Did you know that, as of 2020, immigrants account for more than 10% of Georgia’s population? That percentage is rapidly increasing too! As immigration attorneys, the topic of immigration is close to our hearts. In fact, for most of our lawyers and staff members, immigration is an integral part of our family story and personal heritage.
Did you also know that the U.S. offers approximately 185 different types of visas?
These visas are primarily divided into immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, and within those two major categories are a wide variety of visa options for people seeking to visit or immigrate to the United States. If you or your loved ones are exploring visa options, we invite you to read this overview of visa types and to contact our office for further assistance.
In addition to visa challenges, immigrants face many complex family, personal, employment, safety, and legal complications in their lives. Having an informed, experienced attorney on your side can make all the difference in getting the answers you need and a favorable outcome for your situation.
“Iliana Dobrev & Andrea Ackerman are deeply knowledgeable on immigration laws & matters. They are so easy to work with & made our immigration application process a piece of cake. They make the time to answer any and every question and this made all the difference, since it helped build our comfort level and best prepare us for the interviews. We wish them all the best in their future cases and highly recommend them to anyone.”
“Iliana Dobrev is my attorney for three different cases: two of them were successful and the third is almost there. Thanks for your excellent job. God bless you!”
Both undocumented immigrants and immigrants who hold lawful immigration status can be placed in removal proceedings due to criminal issues, denial of an affirmative application by USCIS, inadmissibility issues at time of entry into the U.S., failure to maintain status, marriage fraud, criminal convictions, false claim to citizenship, or other charges. Removal and deportation proceedings can be fought and can even sometimes lead to permanent residence. It is important to consult an experienced immigration attorney if you are placed in removal proceedings, so that they can evaluate your options and likelihood of success.
Asylum status provides the seeker with protection from persecution in a foreign country based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. An applicant may claim asylum affirmatively through USCIS or defensively when undergoing removal proceedings in immigration court.
Though limited exceptions apply, the asylum claim must be registered within a year of the defendant’s date of entry into the U.S. If asylum is granted, the applicant receives legal status in the U.S., work authorization, access to certain public benefits, pathway to permanent residency and citizenship, and a derivative status for spouses and children.
Historically, asylum-seekers were able to obtain work authorization while their asylum case was pending, but a recent regulatory change significantly altered the ability of people to apply for and obtain an asylum-based EAD card. The new rule, effective August 25th, 2020, established a 365-day waiting period between an applicant’s request for asylum and the applicant’s may request for a work permit. Additionally, the 30-day adjudication requirement was eliminated, which means that USCIS will take longer to adjudicate work permit applications. This change forces asylum-seekers to live in the shadows for an entire year or longer while awaiting adjudication of their applications and being unable to legally work or obtain a driver’s license.
Furthermore, the following groups of immigrants are completely excluded from employment authorization:
- Applicants who did not submit their asylum application within a year of entering the United States
- Applicants who entered or attempted to enter the United States without inspection
- Applicants who convicted of certain crimes
- Applicants who have caused delays in the processing of their applications, by requesting changes and amendments to their applications or by changing their address and causing a transfer of their application to a different processing office
Although asylum regulations are tightening, asylum still remains the only option for many people in desperate need of protection. If you have a genuine fear of returning to your country of origin, we encourage you to seek advice from an experienced immigration attorney who can evaluate your prospect of succeeding in your asylum claim.
Immigrants interested in obtaining their U.S. residency through a family member often feel overwhelmed by the complexity of the immigration system, and rightly so. In fact, even if you think you can handle the immigration forms and document submission by yourself, it is always a good idea to consult an attorney to make sure you are on the right path because not all of the necessary information and steps involved are clearly explained on the USCIS website. Making a mistake could cost you time and money or cause you to be placed in removal proceedings if your application is denied.
Generally, there are two paths to obtaining residency: Adjustment of Status and Consular Processing. For both, the first step is to submit a family petition, Form I-130 with USCIS). The second step is to submit an application for either adjustment of status or consular processing abroad. There may or may not be a waiver of inadmissibility required/possible in between.
Adjustment of Status is the process of changing an individuals’ immigration status to that of a lawful permanent resident inside the United States, while Consular Processing is the process of applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad and entering the U.S. as a permanent resident. Sometimes determining which path is right is pretty straightforward, but other times, a complex legal analysis is needed.
Keep in mind that each case is unique and each case includes particular facts that determine the right legal strategy for your case. We recommend that you consult an experienced immigration attorney before you move forward with your case.
DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)
The DACA program became effective on June 12, 2012, granting certain immigrants protection against removal from the United States and other benefits, such as employment authorization and the opportunity to obtain a Social Security Number and driver’s license. You are eligible for this type of deferred action if the following seven qualifications apply to you:
- Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012.
- Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday.
- Have continuously resided in the United States from June 15, 2007 to the present.
- Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012 and when you applied for deferred action with USCIS.
- Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012.
- Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States.
- Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
Naturalization is the process by which foreign nationals are granted U.S. citizenship and receive full rights and protections under the U.S. Constitution and laws, including the right to vote. Citizenship is the ultimate goal we strive for when working with non-citizen clients. There is no bigger reward for us as attorneys and legal representatives than to witness our clients’ transformation during the immigration process.
Hundreds of immigrants walk through our doors not having a driver’s license or work permit and fearful of deportation. With our help, many of them have walked out as proud citizens of our country.
- Permanent residence status for at least four years and nine months prior to applying for citizenship or two years and nine months if residency obtained through marriage and you are still married and residing together. Exceptions apply for members of the Armed Forces.
- Continuous residence in the United States for the applicable statutory period.
- Good moral character.
- Basic English language skills and ability to prepare for the civics and history test. Exceptions apply if a severe learning disability is present or if the applicant meets a certain age and length of residency threshold.
- Support of the U.S. Constitution.
- Willingness to bear arms to defend the United States.
Criminal issues and other good moral character concerns, such as child support issues and owing taxes to the IRS may affect eligibility for Naturalization. If you have ever been arrested, cited, detained, charged with or convicted of any crime or offense, it is extremely important for you to consult an immigration attorney before submitting your application.
Victims of Violence
Under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 victims of human trafficking and other qualifying crimes on the territory of the United States may pursue lawful immigration status if they can prove to the satisfaction of USCIS that they possess information concerning the criminal activity and are helpful to the government in investigating and/or prosecuting the crime. Additionally, victims of family violence can self-petition and apply for their residency if they can show that they have been a victim of extreme cruelty in the hands of their U.S. citizens or lawful permanent resident spouse, parent, or child. With her years of experience working with abused women and children, Castan and Lecca attorney Iliana Dobrev understands the unique needs and challenges that immigrant victims of violence face.
In contrast to immigrant visas, nonimmigrant visas only allow an individual to enter for a specific, limited period of time. A wide variety of nonimmigrant visas exist, including the commonly-known visitor, student, and work visas. Consult an immigration attorney if you are interested in temporary travel to the U.S. or changing/extending your current nonimmigrant status.