Month: July 2016

Spouse visa or fiance visa – which is better?

Should I marry my significant other and apply for a spouse visa, or file as a fiance without getting married first? Hi, Jim Hacking here, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri. We get this question from time to time from couples that have been together for a while but have not yet gotten married. They want to know, is it better to come to the United States from overseas as a spouse or a fiance?

The processes are relatively similar but they’re also a little bit different. Let me talk a little bit about if. When a person wants to sponsor their fiance, we have to prove that they’ve been in each other’s physical presence at some point in the last 2 years. Obviously we don’t have to prove they’re married because they’re not married yet, but we are going to have to show that they’ve been together with each other some time in the last 2 years. The way that we do that is with photos, with trip tickets, with documentation of travel, these kinds of things to show that the 2 have been together.

We also have to demonstrate that the couple intends to get married within 90 days of the non-citizen’s arrival to the United States. Typically we do that with an affidavit from both the US citizen and the non-citizen saying that the plan is that once the non-citizen arrives in the United States, that they will go either to the courthouse or the chapel or somewhere and get married, and then apply for adjustment of status that way.

On the spouse visa side, obviously at this point the couple’s already married, so typically the US citizen has gone overseas, they’ve either met in the home country of the non-citizen or they’ve met in some third country and gotten married. They’ve gotten a marriage certificate, and they’re going to apply through the I-130 process. As things stand now, right now in 2016, spouse visas are going a lot slower than fiance visa.

We see this from time to time. Sometimes the processing time to get a fiance here is relatively similar to a spouse, but lately, for the last year or so, fiances have been coming to the United States a lot faster than spouses. If the couple has not yet gotten married we often encourage them to go the fiance route, especially if we can demonstrate that they’ve been in each other’s physical presence.

This leads to some people to come to us and they want to say, “Well, Jim we may have had a marriage ceremony but we’re not really married.” That can be tricky. Obviously you can never tell a lie to the immigration service, you don’t ever want to submit fraudulent documents, but if you haven’t recorded the marriage, if it’s just been a religious ceremony or an engagement, then you can go the fiance route, but you really have to play it straight. You can’t lie or pretend that your fiances when you’re actually married.

Speed is definitely one of the issues to think about when considering whether to come as a fiance or a spouse. Let’s talk about strength of case and likelihood to get it approved. Sometimes if there are things in the relationship between the fiance and the US citizen, things like maybe big age differences, or racial differences, that stand from people being from different countries and that they think that the couple isn’t really legitimate, they don’t speak the same language, they have very few similarities, these kinds of things.

When the couples are different, when they’re fundamentally different and worry that some racist immigration officer at the state department is going to give us trouble, if we’re worried that they’re going to say, “This couple is too different. We don’t really believe that this is a valid engagement.” Then we may encourage the couple to go ahead and get married and apply as a spouse. We believe that some cases are fundamentally stronger when filed as a spouse, as opposed to as a fiance.

In other words, state department officials often look at fiance cases and sometimes like I said if there’s too many of those differences that we think that people are going to nitpick about or take advantage of or use to deny the case, then we may encourage the couple to go ahead and get married because that demonstrates another level of commitment, a seriousness, an intention of purpose, that the couple is in fact married, sometimes goes a long way towards carrying the day and getting the case approved.

These are complicated issues. We do not encourage you to do these on your own. We think that if you want to come and bring you loved one here, that it’s an important issue, that you want to spend time thinking about and doing it correctly. We want to make sure that we put your case in a position as strong as possible. We understand that it’s difficult to be separated from your loved one, and we understand that you want to get them here as fast as possible, but sometimes you really need to consider the strength of the case and getting getting approved, as opposed to just getting them here as quickly as possible.

One other concern that you have sometimes is that when you come as a fiance you may be headed towards a Green Card interview here in the United States. After the couple gets married and they file for adjustment of status for the fiance to change their status to that of lawful permanent resident, sometimes there are interviews involved at the immigration office in your local town. If we think that there’s going to be trouble from the local immigration office, then we might also encourage you to go the marriage route.

These are the kinds of things that we think about. This the kind of thing that we talk to our clients about, and we spend a lot of time thinking it through, talking it through, to make sure that we make the best decisions because we want to get the case approved. We want your spouse or your fiance to be here, to be in the United States safely. We want to do everything we can to protect you.

If you have any questions about whether or not your case is a good fiance case or a good spouse case, or if you need some help evaluating that, feel free to give us a call at 314-961-8200, or you can email us at jim@hackinglawpractice.com. We hope you liked this video. If you did please subscribe to us on YouTube. We try to update the videos every week. If you have any topics of issues that you’d like us to cover, just email us and we’ll try to shoot a video about it. Thanks a lot, have a great day.

When should I take worrying about whether my naturalization case is taking too long to be decided by USCIS?

Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri. We represent a lot of naturalization clients. We also get a lot of calls and visit to our website will people wondering “How long is too long for a naturalization case to take to be approved or denied by the Immigration Service? And what should I do if I feel like my case has been talking too long?” That’s a good question. It’s an important question, and a lot of people get really anxious when they file for naturalization. When they want to get their citizenship, especially in an election years.

 

Typically what happens when you file for naturalization is you get a biometrics appointment about 2 weeks after your case has been received, and then they do a background check. Eventually, you get set for an interview. Most interviews are taking about 5 or 6 months to get scheduled. Then, when you have your interview, the Immigration Service should not take that long to decide your case. The law says that if 120 days have gone by since the date of your interview, and you’ve not had a decision, then you have certain rights that kick in. The Immigration Service is keenly aware of this. They used to schedule interviews as a matter of course. I think the timing of it was set from the date of filing, or else from the date of the biometrics, the fingerprinting. Now, they often wait to schedule the interview until the background check is done, until the FBI name check is done, and they’ve run you through all of their criminal records checks.

 

We have been seeing more and more of a delay on the scheduling of the interview. The reason for that is that the interview starts a clock, a 4 month clock, a 120 day clock that says that if you’ve not received a decision in 120 days then you have the right to go into federal court and ask a judge to naturalize you. The judge can decide on his or her own whether or not you deserve to be a citizen, whether you’re a person of good moral character. They can direct the Immigration Service to naturalize you, or they can send the case back to the Immigration Service with an order that they decided within a certain amount of time. The Immigration Service is keenly aware of this 120 day deadline.

 

Once you’ve had that interview, and if you’ve experienced a delay of more than 4 months, that’s when you should start worrying. A lot of people when they have their interview will get a letter that says, “Congratulations. You’ve been approved,” or it will say that a decision cannot yet be made about your application. A lot of the visitors to our websites get really freaked out about this, and I understand why. Really, you shouldn’t because in most situations these days, you’re not going to go an outright approval at the interview in most situations. Often times, you’re going to get that letter than says basically, “I have to give it to a supervisor to have them sign off on it.”

 

In our mind, if 6 or 8 weeks have passed since the interview, then you might start worrying, but it’s really at that 120 day mark that you really want to start thinking about what your options are. We recommend that you not wait too terribly long in most cases after the 120 days. If you want to, you can file an action in federal court, and you can ask the judge to naturalize you. The Immigration Service doesn’t necessarily like having a federal judge look over their shoulder. Filing a lawsuit generally makes them move quicker. They know that the law says that the case is sort of out of their hands once the lawsuit’s been filed.

 

We really encourage you that if you’ve had your interview, don’t stress out too much if you don’t get a decision right away. Don’t stress out if it’s been a month of 2. Often times it depends on the naturalization ceremony schedule. They’re trying to figure out when they can get a group of people together to naturalize, and it might not be attributed to your case at all.

 

If you’ve been waiting 4, 5, or 6 months and if you had a strange vibe at your interview, then you might really want to think about suing them and filing that action in federal court. This is something that we do in our office all the time. We have a tremendous amount of experience with it. I even recently spoke to a group of about 100 immigration attorneys out in Las Vegas about it. It’s something that we’re very well equipped to handle, that we do a lot of. Don’t let that 120 days pass without exploring all of your options. If you want to know about this or if you have questions about it, feel free to give us a call at 314-961-8200, or you can e-mail me at jim@hackinglawpractice.com. If you liked this video, please be sure to subscribe on our YouTube channel, and keep an eye out for future videos.

 

Thanks, and have a great day.

Immigration scammer swindles family out of $100,000

According to Acting Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal, Bergen County Prosecutor, a man from Buford, Georgia disguised himself as a military law officer to swindle a family seeking to attain permanent resident status in the United States.  

A member of the affected family went to the Palisades Park Police in March 2016 to issue a complaint about the supposed officer.  Following an investigation by the White Collar Crimes Unit and Palisades Park Police Department, Mr. Sung H. Lee was arrested on June 14, 2016.  Mr. Lee was charged with theft by unauthorized practice of immigration law, and deception according to Prosecutor Grewal.  He was held on $75,000 bail pending a July court hearing

Prosecutor Grewal said that Sung Lee, convinced the family to give him more than $100,000.  The money was supposed to go toward helping family members with their current immigration situation.  

Mr. Lee told the family that he was a military officer working on loan to the Palisades Park Police Department and the FBI.  Prosecutor Grewal further said about the encounter that “Mr. Lee presented himself as an individual who could utilize his connections to obtain permanent resident alien status for the [family members].”  According to Prosecutor Grewal, Mr. Lee forged documents that implied he was connected with a “learning center” that could legally sponsor their applications for immigration.  Mr. Lee collected more than $100,000 from the family as a processing fee.  

Prosecutor Grewal asserted that “The fees were never returned and there were no applications processed.”

Handcuffs