Category: Family Based Visas

When should I consider withdrawing my immigration case at USCIS?

Every now and then, people come to see us at the office, and they have a case that is completely messed up. These are usually cases that they have filed pro se, which means they filed them without an attorney, and their case has gotten a bit more complicated, and we have to start considering the option of withdrawing a case.

Now, you never really want to withdraw a case because obviously you’ve paid your filing fees, and when you withdraw the case, you do lose your filing fees. You also might have a lot of time invested in the processing of your case, and you might’ve done a lot of work to get it as far as you did, but in certain circumstances, it is a really good idea to go ahead and withdraw the case.

What are some examples of this? Well, one time somebody came to see us, and after he had filed his citizenship application, he had gotten arrested, and his criminal charges were pending. It looked like we were not going to be able to get the criminal case disposed of before the citizenship interview, so we went ahead and withdrew the case.

We had another situation where a young couple came to see us, and they had gotten their case so complicated, and there were so many bad facts in the case that we decided to withdraw that case as well, and the clients agreed.

What happened in that situation is that the couple had been fighting off and on over time, and there was a family member who was not happy about the marriage. That family member had gone down to immigration and reported them as having these marital problems, and we were worried that if we went ahead with the interview with everything just as it was, it’d really put us in a bad light, and the case would probably be denied because there are things worse than a denial because you can be caught with a fraud or a misrepresentation allegation, and that’s even worse than just having your case denied.
It’s relatively easy to withdraw a case. In most situations, USCIS is glad to close the file and move on to the next case. All you have to do is send a letter with your case numbers on there and reference the fact that you want to withdraw the case. They’re generally pretty willing to do that. They’ll do it all the way up until the interview. What you don’t want to do is make them do all this extra work and then try to withdraw it.

Now, USCIS is not required to allow you to withdraw the case. We have had a few situations where we tried to withdraw a case, and immigration service did not allow us to do that, so it’s a good idea if you’re thinking about withdrawing the case or if you think that there’s something wrong with your case that you want to make sure that you go talk to a competent immigration attorney. You want to see a good immigration lawyer and make sure that everything gets squared away properly and that you’re getting good advice as to whether or not you want to withdraw the case.

It’s not something you’re going to do in every case, but it is an option, and sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. That’s an old expression, and what it means is that sometimes you want to be able to live and fight another day. You want to have another chance, and so in a lot of these cases that we’ve withdrawn, we’ve re-prepared them, we’ve gone over the facts and done things a little bit differently than the people did without an attorney, and we’ve been able to get those cases approved.

If you have any questions about your case or if you’re wondering, “Is there something wrong about my case that would make me want to withdraw it,” feel free to give us a call.

The other thing that this points out is the fact that you really want to have a good representation from the beginning because a lot of these mistakes were things that were done by the couple because they didn’t have an attorney, so this whole problem of having to potentially withdraw a case highlights the fact that it’s really important to have good immigration counsel right from the beginning.

If you have any questions, like I said, give us a call, 314-961-8200, or you can email us at

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Thanks a lot. Have a great day.

What Happens After My Fiance Arrives in the U.S.

What happens after my fiancé’s case is approved at the embassy and they come to the United States? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, 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. A lot of our fiancé clients are nervous and anxious about what’s going to happen when their noncitizen fiancé comes to the United States. Let’s talk through the process.

After the I-129F is approved at USCIS, the case is set temporarily at the National Visa Center while they arrange at the embassy to set the person’s case for an interview. Now, each embassy does things a little bit differently, and it can be a little bit confusing in that time period between when USCIS approves the case and when the case actually makes it to the embassy. Some cases go almost directly to the embassy, some seem to sort of wait at the National Visa Center. You really have to monitor it, and you have to look at each case differently.

What we do is we make sure that we’re following the case as the case is moved along after it’s approved by USCIS. At that point, you’re going to have to file a DS-160. Once that is complete and the case is set for an interview at the embassy, your fiancé is going to go the interview. It’s relatively short. They basically want to make sure that it’s a legitimate relationship, that the two of you have in fact met each other, and that the foreign national does intend to come to United States and marry the US citizen within 90 days.

They’ll take the person’s passport and either they’ll say, “Come back and pick it up from the embassy,” or “We’ll send it to by courier in the next week or two.” Once that happens and the person comes to the United States, then things start rolling. Now, usually after it’s approved at the embassy, you have four months for the foreign national to come to the United States. That visa stamp is usually good for 120 days. That’s the time frame that your fiancé’s going to have to come to the United States in most cases.

