Immigration Law in Texas
Navigating the complex framework of federal immigration laws and regulations in addition to Texas laws can be challenging and risky, particularly as deportation or separation from your loved ones is a real possibility. We have compiled some frequently asked questions about the immigration process.
To talk to Liu Law Firm about your immigration situation, please Contact Us, call us at (469) 949-9227, or visit us at 333 E. Bethany Drive Bldg. H, Suite 110, Allen, TX 75002 today.
What is Family-Based Immigration?
Through family relationships with U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents, the family-based immigration process allowed certain people to become U.S. permanent residents. The U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident filing a petition for a family member is called a “sponsor” and the alien relative who benefits from the immigration petition is called the “beneficiary”.
Who is Eligible to Sponsor a Relative for Permanent Residency (or “Green Card”)?
A sponsor must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident who is at least 18 years old and generally live within the United States or U.S. territory, with certain exceptions.
What Obligations Do Sponsors Have?
- Sponsors must sign a legally binding affidavit of support for the beneficiary which guarantees that the sponsor shall maintain the standard of living of the beneficiary at a level not lower than 125% of the national poverty level.
- Continuing until the beneficiary naturalizes or has worked in the U.S. for 40 qualifying quarters (or approximately ten years), this obligation is legally enforceable as a contract and may be used in family law cases for spousal maintenance and support.
Which Relatives May I Sponsor as a U.S. Citizen?
As a U.S. citizen, you may petition for your:
- Children, regardless of marital status and age;
- Sibling if you are at least 21 years old and/or;
- Parent if you are at least 21 years old.
Which Relatives May I Sponsor as a Permanent Resident?
As a U.S. Permanent Resident (or “Green Card” holder), you may petition for your:
- Spouse and/or
- Unmarried children.
What is a Fiancé(e) Visa?
- Otherwise known as a “K-1” visa, a fiancé(e) visa enables a foreign citizen to enter the United States to marry a U.S. citizen.
- After the petition is filed by the U.S. citizen and approved by USCIS (also known as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services), the foreign citizen fiancé(e) must apply for the K-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate overseas and has to marry the U.S. citizen within 90 days upon entry into the United States on the K-1 visa.
What is a Conditional Green Card?
- A beneficiary’s permanent resident status is conditional if it is based on a marriage that was less than 2 years old on the day that the beneficiary became a permanent resident; conditional permanent resident status is given when the beneficiary is either admitted to the U.S. on an immigrant visa or adjusts the beneficiary’s status to that of a permanent resident.
- With certain exceptions through waivers, both spouses generally need to jointly petition to remove the conditions within 90 days before the second anniversary of the beneficiary’s admission as a permanent resident, and failure to do so will result in the termination of the beneficiary’s conditional permanent resident status.
- Conditional resident status is not renewable nor eligible for extension.
May a U.S. Citizen Child Petition For Parents to Obtain Permanent Residency?
A U.S. citizen child may only petition for permanent residency for his or her parents upon reaching his or her 21st birthday.
May a U.S. Permanent Resident Sponsor His or Her Stepchild for Permanent Residency?
A U.S. permanent resident may sponsor his or her stepchild as long as the U.S. Permanent Resident’s marriage to the stepchild’s parent took place before the stepchild’s 18th birthday.
What Happens if My Child Turns Age 21 After A Petition is Filed on His or Her Behalf?
The “Child Status Protection Act” may allow your child to qualify if the petition is filed before he or she turns 21 years old.
How Does the Permanent Residency Process Begin for My Spouse Who is Outside of the U.S.?
- A petition is filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), requesting that USCIS notify a U.S. Consulate in the country where your spouse lives.
- Once approved, spouses of U.S. citizens may apply immediately for an immigrant visa without waiting for a visa to become available; however, spouses of permanent residents must wait for a visa to become available.
- The National Visa Center of the U.S. State Department will send forms that must be completed and processed in order for the foreign spouse to apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate.
How Do I Find Out When Visas Become Available?
Publicly available at the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, current and upcoming visa bulletins reflect visa availability for applicants waiting to file for employment-based or family-sponsored preference adjustment of status.
Can My Foreign Relative Attend Public School in the U.S.?
- There are limitations and requirements under U.S. law related to foreign students in F-1 status attending public secondary or high schools (grades nine through twelve):
- Secondary school attendance is limited to 12 months.
- F-1 secondary students must pay the school the full cost of education by repaying the school system for the full, unsubsidized, per capita, cost of education; this reimbursement requirement is mandatory and school systems cannot waive the reimbursement requirement, though an organization or an individual may pay the full tuition costs on behalf of the student, provided that the payment does not come from public funds.
- The foreign student must prove that he or she has sufficient funds to cover education and living expenses while studying in the United States.
- F-1 students cannot attend public elementary schools or publicly funded adult education programs.
- Student F-1 visas cannot be issued to foreign students seeking to enter the U.S. in order to attend a public primary/elementary school or a publicly funded adult education program.
- Dependents on a nonimmigrant visa holder of any type (including F-1) are not prohibited from attending either a public primary school, an adult education program, or another public education institution.
- Foreign students may live with U.S. citizen relatives while attending public school; student’s status as a resident of the school district and payment of local property or school taxes does not fulfill any portion of the cost reimbursement requirement.
- The restrictions above are for F-1 students in public schools or programs only and do not apply to foreign students who are students in another visa status (such as J, L, M, or G visas) or students in F-1 status who attend private schools or private training or language programs.
How Do I Become a U.S. Citizen?
