Immigration to Canada by illegal immigrant in USA

Carlos writes, "I am an illegal immigrant from Mexico and I have been in the US for 17 years now.  I have also been working for the same company for that amount of time and have even got promoted.  The company has never bothered to ask me about my legal status and I use a fraudulent Social Security number to work.  I was hoping to take advantage of the Obama amnesty and live happily hereafter, but it seems that the likelihood of any reform passing is low and I am not sure at this point if people like me would even be eligible.  In the meantime, I have an opportunity to legally immigrate to Canada through a job opportunity.  If this were to work out, would I have to leave the U.S, go back to Mexico and then immigrate from there?  Would immigration to Canada be easier because of a job offer?"



Regarding the paperwork for a Canadian visa, the process is cumbersome because the Canadians insist that you declare where you have been and what is your legal status in that country.  Being illegal in the United States (a country with which they collaborate closely on immigration matters) may hurt your chances and that is why it is recommended that you do the paperwork in Mexico rather than the United States.  Since many visas require interviews, you will have to leave the US and attend an interview at the Canadian embassy in Mexico.  In other words, you are jeopardizing your life in the US by doing this since if your visa is denied for any reason, you will need to enter US illegally again, a very risky proposition indeed.


The best approach for your case is to actually work with your Canadian employer and a law firm in Canada to figure out the best course of action (for instance, a consultation might show that you might be able to apply in the US or at least have an interview in the US).  This is a very complicated situation and is best handled by attorneys who have experience in dealing with undocumented immigrants in the United States.  Ideally, if you could get the Canadian visa without leaving the US, you could leave directly from the US.  In fact, if you have stuff to move, you could rent a U-Haul truck and drive to Canada.  While leaving the US, you will not go through US immigration and will only interact with Canadian immigration, so unless you are extremely unlucky (and hit a border checkpoint in the north that are very rare but, yes, you can legally be stopped and get in trouble for being here illegally).  Alternatively, you could leave by air from the US, a much safer option.  You can ask your belongings to be shipped professionally by a moving company. 

AOS with marriage based green card for a laid off H1B alien

Pratibha writes, "I was on a valid H1B visa and got married to a US citizen.  While I was still enjoying my married life and not thinking about the immigration paperwork to apply for a green card since I was already legal, I was laid off.  Then we rushed to do the paperwork and it has all been done.  I have already received USCIS Form I-797.  Still, I am terrified that ICE may come knocking on our door and deport me because for a few weeks that it took us to finish the paperwork, I was out of status.  Am I legal right now?  Do I have any reason to worry?"



Unfortunately, there are no clear guidelines on how long someone on an H1 visa can stay legally in the United States after the job has ended, but the rule of thumb is that one should wind up their operations as soon as possible.  For example, if an alien has kids in school, they maybe even able to make a case that they would like to stay till the school year ends.  Similarly, medical arguments can be made.  However, a few weeks is generally a good time for someone to leave without raising the ire of the immigration authorities if you were to apply for another immigration benefit in the future.



In your case, however, due to your marriage to a United States citizen, none of this matters.  Basically, when your application package was received by the USCIS, you are under legal status till a decision is made in your case.  If you applied for an EAD using USCIS Form I-765, you maybe even able to find another job.  When your green card is approved, you will simply update the information with your employer.  Considering how busy ICE is trying to deport criminal illegal immigrants, unless you get into serious trouble with the law, you will not even interact with them.  For peace of mind, though, just to prove that you are legally in the country, you can keep a copy of your USCIS Form I-797 with you when going outside the house.  This is evidence that your application is being reviewed and you are currently in lawful status.  The only time that you maybe in trouble is if your application for permanent resident status is rejected (extremely rare) either because your marriage is a sham or there is something in your background that does not allow you to become a green card holder.  In that case, deportation proceedings will be started against you but prior to that you will get a chance to appeal that decision before an immigration judge.

No stay allowed duration indicated in passport

Aarif writes, "My sister arrived for a visit on a tourist visa but not only she did not get a I-94, her passport merely says B2 with no date up to which she is allowed to stay.  What should we do?  How long can she stay?  Will she have any problem during her next trip?"



The CBP has discontinued paper I94 cards, but if you still wish to have one, you can print it from here.  This will also show how long she is allowed to stay.  In any case, it is generally six months, unless indicated otherwise.  It is not a bad idea to hang on to this print out for her next trip just for her peace of mind, though, there is no need, since the computers at the airport will have a record of her arrival and departure.  The only reason she might have problem during her next trip is if she stays for a long time during this trip and then tries to come back soon because that will raise a suspicion that she does not have strong ties to her native country and may be more likely to never leave and become an illegal immigrant.

Apply for AOS during VWP status

Karen writes, "I met a French man who was on a business trip to their bank's several locations in the United States.  Our relationship progressed so fast that we are considering that we should simply tie the knot and he should ask his employer to simply let him work here.  I realize that it would be much better if he enters with a K-1 visa, but I cannot imagine being separated from him for months while his paperwork goes through.  Is it okay to apply for USCIS Form I-130 and Form I485 to simply let him get a family based green card without us being separated?"



