Month: September 2016

When a US Citizen Passes Away

What if I apply for citizenship after three years and my US citizen spouse passes away?

We had this situation arise recently and I was really surprised when I did the research to find out what the rule is.

We have a couple that we represented a long time ago. We helped them get a marriage based green card. This is actually one of the first same-sex couples in St. Louis to get a green card based on marriage. We were very fond of both of these clients. When the whole case was over, they had taken us out to lunch and we became good friends over the years. This was about three years ago.

Recently, our non-US citizen spouse, the foreign national with the green card, was getting ready to apply for citizenship. Around the time that he became eligible, which is three years after getting his green card … If you’re married to a US citizen and you got your green card based on marriage, if you have that, then you can apply after three years. As apposed to the general rule, which is that you have to wait five years of having your green card to apply for citizenship. We began to prepare the paperwork.

At that point, the US citizen passed away. We were very sad. We were very sad that he died and that our foreign national client was left alone. He, too, is very sad. It’s been a tough situation.

We thought, without doing the research, that he’d be able to go ahead and apply for naturalization after three years because the marriage had ended through no fault of his own. He loved his husband. There was really no reason, we thought, that the rule shouldn’t apply. But when I did the research, lo and behold, it is the rule that the US citizen has to be alive up until the time that the person actually naturalizes.

There’s a similar rule when you apply based on marriage and the marriage ends in divorce. If you apply after three years, but you get divorced before the oath ceremony or at any time during the process, you can’t get your citizenship. You have to wait the full five years.

Now, luckily in this case, we had filed already and we didn’t lose the filing fee. But we were surprised to find out that a foreign national who’s married to a US citizen and has that US citizen spouse pass away, is ineligible to apply after three years. The marriage has to be ongoing at the time that the person gets naturalized. We were very surprised by this. We were sad to tell our client. It’s all good. He’s going to wait the whole five years and he’ll be fine once he gets it, but we were surprised that he wasn’t going to be able to get his citizenship at this time.

If you have any questions about when to apply for citizenship, whether you should apply after three or five years, or if your marriage is going through rocky times, or if your spouse passes away, make sure to give us a call at 314-961-8200. We’d be happy to explain it all to you, walk you through it. We hope this video helped. If you did like this video, please click liked. And also, please make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so that you get updates whenever we post new videos. Thanks a lot. Have a good day.


Don’t vote in this election


Hey everybody. I just got back from immigration and I thought I’d shoot this short video, because I’ve been worried about something. The deadline for registering to vote throughout the United States is coming up pretty shortly, and I want to make sure that you know who can and who can’t vote. It’s very, very important that if you are not a US citizen that you do not register to vote. Registering to vote can be a deportable offense. It can be very serious. We’ve had many cases in this office and in offices around the country where people mistakenly registered to vote. If you have a green card, you cannot register to vote. You cannot vote. If you have a work permit, you cannot register to vote. You cannot vote. If you have asylum, you cannot register to vote, and you cannot vote. The only people who can vote and the only people who can register to vote are US citizens, so don’t make that mistake.

One time I was volunteering with some other immigration lawyers, and we were talking about all the problems that immigrants get into when they register for citizenship too early. A young man came in and he said that one day he was at home making breakfast, and somebody knocked on the door and they said, “Sir, it’s time for you to register to vote.” He filled out a registration form. Then of course, after he filled out his registration form, what did he get in the mail? He got a voter ID card. Mm-hmm (affirmative). Then when the next election came down, he went down to the election board and he voted. This poor man, even though he was just a green card holder, should never have registered to vote, and he should never have voted, but he voted.

Now, some people would say that everybody should know that only US citizens can vote, but some people get confused. Sometimes when you register for your new driver’s license they tell you, “It’s time to vote. It’s time to register. You better sign up.” You want to do your job, do your duty, and so you go ahead and register to vote through no fault of your own. Remember, if you’re an asylum holder, if you have a work permit, if you have a green card, if you’re here on a visit and someone tells you register to vote you tell them, “No, no, not now, not until I become a US citizen, not until I’ve had my green card for three or five years, and not until I’ve taken my naturalization exam.” It’s only then that you can apply for citizenship. Don’t apply too early. Don’t screw yourself over, because you’re going to get in big trouble. It’s really hard to undo a false claim to US citizenship even if it’s entirely not your fault.

