Sebastian Immigration Lawyers
Helping foreigners and families with their immigration concerns
Becoming an American citizen is a dream for foreigners throughout the world. While many people in the US become US citizens as soon as they’re born, foreigners need to go through a legal process in order to have the right to live in the US, have Constitutional protections, travel across, the US, vote, and enjoy other rights. Most foreigners become US citizens through the naturalization process.
Many foreigners can enjoy living or working in the US if they obtain a US visa that allows them to be a “lawful permanent resident” (LPR). A visa that permits someone to reside in the US is commonly called a green card. There are also nonimmigrant visas that permit foreigners to work, visit, tour, or do other things in the US (except become lawful permanent residents).
Foreigners usually obtain LPR status based on their family relationship with a current US citizen, permanent employment, through a visa lottery, or through asylee or refugee status. Aliens who violate their visa by staying beyond the term of the visa, violating the US law while they are in the United States, or for other reasons – may be subject to removal/deportation proceedings.
There are many other rules that apply to obtaining citizenship, being permitted to stay in America, and being forced to leave. At Lulich & Attorneys, we’ve been helping Sebastian residents and families for 35 years with many different legal issues including asserting their immigration rights. We’ll explain your rights or the rights of someone you want to sponsor or help. We help spouses, children, and others with the full array of immigration issues.
Obtaining citizenship through the naturalization process
According to Livestories.com, 7,400 Indian River County residents became naturalized citizens between 2015 and 2019. Spanish is spoken the most among the foreign born population of Indian River County.
Foreigners who live in Sebastian or who want to help foreign relatives obtain citizenship can use the “naturalization process” if the qualifications are met. To become a US citizen through the naturalization process, the applicant must comply with the following:
- Be 18 years of age or older
- Must reside in the US from the time of the application through the time the citizenship application is approved
- Must be considered to have “good moral character”
- Must pass a citizenship test that shows they understand US history
- Must be able to read, write, and speak simple English. There are some exceptions. Applicants generally don’t need to show proficiency in basic English if they are 50 or older when they apply and they were an LPR for 20 years or more or they’re 55 or older and they were an LPR (had a green card) for 15 years or more. Some additional exceptions based on health reasons may apply.
Single applicants need to have been an LPR in the US for at least five years prior to filing for American citizenship. Married applicants must have been an LPR for at least three years prior to filing for American citizenship
The residency requirement may be reduced if the applicant is or was a member of the US military.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services will also review your work history and any investments you made in the US economy. If you have a criminal record, your application may be denied and USCIS may even start deportation proceedings.
The key steps towards naturalization that our Sebastian immigration lawyers review with applicants are:
- The eligibility to apply – unless it’s determined you already are a US citizen. You may already qualify for US citizenship if your parents (biological or adoptive) became US citizens before your turned 18.
- Preparing and submitting Form N-400 for naturalization approval. There are filing fees you’ll have to pay and paperwork to complete – to file the original application.
- Being fingerprinted and having your identity verified.
- Completing an interview where you’ll be asked to show English proficiency and take the civics exam.
If your application is approved, you’ll receive a notice to Pledge your Allegiance to America, and then you’ll take that Oath at the Courthouse with your family.
If you or the person you’re helping doesn’t yet have you/their green card, then we’ll work to help you complete the petition for a visa.
Sebastian Family-Based Citizenship Lawyers
Most family members who obtain US citizenship and who have family that live abroad would like for their family members to join them. Family members from foreign countries can apply for a green card if they meet the following conditions. If they are approved for a green card and they then meet the qualifications for US citizenship, they can also seek citizenship through the naturalization process.
The conditions to apply for a family-based green card if the sponsor is a US citizen are:
- The applicant is the spouse of a US citizen.
- The applicant is an unmarried child of a US citizen and is under 21.
- The applicant is the parent of a US citizen who is 21 or older
- The applicant is a relative of a US citizen (but doesn’t meet the above criteria) and these additional requirements are met:
- The applicant is not married and is the son or daughter of a US citizen – and the applicant is 21 or older.