The reality is that unlike many other visa categories under which aliens can enter the US and then adjust their status (yes, even tourist visa is legitimate), the visa waiver program is an exception.  As a matter of policy, USCIS does not look kindly upon aliens who entered under VWP trying to adjust their status, simply because the extensive scrutiny that is conducted prior to a visa is not done in this caseApplying for his green card does not mean that he will be definitely denied, but the recommended option would be for you two to marry, have him go through consular processing, and then enter the US as a permanent resident.  In case, you are willing to risk delays, denials, or extensive scrutiny, you can take a chance to see what happens, but be prepared to produce documentation that you two met for the first time only during this visit and did not even know each other prior to that and that this was a business trip for him.

Fiance or wife visiting US citizen in USA on tourist visa

Pramod writes, "I am about to marry a woman in India but we have no plans to live in the US for a few years.  Since I was born here and hardly know my family back in India, I am going to live there for a year or two immersing myself in the culture, polishing my language, and traveling.  I am wondering what is the best way for my fiance/wife to travel to the US before I relocate to India.  She has a valid visitor visa."



If the agent asks her at the airport what she will do here, then, she will have to truthfully answer (best option since she wants to eventually immigrate to the United States and a lie could come to bite you two later) that she is visiting her fiance/husband, she will most likely be denied entry.  And that denial will stay on her record as well (not a killer but creates unnecessary hassles and delays).  Yours is a delicate situation and it is best that in your circumstances she not visit the US, and only when you two are ready to live permanently in the US, you apply for her green card.

Mention incident card on N-400

Arturo asks, "A few years ago, during a loud party at our house, our not-so-friendly neighbor called the cops.  When the police arrived, they told us to shut the music off and be considerate towards the neighbors.  I was not arrested or fingerprinted or taken to the police station, but the cop left me with an incident report card.  Do I need to mention this on my application for US citizenship?"



As you say, since you were not arrested nor did you ever face a judge, it was not a crime that you committed in the eyes of the law.  It was merely an interaction with a law enforcement agent that need not be reported for the purpose of naturalization (for instance, simply because you were stopped by a traffic cop for a broken light and then let go with a friendly advice to fix it, it is almost if the incident never happened because it will not be on your record).  Conclusion: no need to include it because it will not show up in a background check and will only confuse the agents.  Needless to add that if this comes up during the interview, since you will be under oath, you will have to provide the details.

How to apply for L2 visa?

Those of you who may not know this, L-2 visa is available for dependents of L1 visa holders, who are executives of businesses working in the US as intra-company transferees.  Typically, after an USCIS form I129 petition is approved, the individual will be granted an L1 visa.  The family members can at the same time or another date apply for a dependent visa by appending copies of the approved petition, L1 visa copy (if available), and a document showing the immediate family relationship (marriage certificate for spouse and birth certificate for children).  This is the general process and you may check with the local US consulate for anything specific.

Lie to USCIS about false claim to citizenship?

As everyone knows, if you are an undocumented immigrant the simplest solution is to claim to be a US citizen.  Life becomes really easy after that, especially after you buy fraudulent documents like birth certificate and Social Security card, often assuming the identity of another American.  The only thing is that it is a serious crime, and unless you have a compelling story to share with an immigration judge, there is no way to become legal.  It seems, though, that with an overworked USCIS, a no-enforcement of immigration law environment, and many naturalized citizens who now work for DHS/USCIS, it is apparently easy to get away with anything.



Take a look at the story of an illegal alien below who worked without authorization claiming to be an American citizen and got away with it by lying under oath.  Not that you should too, but it seems that people are getting away with it for the time being.  The huge risk is that if you are caught, then you are doomed.



False claim to US citizenship in immigration cases

Get tourist visa with pending green card application

You file for permanent resident status in the United States and because it takes many years for nationals of certain countries, it can be frustrating.  A lot of these individuals would rather be able to visit the US in the meantime to attend weddings or celebrate the holidays or travel to tourist destinations.  So can you get a visitor visa while the permanent resident status application is pending?  The simple answer is most likely not.  Why? 



You see, when you applied for permanent residency, you basically told the United States Government that you plan to live permanently in the country (in other words, your intent is that of an immigrant).  Now, before that decision is made, if you come here and not leave (you can thank all the illegal immigrants who came to visit but never left), then, if your application is not approved, the country is stuck with someone who is not authorized to here.  So B1/B2 visas are simply not issued.  In fact, if you already have a valid visa in your passport, it is very likely that you maybe denied entry into the country (unless you manage to convince the officer at the airport with lots of evidence about your ties to your native country, like job, assets, family, etc.)

What will happen if I do not file Form I751 on time?

Just so as you know, the USCIS Form I-751 is filed to remove conditions from a conditional green card so that you can get a regular alien registration card.  A lot of readers write asking what will happen if they are unable to file the paperwork on time because they do not have to money to pay the fees or forgot about it or something else went wrong.  The simple answer is that this is something too important to ignore.  Actually, if you are an immigrant in this country, you should allocate funds for all the future paperwork ahead of time and that must include not just the fees and the expenses related to making photo copies or photographs or mailing but also attorney fees.  These funds should be set aside in a bank account and should not be touched till the day you take the oath as a naturalized citizen.  I would recommend cutting back on going out, clothes, vacations, etc. to save for immigration related expenses.  The USCIS grants fee waivers only in exceptional circumstances (American people do not like having to pay for immigrants to come and live here at their expense) and it is a huge hassle to do the paperwork for getting an exemption.