I hope this video helps you out, and if you have any questions give us a call here the Hacking Law Practice, 314-961-8200, or you can email me at Thanks. If you like this video make sure that you sign-up to register to get a subscription to our YouTube channel so that whenever we update our videos you get an update. We’ll talk to you later. Remember don’t vote unless you’re a US citizen. Thanks.

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After the Overseas I-130 is Approved

My I-130 has been approved for my overseas spouse. Does this mean that I’m almost finished? Hi, Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States at our office here in St. Louis, Missouri. We recently got hired by a client who had filed an I-130 petition for an alien relative for his oversea spouse. The spouse is from Thailand and he thought that he was pretty much finished. He was wondering why we needed to charge additional legal fees and what extra work needed to be done. Let’s talk about the overall process so that I can tell you how I explained things to him.

When you’re a US citizen or a green card holder for that matter, you have the ability to sponsor your husband or wife for a green card and for a visa to come to the United States. The first part of that process deals with the US Citizenship and Immigration Service, USCIS, and then also filing a form called an I-130. There’re some other forms that you file with that along with evidence of the marriage, but basically, you’re petitioning for an approval of a visa application for down the road for your spouse.

How does it work? You send in the I-130. The case gets processed about 4 or 5 months and then it gets approved. That’s the stage that this fellow happened to contact us. He thought he was pretty much done and that his wife would be here soon. We had to explain to him that there’s a lot more work involved at that point. After your case is approved at USCIS it takes about 30 days for the case to get to what’s called the National Visa Center, the NVC.

The NVC is part of the state department. It’s where they process all the visa paperwork before it is actually sent to the embassies. The NVC, you have to submit a whole new set of documents and you also have to submit a new application. I know it sounds silly but you have to remember you’re dealing with 2 huge federal agencies. In these cases you file a form called the DS-260 which is an electronic form that is actually applying for the visa, and you have to submit all this evidence about the individual coming and about the person who’s sponsoring them, sort of where the person is going to live when they get here, and a lot of information about the person’s criminal background and all those things.

After you submit the DS-260 you also have to submit something called the affidavit of support. We’ve lots of videos on that, so if you want to learn about the affidavit of support, just search for that, but basically it’s a promise by the US citizen or a green card holder that if the non-citizen comes to the United States that they’re going to support them and that the person is not going to become a public charge, they’re not going to get benefits.

After you do that then you have to submit the checklist which is a lot of documentation related to the application. For most countries, you submit that by federal express or courier. For certain countries including Iraq you submit that electronically, so then via scanning in a bunch of PDFs and sending that all off. Typically the National Visa Center a lot of times will send back a checklist. They like to ask for lots of things. We do our very best to cut down on the number of checklists but invariably they ask for something else or something more. In any event, there’s some back and forth.

Once the case gets approved to the National Visa Center, which takes about 3 or 4 months because they are a little bit behind, then your case gets put in the line for an interview. Depending on how busy the embassy is this line for the interview can be several months. Then you’re at a point where you’re waiting for your spouse to get their visa appointment. Then your spouse is going to get an appointment. They’re going to bring their passport, all their identity documents. They’re going to want to bring copies of everything that has been submitted to the National Visa Center. In some situations, they’re going to ask for originals.

But in any event eventually the interview will come and your spouse will go to the embassy. It will be a relatively short interview to make sure that the spouse still wants to come, that you’re still married. They might need some background information about how they met. Then after that, the foreign national will leave their passport with the office and about a week or 2 later they should get it in the mail or federal express. Not mail, just federal express or courier. Or they’ll be able to pick it up at the embassy. Then at that point, the person will have a visa to come. The one last stage before the person actually enters the United States is that you have to get online and pay a fee called the ELIS fee, which is the actual fee for the green card.

These are the steps that are involved after an I-130 is approved. We hope this explains things to people. There is a lot of work to be done after the I-130’s been approved. The I-130 I wouldn’t say is the easy part, but it is certainly the less time-consuming part and it’s an overall long process. If you have any questions about this, give us a call at 314-961-8200 or can email me If you liked this video, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and we’ll be sure to update it from time to time. Thanks a lot.