Once they arrive and you’re reunited, it’s obviously a very happy time. Then you have to go ahead and get married. The law says that you have to get married within 90 days. From the date of arrival, you have 90 days to get married and to record it civilly with the local government. Then, at that point, you file for adjustment of status based off the approved fiancé visa and the marriage.

You’re going to submit all the same forms you would normally submit with an I-485. The 485 is the application to adjust status. Then you’re going to have to file for the travel document, the work card. That’s how you get that process started. It goes off to USCIS. At that point, it takes about eight or nine months for that process to be approved. You will get that work card and travel card temporarily. While the green card is pending, that’ll come four months after you file. If you do everything correctly, if you get your fingerprints done, and then eventually you’re going to get that green card.

Now, lately we’ve been seeing an uptick in the number of fiancé interviews. There are rules that allow the service center to waive an interview for the fiancé and the US citizen. Then it’s also allowed at the local level, so that you really have two shots of having that interview waived. In other words, there’s a good chance that you might not have an interview, but lately we’ve seeing more and more of these interviews. In those situations, you have to demonstrate again that the person is a good person and deserving of a green card. You have to demonstrate that the relationship is real.

I would say that right now in about 20% of the cases, we’re seeing that there is an interview with the fiancé and the US citizen. I think a little bit of that is random and I think a little bit of profiling. They want to figure out if they see something about the case that they’re worried about or something that they don’t like, then you’re going to see a situation with an interview. I would suggest that if you do do all that and you get an interview notice that you wouldn’t want to go without an attorney. There’s something that they’re looking at in your case, and I think that’s important to keep in mind.

One important thing about a K-1 visa that sometimes gets neglected is that when you come on a fiancé visa, if a foreign national arrives on a fiancé visa, the only way that they can adjust their status, virtually the only way, is if they marry that US citizen. The K-1 is sort of a strange visa. It’s a non-immigrant visa, but everybody knows you’re coming to stay, which means you’re coming to immigrate to the United States.

The rule says that if you come on a K-1, there’s no other way for you to get your green card and that you have to do it based on that marriage. If you don’t, in most situations you’re going to have to go home. The only way you’d be able to stay is if you got sort of obscure visa based on domestic violence or witnessing a crime or some other really extreme way of staying, perhaps an asylum claim. The K-1 rules are strict, and you’re not going to be able to get a green card unless you do in fact marry that US citizen and that US citizen files to help you get the adjustment.

If you have any questions about the K-1 fiancé visa, about what to do after your fiancé case is approved, make sure to give us a call at 314-961-8200. You can email us at If you like this video, please make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel. We’ve got a good number subscribers. Now we put our content on there on a pretty regular basis. If you can share this on social media, Facebook, or wherever, we’re really appreciate it. Thanks a lot, and have a good day.

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 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.

VIDEO: Can I Bring My Overseas Family Member to the United States?

Are you wanting to bring a spouse or relative to the United States from overseas but don’t know what to do? In this video, St. Louis immigration attorney Jim Hacking tells you what you need to know about filling out green card papers for someone who is overseas.

Bringing someone the US from overseas is a complex process. First, we gather all of the required documentation and file your paperwork with the immigration service here in the United States.

Second, about two weeks after sending in the paperwork, we will receive a receipt notice which contains case numbers that we can use to track the processing steps of your case through immigration services. At this point, we sometimes also receive a request for evidence, in which we will need to provide additional documentation.

Once the immigration service has approved the application, it’s sent to the National Visa Center, at which point original documentation—such as marriage and birth certificates—will need to be provided. At this point, we will also file an affidavit of support and a police report for the overseas party, which states that he or she is a person of good moral character.

The package then travels to the embassy overseas, where the overseas party will need to go in for an interview. Assuming that the interview goes well, the party should receive a green card approximately two weeks later.

If you have questions or concerns about applying for a green card for someone overseas, contact a St. Louis green card lawyer at Hacking Law Practice.

VIDEO: Should I Marry for a Spouse Visa or Green Card?

The United States places a great premium on spouse visas because, in many ways, marrying a US citizen can clear up a lot of immigration problems for people. For instance, sometimes people will have come to the United States and overstayed or will have worked without authorization. If those people marry a US citizen, the immigration service absolves them of those mistakes that they made.

Because of that, the immigration service jealously guards spouse visas and green cards. Therefore, if you’re considering marriage to a US citizen, you can expect a full inquiry into the purpose of the marriage, whether the marriage is valid, whether the basis of the green card is valid, and whether the citizen has entered into a legitimate marriage.

