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Immigration Today

The current administration announces new immigration policies they are putting into place almost every day. Just this past week, they announced that birthright citizenship will be taken away, and immigrants from African countries are being required to pay a large bond to enter the US.

Before you panic, know that many of these suggested changes are illegal. As we’ve seen before, the Trump administration has no problem following the law. However, it’s also been through these past four years, if the current administration tries to ram their policies through, lawsuits will be filed and their immigration policy will be stopped, if not completely ended, while the lawsuits are processed.

With over 400 changes made by the Trump administration, President Biden will have to do a lot of work to fix US immigration after he takes office in January. However, immigration applicants can expect a smoother and easier process, which is why we’re encouraging you to get your application in as soon as possible so you have your priority number secured.

At Andres Mejer Law, we are immigrants for immigrants. We understand your struggles because we’ve experienced it ourselves, and our goal is to make the immigration process as quick and stress-free as possible. If you need help to achieve legal status, call our office today to schedule a consultation.

In this article, we’ll answer a few immigration questions regarding travel, visa and green card applications, and sponsorship.

  1. Can an immigrant return to their home country after applying for asylum?
  2. Can I get back to the US if my conditional green card expired while I was out of the country?
  3. Can I go on vacation before my biometrics appointment?
  4. Can I apply for VAWA if I was deported, but had a US citizen relative who was abusive?
  5. Can I obtain citizenship through my US citizen spouse who abandoned me?
  6. How long does it take to get my green card after winning my case for removal proceedings?
  7. Can I apply for VAWA if I was deported, but had a US citizen relative who was abusive?
  8. Is it easier to get a visa or a green card if I want to join the US Army or Air Force?
  9. Can a member of the US military sponsor their grandparents?

Can an immigrant return to their home country after applying for asylum?

Asylum is a protected status that you can apply for while you’re in the US. Those who apply outside the country are called refugees, while those applying in the country are known as asylees.

When you apply for asylum, you’re saying to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that you fear that staying or returning to your home country will get you hurt or killed because of a protected reason, such as religion or political opinion. If you then go back to your country, it looks like you’re not really afraid to go back there.

After you apply for asylum you can travel outside the US with the proper travel documents, but you cannot return to your country without jeopardizing your status until after you become a United States citizen. 

If you do travel to your home country before you become a US citizen, you could be refused re-entry by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and even lose your asylum status. 

The way the asylum process works is to first apply for asylum. Once that’s granted you apply for your green card. After meeting a time requirement of being a green card holder (which five years after obtaining asylee status), you can then apply to become a citizen of the United States. Then, and only then, is it somewhat safe to travel back to your home country. 

Keep in mind that when you apply for any immigration benefit, you promise that everything you are saying is true and correct. So, if you promise that you are afraid for your safety and that is not true, you could lose any immigration benefit you received, including your citizenship.

It’s highly recommended that you talk to an immigration attorney to determine the best way to achieve your goals so that nothing you do hurts your immigration status.

Can I get back to the US if my conditional green card expired while I was out of the country?

The person who asked this question said that their husband was applying to remove the conditions from his green card and waiting for an interview with USCIS when he traveled to his home country. While there, his conditional green card expired and now he wonders how he can get back into the US.

To answer the question: it’s possible to get back to the US, but he may have to start the entire process again. 

If you look at your green card (even if it is permanent) it has an expiration date. You should be sure to check this prior to traveling. If you travel outside the US while having a conditional green card, without travel documents that authorize you to come back, it can be viewed by USCIS and DHS as you abandoning your green card application. So, now, he will need to start the entire process over – even paying the fees again. And, most likely, do it from his home country. 

The first thing you should look at is how long you were outside of the US.  If your green card expired yesterday and you were outside the US for a short time, you likely won’t have a problem but you’ll need to go to the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy. However, if you were outside the US for a year or more, it’s likely that you’re considered to have abandoned his  green card.

There are two exceptions to this.

Re-Entry Permit.  If you were approved for a re-entry permit before leaving the US, you can stay outside the US for up to two years.  As long as the re-entry permit is valid, you can return to the US.

Returning Resident Visa. If your stay outside of the US was due to extraordinary circumstances outside your control (such as airports closing due to COVID-19), you can apply for a returning resident visa.  You’ll need to show that:

  • You were a lawful permanent resident when you left.
  • You never intended to abandon your residency.
  • Your stay outside the US was caused by reasons outside your control.

If you have a conditional green card and you want to travel, talk to an immigration attorney about the way to do so without losing your legal status.

Can I go on vacation before my biometrics appointment?

Another viewer asked if it was possible to travel and go on vacation before getting your fingerprints done at the USCIS. There are two situations where this question can apply.

First is for those applying for a green card through marriage. You can travel anywhere in the US before getting your fingerprints done. However, traveling outside the US is not recommended to those who are applying for a green card or working to remove conditions without first getting a travel permit known as Advance Parole.

The second situation is going on vacation and missing your biometrics appointment.

If you miss your biometrics appointment by a week or so, you can ask USCIS to reschedule the appointment by checking a box on the notice. While USCIS will usually reschedule this, you may have to wait for several weeks to months for a new appointment, which could slow down all the processing on your immigration case. 

You could also bring your notice and try to go to the center where your appointment was scheduled to explain the situation and ask them to reschedule it or process you right then. The USCIS doesn’t have to agree, but they may, so it’s not a bad idea to give it a shot.

However, if your appointment was a long time ago and you missed it, you should check to see if your case is still open. If it is, you should call USCIS and ask if they will schedule a new appointment for you.

If you’re outside the US and miss your appointment inside the US, you should contact your local consulate or embassy to see how they can help you. USCIS field offices are not likely to provide this service, but do in very rare instances.