If you do not file the paperwork to remove conditions on time, you will basically be out of status.  The USCIS will assume that you have abandoned your permanent resident status and are not interested in pursuing it.  Since you will be in no legal status, deportation proceedings can be started against you, particularly if you happen to be at wrong place at wrong time.  In any case, an application not submitted on time is often delayed even more and can be rejected.  Those of you who forgot about it should file it as soon as possible and those of you who do not have the money to pay the fees should seriously consider borrowing from friends and family members.

How long is the citizenship interview process?

A lot of readers wonder how much time they should allocate for the naturalization interview and how does the process work.  Basically they call a bunch of applicants at various slots because there are several officers interviewing at the same time, a lot of people do not show up, plus they don't really care about your time (and would rather maximize the more valuable time of the officers).  In other words, if your appointment is at 10AM it does not mean like a business appointment an officer will be waiting for you at the precise time (it is more like the doctor's appointment which rarely happens on time).  Like the whole immigration process, there is a lot of waiting.  However, as you can imagine, if a dozen people are called at 10AM someone will go first, so some people might be taken right on time (it is not unusual if you can even be asked to go in early because they are running fast on the previous slot) while others might be taken towards the end (or even later, because like a hospital, officers are some times running late because some interviews lasted longer than others).  In other words, simply bring a print book to read because there could be a lot of waiting.



Just know that in addition to going through security to enter the building (for which you should go earlier than your scheduled time), you will wait for your name to be called in.  You may either have the interview or the language/civics test first.  Let me put it this way.  If you are fluent in English, have studied the test that you will answer all the questions correctly and quickly, the language/civics test will last just a few minutes.  Lots of waiting, though.  The citizenship interview can last a lot longer if your case is complicated or something shows up in your background that requires probing.  However, for a resident who has done everything by the book (always in status, no crimes, always paid taxes on time, no violations of any laws ever, no long trips lasting months, etc.), the background is perfectly clean, speaks good English, the interview may not last longer than a few minutes.

Naturalization with a dismissed domestic violence charge

Sangeeta writes, "A few years ago, my husband drank too much and started to argue with me.  I was very upset to see him behave like trash and did not want to spend time with him, so I thought I will simply go and spend the night at my sister's house who lives only a few miles away.  However, my husband tried to stop me from leaving and tried to snatch the car keys from me.  In the process my (beautiful, long, manicured) nails scratched his wrist, but I thought he will simply apply a Band Aid.  On the contrary, this misbehaved, drunk man called the cops and reported that I had assaulted him and left.  The cops arrived even before I could pull out of my own driveway.  The cop listened to our stories, examined his wrist, and gave me summons to appear in court.  As you can imagine, the judge clearly thought that this was a waste of tax dollars and told both of us to go home, admonishing my husband that he has no right to stop his wife from leaving.  I am wondering if during the naturalization application process, this will count against good moral character and hurt my chances of becoming a citizen."



You will need to attach the documentation related to the case with your N-400 application.  You may also be asked about it during the interview.  Since you have otherwise been a law abiding permanent resident, this will not jeopardize your chance to naturalize, but cases like this are decided by supervisors rather than the Interviewing Officer, so instead of getting a positive decision on the spot, you will need to wait for the approval decision in the mail.  If the location offers same-day oath, you will not be able to take it.  It is not a bad idea to reach out to your previous attorney and ask him to suggest an immigration lawyer so that you can pay for an hour of consultation about the matter, though, if you are comfortable doing the paperwork yourself, you need not hire legal help.

How can a green card holder bring newborn legally to USA?

If a child is born to a permanent resident overseas, the child is eligible to enter the United States without any visa (or for that matter any paperwork at all) if he or she travels before the second birthday along with any of the parents and it is their first trip back to the US after birth.  The kid becomes a permanent resident immediately if legally admitted by a border agent.  For the process to go smoothly, the child should have a passport, a birth certificate (with an acceptable translation if not in English), and the accompanying parent must have valid green card (Form I-551) or reentry permit (USCIS Form I327)



Since there are uninformed airline or customs agent in every country who will have a fit to see a baby without a visa, it is better to have all your paperwork in order and allow extra time to board the flight in case there are delays.  If the low level staff gives you a hard time, insist on speaking to a supervisor.  On arrival in the United States, the process will be more straightforward as long as you have all your documents in order.  Remember that if all of the requirements are not met, the child can still travel to the US but the process is more cumbersome.

How to bring a child born overseas to permanent resident?

Mario writes, "I am a permanent resident and recently married a woman in my native country.  She has also given birth to a child after we got married.  I am about to become a citizen and would like to do the paperwork to bring them here.  I know I have to file USCIS Form I130 to bring my spouse, but but I wonder if the situation is different for my daughter considering she is a minor?"



The process is slightly different for your wife and child.  After you take the oath of citizenship, you will file two separate petitions for your wife and daughter.  They will both become green card holders when they enter the United States and do the formalities at the airport on arrival.  Your daughter, however, will become a citizen once she lives with you and will be eligible to file for a passport without going through the naturalization process.  On the other hand, you wife will need to wait 3 years and be married to you at the time to file for her citizenship.

