1.) Do I need an Immigration Attorney to assist me with my case?
No, you do not "need" an Immigration Attorney to file your case or to get your case approved. However, it may be helpful to at least consult with an Immigration Attorney to ensure that there are no obvious or non obvious "issues" with your case. By consulting with an Immigration Attorney, you may learn that certain facts may complicate your case. By becoming aware of these complications, you may be able to properly prepare your case and avoid having it denied.
2.) Okay. I want to consult with an Immigration Attorney, how do I find one?
If money is a consideration, you may want to search for an Immigration Attorney that offers a free initial consultation. You may also want to first look at www.ailalawyer.com as these attorneys must met the following requirements: (1) Approved American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) member for at least 2 years (2) Hold at least $100,000 worth of legal malpractice insurance (3) Completed at least 9 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) classes within the last year (4) Licensed and in Good Standing with a State Bar Association.
3.) How much will an Immigration Attorney cost me?
The attorney's fees will vary based on the type and complexity of your case. Generally, an Immigration Attorney will do an intake to gather information to determine the complexity of your case before quoting you their attorney's fees. If you have a specific budget, you may request the attorney to quote their attorney's fees as a flat rate rather than provide you their hourly rate.
Family Based Green Cards
1.) How can I get my family member a green card if I am a U.S. Citizen or U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident?
A U.S. Citizen or U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident cannot directly bring all relatives to the U.S., their relationship with their family member would need to be either that of an immediate relative (of a U.S. Citizen) or fit into one of the family preference categories. The following are the specific familial relationships that qualify:
(1) Spouse of U.S. Citizen
(2) Son/Daughter of U.S. Citizen
(3) Parent of U.S. Citizen*
(4) Brother/Sister of U.S. Citizen
(5) Spouse of U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident
(6) Unmarried Son/Daughter of U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident
*The U.S. citizen must be 21 years old or older to petition their parent
FYI U.S. Citizens can petition for their fiancé/fiancée to enter the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa (K-1) to marry them.
2.) What do I file to get my family member a green card if I am a U.S. Citizen or U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident?
The first step will be to complete and file the Form I-130 along with the required documentation proving the qualifying familial relationship. The second step will vary depending if your family member is in the U.S. or outside of the U.S. when their priority date becomes current. Generally, if they are outside of the U.S. when their priority date becomes current they will undergo Immigrant Visa Processing, and, if they are inside of the U.S., they will file the I-485 to apply for an adjustment of status. The amount of time that your family member will need to wait between the two steps will vary depending on whether they are an immediate relative or which family based preference category. If your relative is in the U.S. and they are an immediate relative or their priority date is current and they are otherwise eligible to apply for an adjustment of status, they may be able to file the I-485 prior to I-130 approval.
3.) What is a priority date? How do I know if it is current?
Your priority date is approximately the filing date of the I-130. Generally, you will not see you priority date until you receive your I-130 approval notice. Unfortunately, not every family member for whom you file an I-130 can apply for U.S. Lawful Permanent Residency right away. While there is no "waiting period" for immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens (the spouse, unmarried son/daughter who is under 21 years old, and the parent of a son/daughter who is at least 21 years old), you will need to check the U.S. government chart in a given month to see whether a certain family preference category is current (as indicated by a "C" in the corresponding field of the U.S. government's chart) or whether your priority date is current (i.e., your priority date is before the date listed in the corresponding field of the U.S. government's chart). If you are applying for U.S. Lawful Permanent Residency within the U.S. through the I-485, you will refer to the USCIS Adjustment of Status Chart, and, if you are applying for U.S. Lawful Permanent Residency from outside of the U.S., you will refer to the DOS Visa Bulletin.
4.) How do I get my fiancé/fiancée a green card if I am a U.S. citizen?
The only option for a fiancé/fiancée of a U.S. citizen, if you will not marry prior to the U.S. immigration process, is the K-1 fiancé/fiancée visa. This is a nonimmigrant visa for entering the U.S. to marry the U.S. citizen fiancé/fiancée within 90 days of entry. After marrying the U.S. citizen within 90 days of entry on the K-1 visa, the alien spouse would then be able to file the I-485 based on their marriage to their U.S. citizen spouse.
5.) I am a U.S. citizen and my alien spouse is outside of the U.S. I hear there is a K-3 visa for bringing them to the U.S. Should I do the K-3 visa or should my spouse do Immigrant Visa Processing outside the U.S.?
The K-3 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for the spouse of a U.S. citizen to enter the U.S. and apply for U.S. Lawful Permanent Residency from within the U.S. Applying for the K-3 visa could potentially shorten the amount of time that the spouses are apart from each other. However, even if you apply for the K-3 visa by filing the I-129F after the I-130 is filing, it is not guaranteed that your spouse will ultimately have the opportunity to get the K-3 visa since if the I-130 is approved at the same time or before the I-129F is approved, the I-129F will be administratively closed and the alien spouse will have to undergo Immigrant Visa Processing. There is no additional filing fee for the I-129F, however, if you retain an attorney for the case, there will likely be additional attorney's fees for the additional Form.