Applications to the USCIS
IMPORTA's principal activity is processing applications and petitions to the USCIS. These can be simple renewals of green cards or of DACA, or for citizenship through naturalization to complicated asylum applications. Successful applications leading to protected status or a green card (that is, becoming a Legal Permanent Reisdent or LPR) are sought both by undocumented immigrants living and working in our immigrant communties and by those unfortunate enough to have been arrested and placed in removal proceedings. Mostly we "affirmative applications" for persons who have not been arrested and find themselves in immigration court although we do work with attorneys defeding clients in immigrtion court to help them by filing "defensive" applications or petitions for their clients.
The same analysis that can lead to a successful application for an immigrant out of immigration court can lead to a successful defense against deportation in immigration court. However, the vast majority of immigrants in immigration court have no chance of beating deportation. We usually discover this quickly and since time is of the essence, weak applications and submissions with a strong possibility of denial are sometimes the only hope an immigrant has of avoiding deportation.
The situation is completely different with affirmative applications for persons living and working in our local immigrant communities, most of whom are unknown to ICE. A consultation has to investigate every undocumented immigrant's criminal and immigration history both to determine if it filing an appliction may lead to a denial for a past crime or deportation or other immigration bar, since current policy is to deport undocumented immigrants whose applications are denied. But sometimes the criminal or immigration history is such that it is likely that the immigrant may already be on an ICE list, and that the immigrant may become the target of an ICE raid.
We advise immigrants who have no chance of a successful application that they should get a second opinion from one of the lawyers on our list of experienced and honest expert immigration lawyers who will offer a consultation for a small fee. This is equally important for families of immigrants in immigrtion court to avoid wasting money on a second-rate (or even incompetent) immigration defense lawyer rather than having a consultation with an honest, experienced removal defense attorney.
Of course, we find that may immigrants do not have criminal or immigration bars, and do have a path to legality or at least to a protected status (like a U visa). However, the application process is now far more dangerous than it was a few years ago, and especially before the "deport upon denial" policy went into effect in the summer of 2017. Before, though occasional deportations would occur when an application was denied, the main problem was loss of costly government fees and high payments to lawyers or consultants.
Our staff is committed to doing all criminal record checks and FOIA checks before proceeding if there is any doubt at all as to an applicant's criminal or immigration history. Once we have all of the facts, we estimate the likelihood of success of an application and if it's reasonably high (well above 90%) we ask the client to make the decision. If the changes are relatively good, but it's a complicated or borderline case we will refer the applicant to a top-quality immigration attorney for a second opinion. (We will also refer clients to one of the trusted lawyers on our list if a case appears highly complex or if we lack the human resources to do the dozens of hours required to complete the application.)
To date IMPORTA has had a nearly 100% success rate with applications and petitions, but to maintain that record we are now being especially cautious in recommending that our clients proceed with applications.
SOME COMMON PATHS TO PROTECTED STATUS,
A GREEN CARD, OR CITIZENSHIP
DACA: Although the Dream Act which sought to provide a path to legality for undocumented children brought to this country at a young age was approved by Congress and is supported by a large majority of the American public, it never became law. President Obama created a special form of “prosecutorial discretion” to protect these young people, who grew up and received educations here, DACA does not grant a path to citizenship. However, it has provided almost one million young immigrants with protection against deportation and with work permits which have succeeded in integrating them into the legal workforce and given hope of a better future for them and their families.
Special Immigration Juvenile Status (SIJS): Undocumented minors who have been abandoned, neglected or abused have an opportunity to achieve legal status on humanitarian grounds through a complicated legal process.
U Visa: In order to encourage undocumented victims of serious crimes to report crimes and assist with the prosecution of perpetrators, Congress created a program that has helped many victims of domestic violence and other serious crimes to receive protective status and eventually adjust status to receive green cards.
VAWA: (Violence Against Women Act): This law enabled undocumented spouses of citizen or legal permanent resident have seriously abused them a path to a green card.
T Visa: Somewhat similar to the U Visa protected status except that the focus is only victims of human trafficking, involving prostitution or work exploitation through threats.
Parole in Place (PIP): Somewhat like DACA, but with a possible path to legalization, PIP entitles undocumented immediate family members of a member of the armed forces to achieve a work permit protected status that can make them eligible for legalization through adjustment of status.
Asylum: Undocumented immigrants who have a reasonable fear of persecution in their home country by virtue of membership in an oppressed social, ethnic, political, or religious group may be granted asylum status if they apply within one year of arrival. Asylum status is a protected status that provides a work permit, and the opportunity to adjust status to receive a green card.
Adjustment of Status: Several related paths to a green card for certain undocumented immigrants with citizen or legal resident family members who petition for them, and also for persons who have received Special Immigrant Juvenile, U Visa, T Visa, VAWA, or Asylum status. Although the government fees are generally high applicants for adjustment of status do not have the leave the United States to apply for an immigrant visa in order to earn a green card.
Waivers: Undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States without a visa or other entry document, may in special circumstances earn a right to an immigrant visa if they have a citizen or legal resident parent or spouse. However, they will have to receive a waiver for their unlawful presence through a waiver granted only if it is shown that their separation from the citizen or legal resident relative would result in extreme hardship for the him or her. Once approved, the undocumented immigrant must leave the United States to obtain his or her immigrant visa at a foreign consulate, and must meet additional State Department requirements to do so.
Consular Processing for Immigrants Living Outside the United States
There are a number of ways in which investors or skilled workers may obtain visas to immigrate to the United States. These cases are generally handled by lawyers who focus on employment immigration rather than on family immigration. In the case of family immigration, if and when a family member can receive an immigrant visa (equivalent to a green card) to enter the United States depends upon the nature of the family relationship and the country of origin. Some countries, such as Mexico, the Philippines, China, and India, have long waiting lists that far exceed annual quotas so that once approved, it may require as many as 22 years for the beneficiary of the petition to receive his or her visa. However, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (minor children, spouses and parents) have no quotas and the process is relatively fast.
Citizenship by Naturalization, Acquistion, or Derivation
IMPORTA’s principal immigration legal activity is processing applications for naturalization for green card holders who must meet a number of specific requirements in terms of length of residence, and immigration and criminal records in order to qualify. In addition, there are many foreign-born persons who are technically U.S. citizens because at least one parent is a U.S. citizen and certain other conditions are met. However, unless it is proven that these conditions have been met, their citizen status will not be recognized and they are subject to deportation. Thus IMPORTA regularly handles cases, sometimes quite difficult, involving proving that a person is a citizen by “acquisition” at birth or “by derivation” due to later events involving the relationship of the child to the citizen parent.