Parents lying about immigration status to their children

Let me discuss the case of Carmen Figueroa, a woman who was born in 1971 in Mexico but was brought illegally to the United States by her parents (the exact date is not known but apparently she came when she was young).  In order to build a life, like many undocumented individuals do, they bought fraudulent documents for her and her brother, including a birth certificate and Social Security card.  They also told the kids that they were American citizens.  These two individuals were so convinced that they were US-born citizens that they both pursued careers with the government: she with the Arizona Department of Public Safety and he with the US Air Force.  What is shocking is that all this time, no one used eVerify or any other validation mechanism to check their immigration status.  Only recently when the brother applied for a passport, the authorities discovered that they were not born in the United States, and hence, present illegally in the country.



Since even Arizona DPS or United States Military never doubted the authenticity of their birth certificates and SS cards, it is fair to assume that these two individuals believed that they were genuine, though, these are not kids and through family conversations and such, should have known by now that they were born in Mexico.  Or maybe they did learn the truth, but were fine with the ruse because it allowed them all the privileges and benefits of US citizens.  Carmen Figueroa has already lost her job and maybe charged with a variety of crimes.  Her being an undocumented immigrant may also create headaches for Arizona authorities because all the cases that she has handled so far might be challenged by attorneys who represent people convicted.  It is not known what will happen to the brother who is in the Military but the policy is dishonorable discharge for fraudulent enlistment and then file criminal charges.



So did the parents really help their children by supplying them with fake papers and lying to them?  Well, apparently they dragged them across the border for a better life, but actually completely destroyed it for them.  These two individuals came so long ago that they would have been eligible for the Reagan Amnesty, which they did not even bother to consider believing that they were citizens.  Now that it has been conclusively proved that they used false documents and claimed to be US citizens (they may have also voted in elections), they will never be able to apply for naturalization.  In fact, unless they can really convince an immigration judge that they always believed that they were citizens (a very high bar because by this age most Americans with family overseas, particularly in Mexico, would have traveled there for vacation or to meet extended family), they may find it impossible to even legalize their status under any type of immigration reform when implemented into law.  Most likely they will also face deportation proceedings.  The moral of this story is that if you are in a situation like them, have a discussion with your parents and other family members to make sure that your story is true.  If you are a parent who told a lie to your children, well, it is time to give them the bad news.  And finally, if you have any doubt about your citizenship status, just use eVerify to find out your citizenship status.

Apply for naturalization while working overseas

Tang writes, "I am now eligible to apply for naturalization but recently I have been offered a dream job in Canada.  If I file N400 and keep coming back from Canada for biometrics, interview, and oath, while maintaining my apartment here and not changing anything else with regards to my bank accounts, etc. do you think I can manage this or should I wait for the naturalization process to complete first (in which case I might lose my dream job)?



My recommendation would be to leave only after you are naturalized in the United States in case you value US citizenship.  You see, during your background check, it is likely that your entry into Canada on a work permit will show up (US and Canada are known to share a lot of data on border crossings, particularly by road, and when you enter from Canada, the US Border agent may ask you dozens of questions on what you were doing in Canada and you will have to disclose your employment there) and that will immediately raise a red flag.  Additionally, during your interview you will need to disclose (under oath) that you are currently employed in Canada.  In other words, not only can your naturalization application be denied, your green card may also be revoked.  Just maintaining a residence in the US will not matter if you are working and living in Canada because under the eyes of the law, you have already abandoned your ties to the United States by taking up employment in another country.



If your dream job is more important to you and you would rather live long term in Canada, then, it is best not to waste time and money on naturalizing in America.  However, as I said above, if you complete the naturalization process the right way, you will then be free to work anywhere else in the world.  Most aliens would get their US citizenship first because if you miss out on that one, you will need to start from scratch in Canada while you are almost at the end of the process in the US.  A so-called dream job may actually turn out to be a nightmare (we all know how disappointed we can be in a job after working for a few weeks) or you might be laid off after a few months, but if you become an American, you can always pursue other dream jobs later on in life not just in America but anywhere else you can find work.

Apply for naturalization with expired green card

Anwar writes, "My green card is set to expire in a few weeks and rather than renewing, I have decided to apply for naturalization.  It has been a difficult decision for me because I have to surrender the citizenship of a country that I was born in.  I think it is best for me that I become an American so that I can vote in elections and make my ties with the United States truly permanent.  I am wondering if I should still renew my green card and spend hundreds of dollars when I might become a citizen in a matter of months.  I have no plans to travel and since I own a business, I have no intention of taking a job.  Please help."



It is mandatory for an alien to have a valid GC at all times.  It is evidence of your legal status in the United States and should be shown to a law enforcement agent when ordered to do so.  Without a valid alien registration card, not only you are out of status, but if you fail to renew, it can be safely assumed that you have no interest in continuing your permanent resident status.  Also, imagine having to take an overseas trip in an emergency?  Your naturalization may not happen for almost a year or even longer if there is a problem so it will be nice to have a valid GC to also show as evidence that you are eligible to work and live legally in the United States.  In any case, you will need the GC or a copy of your I-90 acknowledgement at the time of interview, and definitely a physical card to surrender at the time of taking oath.