If you’re considering an illegitimate marriage for the purposes of gaining a spouse visa or green card, you could be facing big problems. There was a recent incident where two St. Louis criminal defense attorneys helped an immigrant obtain a fake spouse visa. When their scheme was uncovered, they lost their law licenses and the immigrant was deported.

At Hacking Law Practice, we take legitimate and illegitimate marriages very seriously. If you’d like to marry someone to get a visa or green card, then we’re not the firm for you. However, if you want to marry for the right reasons and are having trouble with the immigration service, we are more than happy to help. Call us at 314.961.8200 to learn more.

VIDEO: How Do I Apply for a Fiancé Visa in St. Louis?

Are you trying to obtain a fiancé visa? Our St. Louis immigration lawyers can help you through the daunting task of completing the paperwork and dealing with U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services (USCIS).

Fiancé visas are available only to people coming to the United States to marry U.S. citizens. When you come to Hacking Law Practice, our St. Louis immigration attorneys can ensure that the correct steps are followed in order to obtain your visa as quickly as possible. We will ensure that all paperwork is filed, that all necessary documents and forms are approved, and that they are sent to the National Visa Center. We will provide a checklist requesting original and additional documents, as well as an affidavit of support. This is a document signed by the fiancé or sponsoring family member that promises the government reimbursement if the immigrant ever becomes a burden on the tax rolls or the social safety net in existence for Americans.

The person applying for the visa will also need to visit the police station in order to prove good moral character, as well as a clean background check. Once all of these elements are packaged together and approved by the National Visa Center, they will be forwarded to the particular embassy for adjunction and interview. This process takes between six and nine months.

If you are applying for a fiancé visa, a lawyer at Hacking Law Practice will help you with the details of applying and obtaining approval. Call our office at 314-961-8200 to schedule a consultation.

VIDEO: St. Louis Immigration Attorney Jim Hacking Discusses Sibling Visas

Many people visiting our website want to know how to bring their brother, sister or parents to the U.S.  Different rules apply if the sponsor is a US citizen or green card holder and different wait times exist if the beneficiary is a parent or a sibling.

This video answers many of the most frequently asked questions regarding what needs to happen in order for a brother or sister to come to the U.S.  We also discuss why the wait is so darn long.

VIDEO: St. Louis Immigration Attorney Jim Hacking Explains Why Your Spouse May Not Have Received Their Green Card

In the old days, after the spouse of a U.S. citizen went to their visa interview at the local consulate, received their visa and moved to the U.S., their green card would follow them a few weeks later.

For the past year, however, USCIS has required the payment of one last additional fee – $165 – before the green card will issue.  The system – known as the Electronic Immigration System (ELIS) was supposed to streamline the process.  But instead, many complain that it represents one more hurdle for foreign spouses to overcome.

This video explains the ELIS system and what a visa applicant must do in order to be sure to receive his or her green card.

VIDEO: Green card success story at St. Louis immigration office

Our clients waited a total of five and a half months for their spouse-based green card case to be approved.  The wife is a recent U.S. citizen and the husband visited his sister in late 2012, where he met his new bride.  After a brief trip back to his home country, the husband returned and the couple married a few months later.

We filed the I-130 marriage petition, the I-485 application to adjust status to that of permanent lawful resident, the I-131 travel document and the I-765 work authorization.  We provided all of the supporting documentation.

Last week, we met with the couple to prepare them for the interview and engage in mock interview questions.  We attended the interview last week and today received notice that the case had received final approval.


Good news today from one of our Green card cases. Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration attorney here in St. Louis, Missouri, and I’m talking to you today about a recent success we had at the immigration office here in St. Louis, Missouri. We have a client who came to see us about six months ago. She had recently gotten married. Her husband had come here from overseas, and they had just gotten married. It’s a very typical case of ours. We handle these Green Card cases based on marriage all the time. It was a very straight forward case. The husband and wife came in and we had them fill out the paperwork. They gathered up all the documents they needed in order to get the Green Card.

There’s sort of two parts to the process. One is, Immigration is going to inquire into the validity of the marriage. The other is whether the person is a good person who is being sponsored, to see whether or not they deserve to receive a Green Card. We had them fill out our client intake form. We asked them all the questions on one form so that they don’t have to fill out multiple forms over, and over, and over. We just get the information from them in one set, and then we put it into all the different forms that we file. We file the I-130, the I-45, that’s the Spouse Visa and the Green Card Application. We also file the I-131, which is the Travel Document, and the I-765, which is the Work Authorization.