How long does it take to get my green card after winning my case for removal proceedings?

One of our viewers said that she won her case for removal proceedings and is asking how long it takes before she gets her green card or what the next step is. 

When it comes to winning the case for removal proceedings, there are a few scenarios we are looking at. Since the most common is obtaining a cancellation of removal through the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), that’s the one we’ll discuss today. 

At your final hearing, the Immigration Judge announced that he or she intended to approve your application. However, there are only 4000 visas issued each year. If a visa was available for you, that’s great news. If not, you’ll have to wait until you receive the Judge’s order approving you, which could take two or more years.  

When you receive your order, it should say that it approves the cancellation of removal and adjustment of status. It will say that you are being granted relief under Form EOIR-42B. At the hearing, or in the notice, the government attorney should give you instructions on how to make an InfoPass appointment with USCIS which is necessary to get your green card. 

Since EOIR and USCIS are different agencies, you need to let USCIS know that EOIR said you are eligible for a green card. USCIS should get a copy of the file from EOIR with the order stating you have been granted the cancellation of removal. 

When you go to your InfoPass appointment with USCIS, bring the original EOIR order as well as copies, but make sure to keep an original copy for yourself. They also need to verify your identity, so bring a valid government ID such as a driver’s license or passport. 

If your biometrics are not current, you‘ll probably need an appointment for that as well. They may collect your fingerprints at this appointment, or they may make you schedule another one. 

After your InfoPass appointment, USCIS should order your green card for you. Usually, you’ll receive it in the mail within a few weeks, but may take longer than that due to COVID and USCIS slowdowns. If you’re eligible for Employment Authorization, you should make sure to file for that as soon as possible.

If the Judge doesn’t finalize your order at your hearing, you must wait 30 days for that to happen. During that time, the government could appeal the decision. If they don’t, and your order becomes final, you’ll need to follow the same steps we just discussed after you receive your final order. You may be eligible for Employment Authorization even if the government appeals the decision, so be sure to follow the steps outlined on the USCIS website to get that.

Can I obtain citizenship through my US citizen spouse who abandoned me?

We have a viewer who talked about a sad situation. She said that she got married in Mexico 20 years ago. She and her husband had several daughters, but he left them and she had to raise them herself. He moved to the US and became a US citizen. Now, she’s wondering if it’s possible for her and her children to obtain citizenship.

Unfortunately, when you apply for an immigration benefit through marriage, you must have a spouse who sponsors you. You must prove that you have a bona fide marriage in order to get a green card through marriage.  If they are not in touch, then he obviously could not apply for her, but he can apply for his kids.

However, you may still be able to obtain citizenship if you qualify for a green card through a U-Visa or VAWA (Violence Against Women Act). If you want to find out if you meet the requirements for either of those, talk to a qualified immigration attorney who can help you with the process.

Can I apply for VAWA if I was deported, but had a US citizen relative who was abusive?

One of our viewers also had a similar question. She was deported 20 years ago, and has a son who is abusive and has US citizenship. She’s asking if it’s possible for her to obtain legal status by applying for VAWA.

If you were deported, then you’re probably living outside the US. There are only a few conditions that allow you to apply for VAWA when you’re outside the US. 

  • You and your abuser were living outside the US when you were the victim of abuse and they work for the US government,
  • You and your abuser were living outside the US when you were the victim and they are in the military, or
  • You’re living outside the US but were a victim while living in the US with your abuser. 

Keep in mind that you must also meet some other requirements, one of which is that you lived with your US citizen child (or sponsor) at some point. 

To answer this question: if they are in the US and you are not, you may not be eligible. An immigration attorney experienced in VAWA should be able to confirm after reviewing your individual circumstances.

At Andres Mejer Law, VAWA is one of our specialties so we are happy to chat with you about your situation and figure out if you are eligible and if we can help. It’s also important to remember that even if you’ve been deported, you may be able to have that waived (and show you’re admissible) when you apply for VAWA. Please consult with an attorney to help make sure this is handled correctly.

Is it easier to get a visa or a green card if I want to join the US Army or Air Force?

There are a couple parts to this question so let’s break it down. First, which is easier to get a visa or a green card?

A visa is usually a non-immigrant visa which you get in order to visit the US. With that, you are promising that you do not intend to stay in the US permanently. If you are wanting to stay in the US permanently, it’s not recommended to apply for a visa, since doing so could lead to problems with your future immigration goals. 

Yes, a visitor visa is often easier and faster to obtain than a green card. However, a visitor visa won’t let you join the US military. 

In order to join any branch of the US military, you must have a green card. In addition, you must be living in the US when you apply. The military states that they cannot and will not assist you to get your green card. 

There are a few other things to keep in mind. Just because you get your green card, doesn’t mean you’re automatically qualified to join the military, as there are still eligibility requirements to meet. Typically, anyone who was a citizen of a country that was hostile to the US (such as Russia, North Korea, Cuba, and others) won’t be allowed to join the military.

In addition, you won’t be eligible for certain security clearances that are required to do many jobs in the military until you become a US citizen. The Department of Defense (DOD) will not grant security clearance to non-citizens, so whatever you plan to do in the military cannot require a clearance.

Can a member of the US military sponsor their grandparents?

We also received another question about the military. The person said that their son was in the military and wondered if he could sponsor his grandmother.

When you are in the military, you’re only allowed to sponsor immediate family members. For all immigration matters, immediate family members include a spouse, parents, siblings, and children. Unfortunately, this means that your son won’t be able to sponsor their grandmother.

However, if you yourself have a legal status (whether through a green card or citizenship) you may be able to sponsor her. In other words, if your son applies for you, you can then file for their grandparent once you become a permanent resident or a US citizen.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your immigration journey, call our office today to get a free immigration check up.