AD

If you apply for citizenship and decide not to renew your green card, the interviewing officer may refuse to approve your case till you have a valid green card.  Generally speaking, you are not entitled to a generous treatment because you have less than six months left on your card (in which case you are entitled to a free I-551 extension that allows you to save some money and be able to travel out of the country and change jobs) but you could take the risk if you are really tight with money or do not mind your interview and oath jeopardized.  The best course of action, however, is to apply for renewal right away and hope that by the time your interview happens, you will have a valid GC.

Process for citizen to sponsor undocumented immediate family member for green card

I receive a lot of questions from American citizens who are eligible to sponsor their immediate family member (spouse, parents, and children below 21) but are unable to do so because these potential beneficiaries are illegally in the country in the fear that when they go for their consular processing interview, they will be banned from entering the United States for years depending upon the time that they have lived without status.  Thankfully, there is a process that can work for most of you in which the applicant will not receive a ban and can get a green card by being out of the country for merely days or weeks (there are separate paths for immediate family members of US servicemembers and those from visa waiver countries).  This is how it works (if you are comfortable completing rather simple forms, then, there is no need for an attorney.  You just have to be methodical and diligent.  You can do online research to find answer if you get stuck because there is already a lot of information online and you can ask questions in forums):



  1. File USCIS form I-130 to establish the relationship and eligibility.
  2. When you receive the I130 approval, you will get instructions on what to do next: basically more forms to fill (thankfully, the USCIS provides clear instructions on which forms to complete and how) and you should complete all the paperwork as instructed.  You should try to pay your fee online using a credit card here so that it will be easy for you to print the receipt which you will need for step below.
  3. Once you receive a receipt notice that your documents have arrived, you must now separately complete the USCIS Form I601A.  It  is important for you to understand that this form is for you to plead that if the government bans you from entering the US for years, it will cause extreme hardship to your family.  For example, if you have little children or sick family members or whatever else that will be the cause of hardship, it must be explained.  
  4. If USCIS Form I601A is approved and all other paperwork is complete, then, you will get a letter in the mail giving you a date of appointment at the US embassy/consulate in your native country.  A few days before the interview, you fly to your country to make sure that you do not miss the appointment.  Then show up for the appointment, and do a good job at the interview answering all questions honestly.  If you are approved, then, just book a flight back to USA and at the airport give them the paperwork that you will get from the embassy.  You will then be a green card holder but the actual card will take about 2 weeks to come in the mail. 


What if you are ineligible to apply for I601 A?  In case you are banned from entering the United States after the interview, you should explore the possibility of applying for a provisional waiver using the form USCIS I601.  Hopefully, you will be allowed to return right away; if not, you should simply wait for your ban to end.  Obviously, if you do not have an approved I601A before leaving or suspect that you will be banned from re-entry and will be unsuccessful pleading for a waiver, you need to consider whether you want to legalize your status or continue to live without legal status.

Revoke green card of my husband before arrival to USA

Fatima writes, "I sponsored my husband to join me in the United States and the paperwork took more than one year because of his being a citizen of an Islamic country.  He now has an approved I-130 and is ready to travel to the US, but I found out from my family in my native country that he has been cheating on me with other women.  I am very upset and I do not think I want to be with this man.  If he comes here, I think he will continue his philandering behavior.  Can I do something to revoke his visa to enter the United States?"



Unfortunately, the USCIS is very bureaucratic and overall a mess with such unusual cases.  Even if you file a divorce petition (you will do so in the country in which the marriage took place because at this point it will be impossible to divorce in the United States) it will take some time before this gets finalized.  USCIS or State Department have no process for citizens to report that they have filed for divorce after a visa petition has been approved.



Now what you can do is to tell him not to travel to the US because you plan on annulling the marriage.  If he understands what is going on, most likely he will not travel and in that case, you can divorce him and move on.  However, if he still insists on traveling, you need to make sure that you do not let him live with you (living with you will make it harder for you to revoke his conditional green card because he could accuse you of abusing you and still get his permanent resident status approved while putting you in legal trouble, particularly if he can fabricate evidence).  Also immediately hire an attorney to help you divorce him as soon as he arrives.  Once the divorce is finalized, he will be unable to remove the conditions on his green card after two years and he will be out of status in the US.  You can then report the details of the divorce proceedings to the USCIS so if the machinery of the ICE works effectively, he can be placed in deportation proceedings, assuming he does not voluntarily leave.

Adjustment of status for Canadian crossing by road without passport stamp

For Canadian citizens who enter the United States by road, it is very common not to have any evidence of their entry, and if they want to apply for another visa or adjust their status from within the US, they wonder if there is even any evidence of their legal entry and what documents they should provide to the USCIS.

This is how it works.  While there is no stamp, your passport was run through a reader that downloads all the details from the passport.  In other words, Department of Homeland Security (or CBP) has an entry into their database of your entry into the country.  So a Canadian citizen should work with the understanding that a record of their entry exists and file the paperwork.  There is no need to attach an I-94 or copy of stamp, simply indicating the date and name of border crossed.

How to enter the USA as permanent resident without reentry permit after 2 years?