After we filed all that, we got receipt notices back. We imputed all that into our system so that we can keep track on-line of our clients’ cases and how they’re progressing. Then after that our client was sent for fingerprints so that they could do a background check on him, and about six weeks later he received his Work Authorization Card in the mail. That was sort of faster than most cases. A lot of time the Work Authorization takes a few months. His came quickly. After that we’re just waiting while they do the overall background check and scheduling the case for an interview. We had submitted lots of evidence of the validity of the marriage.

During the time between when we first filed and when we had our interview, we had our clients gathering similar documents. More pictures of the two of them together, life insurance together, bank statements together, so that we could demonstrate to the immigration officer that the case had been legitimate and was properly filed. The clients came in two weeks ago, we prepared them for their interview. We role played where I acted like I was the immigration officer. I told my clients, “Answer the questions as quickly, and as concisely, and as honestly as you can. No one’s out to trick you, but at the same time, you’re not there to tell your whole life story.”

We did all that. We prepped for about an hour, got them ready, got them confident to make sure that they knew that they could do it. We went down for our interview last Thursday, and the whole interview took all of 15 minutes. Very cute couple, very nice people. The immigration officer saw that it was a valid marriage and was pretty straight forward. The client didn’t have any major … had no criminal convictions, no problems, so that made it pretty straight forward as well. We got the approval notice in the mail yesterday. Our clients are now going to be able to live together here in the United States.

The fellow from overseas is going to get a two year Green Card. Later on he’ll have to get those conditions removed to get a unconditional Permanent Resident Card, and then they’ll be all set. We were happy to help them. It’s a success for the office. We get these all the time, but still, even so, it makes each one happy and we’re glad that those were approved, and we’re happy for our clients. If you have any questions about this or anything related to Spouse Visas or Green Cards, give us a call: 314-961-8200. Thanks.


VIDEO: St. Louis Green Card Attorney Jim Hacking Discusses Sham Marriages

USCIS takes the issue of fraudulent or sham marriages very seriously.  This video discusses the types of issues that get people in trouble and what triggers fraud investigations.  We also discuss how to prepare for your interview so as to minimize the changes of a claim of fraud.

These fraudulent claims can lead to arrest, deportation and/or convictions.


What is a sham marriage and does it get me in trouble at USCIS?

Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration attorney here in St. Louis, Missouri. Today we’re talking about sham marriages, fraudulent marriages, and what the test is at the Immigration Service into the validity of a marriage. There’s so many benefits that come with marrying a U.S. citizen beyond just getting a Green Card, that Immigration Service takes marriages cases very seriously. One of the things that they look out for are fraudulent marriages. We’ve never had a case in our office where we thought that the people who were applying were engaged in fraud, but we have studied the issue, and we’ve come across cases in the reports and in news stories about different immigration scams.

The Immigration Service takes these cases very seriously, and you should know that they have the right to really inquire into whether or not the marriage is legitimate. The real test is the subjective intent of the people at the time of the marriage. That is, were they intending to perpetrate a fraud on the Immigration Service so as to obtain immigration benefit for the person who is not the U.S. citizen? How do they do this? A lot of times in interviews, they’ll push pretty hard on the validity of the marriage. Some cases are very straight forward and it’s sort of a rudimentary inquiry into the validity of the marriage. With other cases, if they get a whiff of fraud, or if there are circumstances that demonstrate that the people might not be legitimate, then they go in a lot more aggressively asking lots of questions.

What are the factors that lead them to inquire? If the couple hasn’t known each other very long. If the non-citizen was up against an immigration deadline or is out of status, or if the story just doesn’t jive. We’ve heard of cases where the people didn’t even speak the same language. These are the kinds of cases where the people are radically different. The two people are so different that they don’t necessarily think that it’s a legit marriage. They’ll inquire heavily. They can separate people at interviews. We’ve had that happen before. A lot of people look on the internet and hear things about, “Well, do they inquire into what color your toothbrush is or what side of the bed one person sleeps on?”

They don’t really do that so much, but they will come pretty hard about, “How did you meet? What do you like to do together? Why was this marriage valid?” Those kinds of things. You really got to prepare well for these. You obviously don’t want to ever engage in any kind of immigration fraud. It’s a very serious matter. We’ve had people come to us after a finding of immigration fraud, and unless you can get that waived later on by the Immigration Service, immigration fraud in the marriage context can serve as the basis of a bar from any immigration relief in the future.

We had a young man who came to see us. His mother had been found to have engaged in immigration fraud 20 years ago. He was trying to bring her here as the mother of a U.S. citizen, and that got denied because of her prior fraud finding, so it’s very serious. The Immigration Service takes it very serious and so should you. If you have any questions about the kinds of things that Immigration asks about at the interview, or about what indications of fraud they usually find or look for, give us a call: 314-961-8200.