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Surin & Griffin Immigration and Nationality Law

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Frequently Asked Questions – Immigration Laws in the United States

What do I need to work in the United States if I am not a U.S. citizen and do not have U.S. permanent residence?

To be employed lawfully in the U.S. if you are not otherwise eligible to work, you will need to obtain a temporary non-immigrant work visa or “work permit.”

What type of non-immigrant work visa can I get to live and work temporarily in the United States?

  • H-1B: Specialty occupation visas usually requiring a 4-year university degree
  • L: Intracompany transferee visas for transfer of employees between foreign businesses and U.S. based businesses
  • E: Investor and trader visas if there is a particular kind of international treaty
  • O & P: Persons of extraordinary ability with national or international recognition

Can I live and work permanently in the United States if I am not a U.S. citizen?

Yes, by obtaining a “green card” or lawful permanent residence.

Questions about Green Cards

What is a “green card”?

A green card allows the holder to live and work in the United States indefinitely. It is evidence of the status of lawful permanent residence and is usually obtained through self-sponsorship, sponsorship by an employer or family sponsorship.

What is “self-sponsorship” for a green card?

Individuals of extraordinary ability in the arts or sciences can get a “green card” based upon their accomplishments in their fields. Others may qualify for a national interest waiver if they can establish that their work is will greatly benefit the United States. In either case, no particular employer has to sponsor the person.

When does an employer sponsor an individual for a green card?

Other than the “self-sponsoring” situation, employment-based immigration requires that the Department of Labor certify that no qualified U.S. workers are available to fill the position offered to the foreign national and that hiring the foreign national in that position will not negatively impact the wages and working conditions of similarly situated U.S. workers. Labor certifications are used to sponsor professionals with degrees, skilled workers such as chefs or even lower skilled workers such as childcare providers.

How can my family sponsor me for a green card?

You are eligible to apply for a green card if you are:

  • The spouse of a United States citizen or permanent resident
  • The unmarried child of a United States citizen or permanent resident
  • The married child of a United States citizen
  • The parent of a United States citizen who is 21 years of age or older
  • The brother or sister of a United States citizen

What is “asylum” and how can I qualify for asylum in the United States?

Immigration asylum is having a well-founded fear of persecution in your home country. You must apply within one year of your arrival in the U.S. (unless there are extraordinary circumstances or changed country conditions) and must establish persecution is based upon race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. You may also qualify for withholding of removal based on the Convention Against Torture because you experienced torture in your home country.

Citizenship and Deportation

How can I become a United States citizen?

United States citizenship is acquired through birth or by naturalization. You may apply for naturalization if: (i) you have been a lawful permanent resident for 5 years; (ii) you have been a lawful permanent resident for 3 years and have been married to a U.S. citizen for those 3 years; (iii) you are a lawful permanent resident child of U.S. citizen parents; or (iv) you have qualifying military service. Children under 18 years of age may automatically become citizens when their parents naturalize.

Who is subject to removal (deportation) from the United States?

Any alien who violates the immigration laws of the United States is subject to removal (deportation). An alien is anyone who is not a citizen and can include lawful permanent residents, visitors and those without proper documentation.

How does a removal case begin?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) serves a Notice to Appear (NTA) upon the alien and files the NTA with the Immigration Court. The NTA tells the person why he is subject to removal and directs him to appear in court.

What happens if I miss my court date?

The judge will order you removed (deported) from the United States “in absentia” (in your absence). This order can be rescinded if you never received notice of the hearing or can document an “exceptional circumstance” such as serious illness as the reason for failing to appear.

What kind of defenses can I present in an immigration court?

Every case is different. Some will be eligible to apply for adjustment of status (green card), request asylum or similar relief from harm, or even seek a general discretionary form of relief called “cancellation of removal.” The nature of relief available will vary greatly according to the circumstances of the individual.

If I am ordered removed, can I appeal my case?

Yes — you can appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). This is an appeal within the Departments of Justice and carries with it an automatic stay of removal. Appeals after that are to federal court, either in the court of appeals or in the district court, depending upon the kind of case. A stay of removal in these cases is not automatic and must be applied for with the court.

Contact the Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers of Surin & Griffin, P.C. to Learn More about Immigration Law

The Philadelphia immigration law firm of Surin & Griffin, P.C. is experienced in immigration court practice on a nationwide basis. To learn more about how U.S. immigration laws can affect you, consult with Surin & Griffin. P.C. by contacting us online or calling 215-925-4435.