It is not uncommon for United States immigration agents to let a green card holder enter the US with a valid (or even expired) alien registration card even if returning after years without a reentry permit.  Be prepared for extensive grilling or even directives to apply for a renewal within a certain period, but do not be shocked if you are denied entry for abandoning your green card and sent back home.  The agents at the airport have enormous discretion in such matters and chances are that children or senior citizens or young mothers will be treated kindly while everyone else will be held to a higher standard.  In any case, the officer is looking for your ties to the US and is trying to find if you have genuinely abandoned your permanent resident status or if there were compelling reasons to stay overseas for this long, so you better have your story straight along with supporting evidence.



However, if you want drama-free, guaranteed entry, you should have applied for a re-entry permit prior to leaving the US (and that is why it is strongly recommended not to try the path of just showing up at the US border because being denied entry and put on a return flight home is never fun).  If you did not, then, your best course of action is to Returning Resident Visa (SB-1).  The process is not as comprehensive as the one for green card, but is still convoluted.  In addition, you will need to go for an interview and satisfy the consulate officer that you intended to return in time and did not because of reasons beyond your control.  Make sure that you have paperwork to support your arguments (e.g. if you claim that you were sick, you better have records of your illness).  Do not try this route if you were simply sloppy or lazy or have actually started living abroad and just want the GC to be able to visit the US without a visa, because then your application will be denied and you would have ended up wasting time and money.  Instead, apply for a fresh application for permanent residence.

Apply for US passport at passport agency immediately after taking oath

There are rare cases in which a newly naturalized citizen may need to get an American passport almost immediately after taking oath (some countries may punish you if you take US citizenship and then use their passport, so make sure that you check the dual citizenship rules of your native country, and also it is illegal to try to enter the USA with another country's passport once you have naturalized -- you will be caught at the airport because the database is updated once you take the oath of citizenship).  While you can apply for a passport immediately after taking the oath (research beforehand the nearest post office to the place of naturalization ceremony and show up with all the paperwork already completed so that all you need to do is to attach your naturalization certificate, which should be photocopied for your own record just in case something goes wrong), and if you use the expedite service, the passport should arrive in a matter of days, but if you need to travel in two weeks or need to apply for a visa within next four weeks, then you can apply in person at a passport agency by making an appointment.



But can a permanent resident legally make an appointment with a US passport agency while still awaiting the oath?  Would it not be violation of the law that you are falsely claiming to be a US citizen?  It might appear that way because only citizens are supposed to interact with the passport agency, but merely making an appointment is not counted as claiming to be a US citizen if you have already been approved at the interview for oath ceremony.  Obviously, if something goes wrong and you are not able to take the oath, you will be wasting your time and money by visiting the passport agency anyway.  On the other hand, if everything proceeds smoothly, when you do show up for your appointment at the passport office you will have all the paperwork needed along with your naturalization certificate.  So go right ahead and make an appointment without worrying about anything.

Legalization of overstays from visa waiver program countries

The way Obama Administration exploited loopholes in US law to create DACA, stop deportation of family members of certain immigrants in the country illegally, and give legal status to family members of US servicemembers, yet another new provision allows all those aliens who came to the United States from a country that participates in the visa waiver program to adjust their status as long as they are immediate family members of a US citizen.



What does this new policy do?  You see if you are a citizen of a VWP country, you can enter the United States without a visa but such entry comes with many conditions, like the length of time you can stay and your inability to extend your stay or adjust status to another category (privileges that are available to aliens who enter with a valid visa).  In fact, ICE can deport such individuals without even an immigration hearing, a privilege that is generally available even to illegal immigrants.



How to adjust status based on this policy change?  This new policy is very limited in its applicability.  In other words, you need to discuss this with an immigration attorney who will advise you whether you are eligible.  The good news is that if you are an immediate relative (related by marriage or birth) of an American citizen, have not committed any serious crimes, and are not yet in deportation proceedings, you are very likely to be approved.  The paperwork is surprising simple and among other forms would require USCIS Form I-130 and I485.

Will eVerify catch someone else's SSN?

It is very common among undocumented immigrants to use stolen Social Security numbers that they buy from criminals.  It is also somewhat common for many immigrants to use the details of a legal family member or friend.  Needless to add, the largest SS# are simply numbers that don't seem to belong to anyone and are randomly generated by criminals who are in the business of printing fraudulent Social Security cards for a price.  While many undocumented aliens do not realize that they are breaking any laws by doing so or hurting anyone else, the reality is that not only many laws are being broken, in some cases, real financial harm is being done to legal residents, particularly children (criminals target children when committing identity theft).  Many victims are then unable to find a job or use banking/credit services because of the suspicious activity on their number.



In order to discourage identity theft and abuse of SSN, the USCIS will make it harder for you to find work by using someone else's SSN (it already is impossible to get an eVerify approval with a fake number).  Going forward, the algorithm of eVerify will be able to detect if a person is using another person's totally valid number.  If your employer finds that out (for undocumented aliens the safe assumption to make is that the employer is using eVerify despite widespread reports that many employers do not), it will be clear to them that you are breaking the law and will most likely result in withdrawal of the job offer.  It is also likely that law enforcement may be alerted as a potential case of identity theft.