A New USCIS Trick in Spouse Cases

What is the latest trick used by USCIS in cases involving marital evidence?

Hi, Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer, practicing law throughout the United States here in St. Louis, Missouri.

I was a little shell-shocked the other day when I went to an interview and I had something happen that hasn’t ever happened before. I have a client and his wife, they’ve been married for many years. I have every reason to believe that it’s a completely legitimate marriage, and we were going for my client’s naturalization interview. My client is from my India and his wife is from the United States, and they’ve been married three years, so they can apply for naturalization for him under the three-year rule. Generally, it takes five years for someone with a green card to be able to apply for naturalization, but if you’re married to US citizen, you can apply after three years, and that’s what we had done.

We submitted a ton of evidence of the marriage: the couple travel together, they live together, they combing of all their assets. They have ton of evidence that the marriage is legitimate, but something happened with the interview that really surprised me. The officer said that she wanted original mail that came to the house. She was not happy with computer-generated bank statements with documents off the Internet. I’m not talking now about birth certificates and marriage certificates and those kinds of things. Those things you always have to bring the originals, but at this N-400 interview, she was expecting us to bring not only copies for her to have but also the originals of junk mail, envelopes, and these kinds of material. I was really surprised by this. In many years of practice, I’ve never had this happen, and then I found out from a former client who filed on their own that this happened to them too this week at the St. Louis immigration office.

This may just be a trick at the St. Louis office, or it could be something that’s going on across the board now. Here’s what you have to remember: Immigration likes to think of ways to mess with people’s cases. A lot of people think: “Oh, if I just submit the evidence and fill up the forms directly, everything is going to be approved,” and that’s not the case. It’s simply not the case. The immigration service likes to cause mischief, likes to find ways to screw people over, and this is my honest belief after dealing with them for years and years.

I don’t say this lightly, but I honestly believe that at various times they come up with different ways to deny cases. We see this a lot in the St. Louis office. I’ve seen in other cases, so certainly there are straightforward cases, but the case that I had in front of the officer last week was a very straightforward case. This has been bothering me. I’ve been upset about this for the last week and a half, and now I’m having to reconsider the cases that we filed. I’m going to have to talk to my clients about supporting evidence and about bringing more evidence and more evidence and how they want originals now. This is going to apply in original I-130 visa petitions. In cases in which the immigration officer asks for these documents, we’re going to have to provide it. It’s going to apply in I-751s where clients are trying to get the conditions removed from green card, and it’s really going to be a big hassle, and it’s really stupid.

I understand that couples need to provide competent evidence of their marriage. I understand that the immigration service needs to determine whether or not a marriage is valid, but when you have a couple who are both professionals, who both live together, who’ve been together for many years, who have reams and reams of documentation that happens to be off the Internet. We live in a paperless society. The vice president Al Gore said that he was going to turn the federal government into a paperless entity, and so it should be no surprise that our clients are generating documents off the Internet, but their bank statements are delivered electronically, that their electric bill, their phone bill, their gas bill. These kinds of bills all come electronically now. Certainly, there are people that get these by a regular mail, but what point is it to make them get original copies, if the photo copies of these items are sufficient.

It’s really a joke. It’s really ridiculous. It’s just another example of the federal government overreaching, overstepping, and spending your money, wasting our time in ways that are meaningless and pointless, and it’s really a foolish, foolish endeavor. You got to be ready for this. We made this video so that you understand what you’re up against when you’re dealing with the immigration service.

One of the great things about being an immigration attorney is that you’re in a lot of interviews and you get to see a lot of things, and so that helps us do a better job of preparing our clients for their interview, getting them ready document-wise and preparation-wise for their interview. We really recommend that you think through doing this by yourself. I think that this is another example of where the immigration service can really cause mischief, especially with people who don’t have attorneys, don’t know how to respond to these overbearing, overlong and ridiculous request for evidence. If you’re thinking about filing on your own, think it through real hard. Make sure that you want to do it on your own, because it can be a really big hassle.

If you have any questions about this, about this new policy, about this approach that they’re taking, just another way for them to mess with people who are applying for immigration benefits, give us a call at 314-961-8200, or you can email us at If you like this video, please be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, so that you get alerted when we send out new videos.

Hope you have a great day, and thanks for watching.