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