Sebastian residents who have lawful permanent residency status but aren’t US citizenship can also sponsor a foreign family member for a green card if:
- The applicant is the spouse of the LPR.
- The applicant is the fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen or the fiancé(e)’s child. This application process requires using a K-1 nonimmigrant visa petition for the fiancé(e) and a K-2 nonimmigrant visa process for the child of the fiancé(e).
- The applicant is the unmarried child of the LPR and is under 21.
- The applicant is the unmarried child of the LPR and is 21 or older.
Other people who can apply for a green card include:
- A widow or widower of a US citizen – provided the widow and US citizen were married when the US citizen died
- A spouse, child, or parent of a US citizen or LPR can apply for a green card – if they are being abused. The child must be unmarried and under 21.
- Other conditions that your Sebastian immigration lawyer can explain
The green card application can be filed in America if the resident is in America or at the consular office of the foreign location if the applicant lives abroad.
Our skilled Sebastian immigration lawyers guide families through the complicated petition and approval process. There are different types of forms depending on the family relationship. There are different time limits. There are different types of evidence that is required.
Applying for a K-1 nonimmigrant visa involves a number of issues:
- The fiancé must enter into a bona fide marriage with the US citizen within 90 days after being admitted into the United States. The foreign spouse, after the marriage is official, can apply for LPR status through a second petition called an “Adjustment of status.” Any previous marriages must have been properly ended through death, divorce, or an annulment.
- The fiancé and US spouse must have met at least once in the two years before filing the K-1 petition filing date – unless an appropriate cultural exception applies or if the meeting would create an extreme hardship.
When spouses or fiancés have prior marriage or children from different relationships, the green card application process can get very confusing. There are many other complications that may arise that our experienced Sebastian immigration lawyers work to resolve.
At the core, we work aggressively to help families stay together. We’ll help you prepare the correct documents, provide the proper evidence, file the documents on time, and process your application before the USCIS.
Deportation and Removal
Facing deportation is frightening for any foreigner in America. There’s the fear that you may never see your loved ones again. You may be sent back to a country that you have little or no connection to. Your physical safety may be at stake. If you’re facing a deportation proceeding, you need to move quickly.
Deportation/removal proceedings usually begin when an undocumented alien is stopped for any reason. If you don’t have a valid visa or green card, if you try to enter the US illegally, or it’s alleged that you committed a criminal offense; then the USCIS may begin deportation proceedings. USCIS will normally serve you with a Notice to Appear that informs you why you must appear in court. You need to hire an experienced immigration lawyer quickly. Immigrants who are subject to deportation proceedings are not entitled to court-appointed counsel. An experienced Sebastian immigration lawyer helps you understand the charges and works to contest the deportation case. Possible defenses include showing that you do have a valid visa or green card or that that the criminal charges against you don’t have merit.
We may also seek asylum if you reasonably fear persecution if you return to your native country. We’ll explain the eligibility requirements for asylum and fight to have your request for asylum approved.
Many foreigners who have a nonimmigrant visa can request a change of status of their visa – after they come to America. The USCIS permits some foreigners to file for legal permanent status if they are eligible. There are different categories of eligibility to request an adjustment of status including people who already are in the United States based on a family or employment nonimmigrant visa. Our Sebastian immigration lawyers guide foreigners through the adjustment of status process.
The eligibility categories, according to the USCIS, include:
- Workers who qualify as priority workers, professionals, skilled workers, and workers who creating jobs through investments.
- Asylee status based on physical presence in the US for at least one year after having been granted asylum, you continue to qualify as an asylee, your asylum grant hasn’t been terminated, and other factors.
- Refugee status based on physical presence in the US for at least one year after the grant of refugee status, are physically present in the US when filing form I-485, your refugee status hasn’t been terminated, and you don’t already have a green card
- A US citizen can petition (through Form I-485/Adjustment of Status) on behalf of unmarried sons and daughters under 21, married sons and daughters of any age, and siblings.