What to do if you are a valid owner of that Social Security number?  If that happens to you, in many ways it is good because you now know that your number has been compromised.  You will essentially be given a “Tentative Nonconfirmation” (TNC) by your employer and while it will require a trip to the local Social Security office (not a fun thing to do for anyone of us due to the lines and bored bureaucrats who work there), you will be able to get an approval after providing evidence of your legal status, which for a citizen can be a birth certificate or naturalization certificate or passport and for permanent residents and legal residents it can be their passport and an evidence of a visa or approval of some kind from the USCIS.  At that point, the USCIS and SSA will be alerted that other unauthorized users have been using your number and you will be protected from identity theft.

US tourist visa if I lived illegally

Pedro writes, "I came to the United States as a child over 20 years ago with my parents on a valid visa but never left.  Since then I have lived here, gone to college, but now that my life is going by and I see no hope for legalizing my status, I do not want to waste my life working illegally in Mexican restaurants washing dishes.  In my native country, I have been offered an executive job due to my excellent education and bilingual skills and I have decided to take that position because that way I no longer have to live in fear as an undocumented immigrant, I can travel the world, and have a family.  I will also use my American education in my job.  But before I leave, I want to know what will happen at the airport?  Will ICE harass me?  Will they stamp my passport with a 10-year ban?  Will I be fingerprinted?  I have no criminal record of any kind and have never interacted with US law enforcement of any kind.  Will I be able to visit the United States as a visitor later on?



What to expect at the airport if an undocumented immigrant is returning to one's native country?  While the United States law enforcement does have the authority to detain and arrest anyone who is in the country illegally at any place (and it is common for Border Police to detain undocumented immigrants leaving the US for Mexico to make sure they leave after fingerprinting them because that means they will not be able to return legally for ten years), unless something goes terribly wrong, you will be able to leave without any interaction with law enforcement.  You should have a valid passport if you are returning to your native country and a visa (if needed) if you are traveling to another country.  You will only interact with airline staff (though you can minimize that interaction by doing most of the paperwork at the airline website and at the kiosk in the terminal, though, someone will check your passport at least twice, at the time of dropping off your bags and then before boarding the international leg of your flight).  In rare cases, the airline agent might question you about a US visa, but you can simply tell them that your passport is new or you lost some documents and at that point they will figure out that you are illegally in the US and leave you alone (there really is no system to do anything).  The TSA agents will merely check your passport and boarding pass and it is unlikely that anything else will happen.



What to expect when you apply for a visa to visit the US?  If you have ever lived or traveled to the United States, you must honestly answer this question in the tourist visa application.  Additional questions maybe asked if there is a visa interview at the US embassy/consulate.  The State Department has other ways to find out if you ever lived in the US because it has access to many databases.  Chances are your name will pop up somewhere if you went to school/college, worked, paid taxes, applied for a driver's license, etc.  That means that even if you apply for the visa after 10 years, the embassy might deny the visa since you will be considered high risk and more likely to overstay.  However, if you build a good life in your native country, have evidence to prove your strong ties like employment, property, family, etc., you might be able to receive a tourist visa.

How to apply for visa for family of Military servicemen?




Like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for young immigrants who arrived illegally as children, the Obama Administration has launched a similar program for spouses (both heterosexual as well as same sex), children, and parents of active duty members of armed forces, reservists, and military veterans.

So what does this program do?  Basically, if you are in the United States undocumented, you get to legalize your status in form of a parole-in-place.  This will be for one year at a time but can be renewed indefinitely.  With this parole, you will get a work permit, your very own Social Security number, and will now be able to apply for adjustment of status to permanent residence or green card.

How much will this cost?  Nothing.  Free.  Simply because this is the least the country can do to thank those who are willing to put their lives on the line.

How does this help you?  If you simply overstayed a visa, adjustment of status has been easier for family members of US citizens.  However, if you entered without inspection (EWI) meaning that you simply crossed the border illegally, the process requires leaving the United States, even if you have a waiver through the USCIS Form I601A.  By getting this parole, the green card process can be completed without leaving the United States.



What will the USCIS investigate?  Like any other immigration application, the USCIS will conduct a background check on each applicant.   Generally, a felony convictions will lead to rejection of application but up to three misdemeanors may not matter that much.  If you have any criminal background, do not even think about applying on your own, because not only will your application be rejected, you will be put in deportation proceedings.

How to apply? 
  1. Unless money is extremely tight, don't try the DIY approach.  Get a decent attorney (no need for a top lawyer because the paperwork is simple and any immigration attorney should know how to complete the forms).
  2. Put together a package containing USCIS Form I-131, copy of the evidence of relationship with the serviceman or woman (e.g. marriage/birth certificates), copy of both sides of the service member's military ID card, and two passport style photographs.  Mail these to the Director of USCIS office depending on the state you live in.  Wait for a few months and you will get the parole approval.  You can then start the green card process.

Can E2 visa be based on financing from credit cards?

Andrew and his wife are considering relocating to the United States using the E-2 visa that is available only to citizens of countries with which United States has a treaty.  The couple plan to run a low-investment business -- a design firm -- and while they have savings to finance about two thirds of the business, they plan to borrow the rest.  Can they get the visa?