- U.S. citizenship may be acquired by birth, through naturalization, or military service:
- Those born in the U.S. or to U.S. citizens may be considered citizens by birth;
- Those who are not U.S. citizens by birth or did not acquire U.S. citizenship automatically after birth may be eligible to become a citizen through the naturalization process; or
- Those who have served honorably in the U.S. armed forces for at least 1 year during a period of peacetime or those who are current military service members who served honorably in an active-duty status or in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve during specific periods of armed conflict designated under U.S. law.
- Becoming a U.S. citizen is a very important decision and may be considered the pinnacle of the immigration process, providing numerous rights as well as responsibilities
- U.S. citizens have many rights that permanent residents do not have, including the right to vote.
What is the H1B Visa to Permanent Residency (or “Green Card”) Process?
- One of the most popular work visas in the U.S., the H1B visa is a dual-intent visa with a duration of stay up to 6 years (initial duration of stay of 3 years with an extension) with certain exceptions
- H1B visa holders may be eligible for permanent residency in the U.S. and can bring immediate family members (such as spouse and children under age 21) to the U.S. as dependents on H-4 visa status
- Able to attend school, apply for a driver’s license, and open a U.S. bank account, H-4 visa holders may remain in the U.S. as long as the H1B visa holder retains legal status and apply for eligibility to work in the United States
- In order to obtain an H1B visa, the employer must file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the U.S. Department of Labor on behalf of the foreign worker, attesting to wages and working conditions; once the Labor Condition Application is approved, the employer must file a petition requesting H1B classification with necessary supporting documents and fees; once the petition is approved, the foreign worker may either begin work under H1B classification on or after the indicated start of the position if already physically present in the U.S. under valid status or apply for the H1B visa using the approved petition and presenting himself or herself at a U.S. port of entry seeking lawful admission into the U.S.
- In order to transition from H1B visa status to permanent residency status, the employer must apply for a Permanent Labor (PERM) certification, establishing the prevailing wage for the foreign worker’s position and setting the position’s salary to this amount as well as proving that there are no qualified U.S. candidates for such position; once the PERM certification is approved, the employer must file a petition on behalf of the foreign worker and to file for adjustment of status once the priority date is current.
What is the Deportation or Removal Process?
- “Deportation” is the formal removal of a foreign national from the United States for immigration law violation.
- The United States may deport a foreign national who violates his or her visa, who participated in a criminal act, or is a threat to public safety as well as those who entered the U.S. without travel documents or with forged documents.
- The deportation process can quickly without an immigration court hearing under an order of expedited removal or undergo a longer proceeding before an Immigration Court of the U.S. Department of Justice.
- Before the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) carries out a removal order issued by the immigration court judge, the receiving country of the foreign national being deported must agree to accept that foreign national and issue travel documents.
- Before completing removal proceedings, foreign nationals may be offered an option to leave the U.S. on their own, also known as voluntary departure. However, this may trigger a permanent bar of admissibility.
What is Unlawful Presence and Bars to Admissibility?
- Unlawful presence is the period of time when a foreign national is in the United States without being lawfully admitted or paroled or not in a period of stay authorized by the Secretary of Homeland Security.
- With certain exceptions, a foreign national with unlawful presence may be barred from being legally admitted to the United States for:
- 3 years if the foreign national departed the U.S. after having accrued more than 180 days but less than 1 year of unlawful presence during a single stay and before removal proceedings begin;
- 10 years if the foreign national departed the U.S> after having accrued 1 year or more of unlawful presence during a single stay, regardless of whether you leave before, during, or after removal proceedings; or
- Permanently, if the foreign national reentered or attempt to reenter the U.S. without being lawfully admitted or paroled after having accrued more than 1 year of unlawful presence in the aggregate during 1 or more stays in the U.S.
- Exceptions for accrual of unlawful presence for the 3-year and 10-year bars exist to asylees, minors while under the age of 18, family unity beneficiaries, battered spouses and children under the Violence Against Women Act, victims of a severe form of trafficking.
What is Special Immigrant Juvenile Status?
- “Special Immigrant Juvenile Status” is an immigration classification available to certain undocumented immigrants under the age of 21 who are in the United States and who have been neglected, abused, or abandoned by one or both parents; this classification allows the foreign national child to seek lawful permanent residence in the United States (otherwise known as “Green Card”).
- In order to qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, the foreign national child must be under 21 years old, unmarried, declared a dependent in a juvenile or family court in the county where he or she resides and reunification with one or both of the child’s parents must no longer be a viable option due to abuse, neglect, abandonment or a similar basis under state law and it is not in the best interest of the foreign national child to return to his or her country of nationality or last habitual residence.
What are Some of My Rights as an Immigrant?
- You have the right to remain silent though some states may require you to provide your name if asked to identify yourself by a law enforcement officer.
- You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings and do not have to answer questions about your place of birth, whether you are a U.S. citizen, or how you entered the U.S., with certain exceptions at international borders or ports of entry and for certain nonimmigrant visas holder.
- If you are detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), you have a right to consult with a lawyer and to have your attorney with you at any immigration court hearing, but the U.S. government is not required to provide a lawyer for you; you also have a right to contact your consulate or have an officer inform the consulate of your detention.
- A warrant of removal or deportation does not allow officers to enter a home without consent.
- Ask the law enforcement officer to show a badge or identification through a window or peephole; if there is a warrant signed by a judge naming a person in your residence and/or areas to be searched at your address, ask the law enforcement officer to slide such under the door without opening the door or hold the warrant up against a window for inspection
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