- A US citizen can petition for a spouse, unmarried child under 21, or a parent (if the applicant is 21 or older)
Form I-485 needs to be filed by a sponsor of a person seeking the adjustment of status. There are some occasions where the alien may be able to file for adjustment of status directly. The sponsor may also need to file additional forms.
Applicants seeking a green card through the Adjustment of Status process will need to complete a biometrics services appointment – where the applicant’s photo is taken and the applicant is fingerprinted. USCIS will use the biometric information to run background and security checks. Applicants may also need to attend an interview. They may also be asked to provide additional information if the Form I-485 documentation is incomplete.
If USCIS approves the application, they’ll normally first notify the applicant of the approval and then send the green card, If the application is denied, the applicant will be told in writing why the application was denied and whether the applicant can appeal. Normally, applicants cannot appeal a negative decision. They may be allowed to ask to reopen the request or reconsider the request.
The timeline from the filing of the Adjustment of Status request to the decision can take 8-14 months. If you think you or a loved one is ready to file for their green card, call our Adjustment of Status lawyers now. Since the timeline for approval is lengthy and the ability to appeal is limited, it’s important to work with an experienced Sebastian immigration lawyer who will work to ensure you have the correct documentation, you’re eligible, and that you put your strongest arguments before the USCIS.
Sebastian criminal alien defense lawyers
Any foreigner who is legally in the United States can be forced to attend a deportation hearing if they commit certain types of criminal offenses – even if they have a valid visa or green card. If you are charged with a criminal offense while you are not a US citizen, you face two consequences:
- The USCIS may start removal deportation proceeding
- You need to defend the criminal charges against you. If you are convicted of a criminal offense you may be imprisoned and ordered to pay a fine. Additional penalties depending on the criminal offense may apply.
The US Customs and Immigration Services does divide criminal offenses into deportable crimes that can result in removal proceedings and inadmissible crimes that won’t result in removal proceedings – but will prevent you from reentry into the US if you leave America.
- Deportable crimes include:
- Crimes involving moral turpitude. Crimes in this category include murder, rape, sexual assault, child abuse, spousal abuse, robbery, fraud, and prostitution.
- Aggravated felonies. USCIS uses their own definition – instead of the federal or state definitions. Crimes where the prison sentence is one year or more are likely to be considered aggravated felonies. Other crimes like obstructing justice may also qualify as an aggravated felony.
- Drug crimes. Generally, whether a drug offense is the type that can result in deportation proceedings is up to the US Department of Homeland Security.
- Domestic violence crimes. Any crimes involving force or the likelihood of physical harm – involving a spouse, former spouse, child, parent, or domestic partner may be considered a deportable offense.
- Weapons offenses. Generally, crimes involving any type of weapon are deportable.
Multiple convictions and theft crimes may also qualify as deportable crimes. A criminal conviction includes a finding of guilty by a judge or a jury. A criminal conviction also includes a plea guilty a nolo contendere plea.
Inadmissible crimes are identified in the federal statutes. In addition to affecting your right to reenter the US if you leave, inadmissible crimes also affect your ability to:
- Request an adjustment of your immigration status
- Apply for US citizenship
- Petition for asylum
- Request a green card
- Seek a waiver of admissibility
One of the core arguments in deportation cases based on a conviction is to assert that the criminal charge is not one of the deportable crimes. Other defenses depending on the basis for the removal proceedings may also apply. Foreigners do have the right to appeal adverse decisions at the removal hearing stage.
At Lulich & Attorneys, we understand just how frightening removal hearings are. We fight aggressively to obtain acquittals and dismissals of the criminal charges. While plea bargains are often possible in criminal cases, we keep you advised as to whether the lesser/reduced charges are considered deportable or non-deportable crimes. There’s no sense agreeing to a reduction of criminal charges if the reduced offense is still a deportable offense. We understand the dual nature of criminal charges – they can result in criminal convictions and in deportation.
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