While having a solid financial situation is always helpful, it is not a requirement.  If an applicant not only has all the money to needed to operate a business and has assets on top of that, the visa is much more likely to be approved, the US Consulate may still approve Andrew's petition considering that the investment is small and the risk is low if the business fails.  It is possible to finance the business by using credit cards, for instance, by borrowing the money on the credit card and having it available to transfer to the United States.  Unfortunately, it is a very expensive way of getting cash because the interest rates on cash advances are extremely high.  Andrew may want to borrow the money from family and friends or wait a few more months to save.  It is important to remember that if the Consulate suspects that your financial situation is not as sound as they like, you maybe denied.

Does it matter if the green card sponsor has criminal record?

For a family based permanent resident petition it does not matter that you have committed a crime in the past or even served time in a jail.  If you did your part by either paying a fine or going to jail or being under probation or whatever punishment the judge gave you, right now you are free to pursue your own life.  You can get married to an overseas citizen or sponsor other family members as allowed by law.  If you are eligible in all other respects like any other citizen, do the proper paperwork, there is nothing to fear.  Just remember that the USCIS is always trying to detect if an immigration petition is fraudulent and it might look more carefully in your application just to make sure that you are not planning to break the law yet once again, but nothing bars you fro moving on with your life.

Impact on immigration petition if American spouse owes money to IRS

Annie writes, "I have excellent credit score and my American boyfriend has proposed to me.  We are discussing plans for wedding, but he has not been meticulous about his taxes and owes money to the Internal Revenue Service.  If we do get married, will this tax matter affect the marriage based green card petition?  Can I file my taxes separately from him till his tax matter is resolved?  Am I required to file taxes jointly to get my permanent residency approved?  Will that affect my excellent credit score then?  Please help."



  1. If you need a green card based on marriage soon enough, she will first need to first get clear with the IRS.  The USCIS does not approve petitions when taxes are due to the IRS.  In fact, you may want to delay filing a green card petition till the tax issues are resolved.  She will need to hire a tax attorney so that she makes IRS happy and that does not always mean that she has to pay all her taxes right away if the amount is very large.  As long as she completes the paperwork and agrees to pay the IRS over a period of time, she would be fine with USCIS.
  2. Indeed, if you still get married, make sure that you file taxes separately, though, this will raise questions during the green card interview and you will need to explain the whole background, but as long as there is an arrangement worked out with the IRS, it should not matter as much.
  3. Credit score is an entirely separate matter, but if your wife has low score, you both should not borrow anything together until she is totally in the clear with all her debts.  In any case, if she is a financially irresponsible person, you two should never have a joint credit account because she could revert to her old ways later on and then destroy your credit score.  It is important to point out that merely owing taxes to the IRS does not lower credit score unless a lien is placed by the Feds.  It is likely that she also has not been paying her bills on time to other creditors.

Green card with only civil wedding

Arturo writes, "I am legally in the United States and after dating a wonderful woman, we decided to get married in Las Vegas.  The reason we chose a Vegas wedding was that the paperwork required was minimal (appear in an office and with just some paperwork, walk out married, while in my town the couple needs blood work) and it seemed much more exciting to fly there, stay in a luxurious hotel, and after the wedding, eat at a fine restaurant to celebrate.  We also thought that it was our honeymoon and had an awesome time, but because she is a naturalized citizen herself and neither one of us has family in the United States, we never really had a religious ceremony with friends and family.  We have been married for several years now and because my H1 visa is nearing expiration, I want to get the ball rolling on a marriage based green card.  We seem to have everything in order but there really is no record of a traditional wedding.  Would that be a problem during the interview?"



In the eyes of the law, a civil wedding has as much weight as a church wedding.  And when it comes to sham weddings, I am sure that the USCIS agents have seen it all, including couples exchanging vows before God while being fully aware that they were committing fraud.  So it really does not matter that you did not have a religious wedding ceremony as long as your marriage is genuine (in fact, I would not be surprised that people who commit immigration fraud are more likely to have traditional weddings just to make their case appear more genuine).  You should be truthful about your story and present evidence of your relationship like your pictures from Las Vegas or other things that you two have done together.  If you have visited each others families, those photos can also be helpful in showing that you do have a real marriage.  In addition, you will need documents like joint bank accounts, mortgages/leases, etc. to prove that you are like any other married couple.  And like any other couple who is interviewed for a marriage based permanent resident status, be prepared to be grilled together and separately.  If you ace those interviews and have your evidence lined up, it does not matter if you exchanged your vows in front of a Nevada bureaucrat or a priest.

Can I have two visas to USA at the same time?

Well, what happens is that you have a 10-year B1/B2 visa and then you decide to come to the United States as a student on a F1 visa or get a job offer on H1 visa.  In some cases, the consulate may cancel your other visa by making a note in the passport or by notifying you officially by mail.  However, it may leave it alone as well.  So during the validity of F or H visa, you will be admitted using them, and you need to make sure that it happens when you meet with the immigration agent so that you have enough time to stay and it is in compliance with the terms of your visa (e.g. if you are admitted under the visitor visa, you will be unable to work, even though you have a work authorization under the H visa).


If you never overstay a visa, when one visa expires, you are free to use your tourist visa to visit the United States.  If for some reason your tourist visa was cancelled and you now want to visit the US again, as long as nothing else has changed dramatically in your life, you should have no trouble receiving a new visitor visa.