Can legal immigrant take advantage of Obama amnesty?

Suresh writes, "I came to the United States legally and have been here for 14 years, always on a visa, and have never been out of status.  I have never broken any laws at all, not even a speeding ticket.  I have no way to get a green card.  I am well educated, pay taxes, but I am not eligible for a green card because my employer has refused to sponsor me.  Will the Obama Amnesty LPI visa allow me to legalize?"



Unfortunately, no.  The so-called Comprehensive Immigration Reform may have some provisions for STEM visas or for more H1B visas or special work permits for agricultural workers, but the focus is primarily to help undocumented aliens become legal.  Indeed, the plan is very unfair to those who followed all the rules but you see the intent of the legislation is to recognize that the 12 million unauthorized foreigners are here, they are not leaving on their own, they are already employed, and it is best to just forgive their crimes.  The best option for you would be to eventually become an illegal immigrant and hope for another amnesty down the road, which might come sooner than this one, because the Obama amnesty will create even more illegal immigration.

2013 Obama amnesty LPI visa for illegal immigrants

We now have some more details on what the 2013 Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill will include.  So far it looks pretty good for undocumented aliens in the sense that there are no penalties for using fake documents like green cards of Social Security cards or identity thefts or not paying taxes.  Even better in order to get the Lawful Prospective Immigrant (LPI), all you need to do is to complete the application, pay the fee, show up for fingerprinting, and then you get a card in the mail (this card will be your evidence that you are legally in the United States and you can show it to anyone as proof of your legal stay, or your right to work).  By using this card, you can also get a authentic SSN and the new high-tech card.

Who is eligible?  Almost all the illegal aliens in the US are eligible as long as you were not convicted of crimes (either in the US or anywhere else in the world) that led to a prison term of at least one year; or three different crimes that resulted in a total of 90 days in jail. If you committed a crime but were not jailed,  you will still be eligible.  If you are in jail for breaking US immigration laws or are in the middle of deportation proceedings, you will be eligible for a LPI visa.  No requirement that you learn English for this visa.

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How do I apply for Obama CIR?  Complete an application in English and provide evidence as asked. The fees has not yet been declared but it should be a few hundred dollars (family members filing jointly will pay less and there will be exemptions for poor immigrants), along with a penalty of $250 payable by only those older than 21 at the time of application.  No back taxes and no fine to get the provisional status for eight years.  There could be an interview for some applicants.

Can I go abroad?  Yes, but only for less than six months. 

Can I sponsor family members?  Only after your approval, you can sponsor your spouse and minor children to come legally to the United States on the same visa, so they will also be legally able to work and study.  And once you get your green card and citizenship, you can sponsor even other family members like parents, brothers, and sisters.

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How long will the visa be valid?  It will be valid for 4 years and can be renewed.

When can I apply for a green card?  You can apply for adjustment of status to permanent residence after about eight years.

Are there special requirements for a green card for illegals?  Yes, you will need to learn English (anyone over 65 is exempted), pay back taxes, and pass a test about American history and government.  At this time, you must pay back taxes. There will be another background check and it is also important to remember that crimes that are being overlooked for this visa maybe a problem for permanent residency.

Will I eventually become a US citizen If you are married to an American citizen, you can apply for naturalization after three years.  Otherwise, 5 years.

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Different names on passport and green card for naturalization

While the best path forward is to have consistent names across all your documents, it is not always possible.  Look, living in a foreign country has its downsides and it is often a good idea to not change your name immediately after marriage.  But wait, some countries don't even give you an option.  When you renew your passport and declare your marital status they immediately change your last name not even giving you the option or even letting you decide how you want your name to appear on the passport.



Thankfully, the USCIS is aware of these complexities.  As far as naturalization is concerned, the USCIS wants to first and foremost make sure that you are the individual with the documents that you are authorized to have.  It also wants you to know all the names that you have used in the past so that if you committed crimes with one name they will be discovered during the background check, you cannot escape responsibility for them.  The best part of becoming an American citizen is that you get to choose your new name as a citizen.  In fact for any immigrant who wants to change one's name, there is no better time to do that than at the time of naturalization -- it is free to you and the USCIS does all the paperwork. So if you are filling out Form N-400, just mention all your names and don't worry about different names being a problem, as long as your story is straight and you will have the documents to show during your interview.

Legalizing if claimed US citizenship to work

How can an alien claim to be a US citizen?  Typically, an illegal immigrant will check the box on an I-9 form in order to work without having any other papers.  This is the most serious form of the crime along with filing for welfare and other such financial benefits.  A few aliens will sometimes check the box and register to vote at the DMV while getting a driver's license.  There have also been cases where some foreigners who live legally did not realize that they cannot vote and have deliberately registered to vote and have even voted in elections. 

How does USCIS deal with immigrants who have claimed US citizenship?  Typically, an alien who has evern claimed to be an American will not be able to get a green card and immediate deportation is issued.  It is not clear what law Congress will pass as part of Obama Amnesty and if it will specifically condone such action, but it seems highly unlikely.



How does USCIS find out that an alien has claimed to be a US citizen?  When an alien will file Form I-485 for adjustment of status (a standard form to be submitted to apply for permanent residency in the USA) -- this is the form that all undocumented immigrants will also follow to apply for green cards -- the USCIS will look very carefully at your application.  It is is not clear if all illegal immigrants will need to appear for an interview, if the officer has any doubt that an you may have claimed to be a US citizen, you maybe issued an RFE or ordered to appear for an interview.  USCIS will subpoena the current and previous employers to send all I-9 forms that you submitted.  Most employers simply mail a copy of your employee file.  So when you go for the interview, you are not aware of what exactly the adjudication officer knows about you (there will be a lot of information through your background check), you have to take an oath to tell the truth (remember that the interview is a legal proceeding and you cannot commit perjury), and then you will be order to answer how you got a job without authorization.  If you knowingly claimed US citizenship when you knew you were not a citizen, the officer will refuse to approve your application, put a permanent bar on entry into the United States, and start removal proceedings.

What are your options if you are in this situation?  It is probable that Obama amnesty will give you a provisional legal status (right to live, travel, and work) without asking you if you ever claimed US citizenship. In that case, while you may never be able to apply for a green card, you will be able to live in America in the provisional status. 

What if you claimed to be a US citizen because you were made to believe that you were a citizen?   If you can show a judge that you genuinely believed that you were a citizen when you checked the US citizen box on an I-9 form, you will be fine, but this is not going to be easy.

What should I do if I claimed US citizenship?  Do it yourself application will not work for you.  You must consult with an excellent lawyer because it might be better for you not to apply and face deportation or maybe you had a genuine situation in which you did not intentionally lie.