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Proving Your Marriage Isn’t Just a Mirage

couple's hands, immigration attorneyPeople who immigrate to Illinois on marriage visas may have to prove that their marriages are real to adjudicators with the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service. Proving that a marriage is bona fide is crucial because the USCIS is focused on preventing immigration that is based on fraudulent marriages. When people first immigrate based on their marriages to U.S. citizens, they will go through a period of conditional residence during which the USCIS will scrutinize their relationships to make certain they are real. People should make sure they have their documents together so they can offer evidence of the validity of their marriages. The adjudicators are trained to look for signs that a marriage might be fraudulent. If the USCIS finds that a marriage was a sham, the immigrant may be deported and the citizen may face legal penalties.

Signs That a Marriage Might Be Fraudulent

USCIS adjudicators are trained to look for signs that a marriage might be fraudulent. If these factors exist, the adjudicator may scrutinize a petition more closely. Some of these signs include:

  • Substantial age difference
  • Not speaking each other’s language
  • Family members don’t know about the marriage
  • Living separately since the marriage
  • The citizen filed previous marriage petitions for others

While these signs do not necessarily mean that a marriage is fraudulent, their presence will lead an adjudicator to question the petitioner and the immigrant more closely. If there is a disparity in the answers they provide, or the documentation that they have provided is inadequate, problems can arise.

Preparing Evidence of a Bona Fide Marriage

It is a good idea for spouses to begin preparing for their petitions long before it is time for them to be submitted. When people file their I-751 petitions, they will also need to submit as many documents as they can that offer evidence that their marriages are real. In addition to a marriage certificate, as many other documents as possible should be provided. Some of these might include titles to vehicles that are in both names, deeds to property in both names, lease agreements, health, and life insurance policies, and other documents that show joint ownership or joint responsibility.

Once the USCIS is satisfied that a marriage that has lasted for two years is real, the conditional status will be changed. The immigrant will then receive a green card.

Affidavit of Support: What Financial Sponsors Should Know

financial support, Chicago immigration lawyerBefore signing an affidavit of support to accept financial responsibility for an immigrant, there are things potential green card sponsors need to know. Affidavits of support are legal contracts and are enforceable. People must meet income requirements to pledge financial support as green card sponsors. Financial sponsors legally guarantee that they will be responsible for providing financial assistance until the immigrants either become citizens or have worked for at least 40 quarters in the U.S. Sponsors will also be responsible for reimbursing the government for any public benefits their relatives use if they are unable to provide for themselves after they obtain green cards.

What Is an Affidavit of Support?

An affidavit of support is a document U.S. citizens can sign to accept financial responsibility for another person who wants to immigrate to the United States. The document is legally enforceable and allows the government to collect money from the signers if sponsored immigrants receive public benefits such as food stamps or Medicaid after they have been given green cards for a specific period of time. Affidavits of support are effective until one of the following events occurs:

  • The immigrant or the sponsor dies;
  • The immigrant works for at least 40 quarters in the U.S., which is approximately 10 years;
  • The immigrant becomes a naturalized U.S. citizen; or
  • The immigrant moves away from the U.S. permanently.

Because of the potential liability, people who are asked to sign affidavits of support should consider the decision carefully before they agree to do so. They must also meet specific financial guidelines before they will be eligible to sign an affidavit for a relative.

Financial Requirements

Potential sponsors who are not in the U.S. Armed Forces must have household incomes that exceed 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines to submit an affidavit of support. If they are in the military, their income must be at least 100 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

People who do not meet the minimum guidelines may still qualify if they add the cash value of their assets. The cash value of the assets must equal five times the difference between the minimum required income and the actual income unless an exception applies. There are exceptions for certain familial relationships, including spouses and children of citizens.

Immigration Violations Can Impact Your Future in the US

gavel with America flag, immigration lawyerIllinois immigrants who want to obtain their green cards may have problems securing them if they have committed previous immigration violations. Depending on the type of violation and the type of status the immigrants are seeking, the impact of previous immigration violations may require them to remain outside of the U.S. for several years or for life. People who commit immigration violations may also be subject to deportation proceedings. If they are deported, they may be banned for five years if the U.S. government deports them at its expense. The ban can be 20 years if the costs are paid by the government and the person has been convicted of an aggravated felony. Finally, if people reenter the U.S. illegally after they have been previously deported, they can be barred from reentering the U.S. for life.

Impact of Prior Immigration Violations

Immigration violations may have significant impacts on the ability of people to secure their green cards. If they originally entered the U.S. legally with a valid visa that they overstayed, the impact will depend on the length of time they overstayed their visas. For overstays of less than 180 days, people can leave the country and get new visas to return. They will be able to reenter at any time with a valid visa. People who overstay from 180 days to 365 days will be barred from returning to the U.S. for three years if they leave. If they overstay their visas for more than 365 days, they may be barred from reentering for 10 years.

Previous illegal entries make the process more complicated. People who entered the U.S. illegally will not be able to apply for green cards from inside of the U.S. If they leave after being unlawfully present for more than 180 days, they will be subject to the three- or 10-year reentry bars. For less than 180 days, people may apply for green cards in their countries at the U.S. Consulate without facing the three or 10-year reentry bars. People who have been previously deported and then reenter the country illegally may be barred from the U.S. for life.

Handling Deportation Proceedings

The government must send notifications to immigrants that it plans to deport. The people will then appear in front of an immigration judge. They can request several types of relief. If possible, avoiding deportation is important if the people want to return to the U.S.

Did You Receive An RFE? Here’s What to Do

A green card, Immigration lawyerPeople in Illinois who apply for green cards or other immigration statuses may receive requests for evidence, and they can respond in one of three ways. Immigrants may supply all of the information that was requested by the USCIS at once, submit some of the information, or withdraw their applications. People must respond to the RFEs within the timeframes that are stated in the notices. Receiving an RFE does not necessarily mean that the USCIS is planning to deny an application. Instead, it simply means that the agency needs additional information to make its decision.

Responding to an RFE

People who receive requests for evidence are only given one chance to respond. The USCIS requires applicants to submit all of the requested information at the same time. However, if people are unable to send everything at once, it is better for them to partially respond by sending what they have rather than ignoring the requests. People may also choose to withdraw their applications from consideration. It is a good idea for people to respond quickly when they receive RFEs so that the immigration officials will have enough time to consider their applications.

What Must Be Sent in an RFE Response?

Some RFEs will specifically list documents that are missing. If people receive requests for missing documents, they should gather them and submit them with their responses. Other RFEs may be more difficult to understand. They might cite statutes and regulations and ask the applicants to prove that they are eligible for the immigration statuses that they are seeking. Immigrants should make certain they understand what is requested so they can respond appropriately.

People should photocopy the RFE. They should then include the original as the first page of the packets they send. They should include letters that list the evidence that is included followed by the documents they are sending. RFE responses should be mailed to the USCIS at the provided address, and it is a good idea for people to get a delivery notification.

RFE Changes

The USCIS issued a memorandum in July 2018 that states that it now allows immigration adjudicators to issue denials without first sending an RFE if the initial application is incomplete. This makes it important for people to ensure that they complete their initial applications correctly and include all of the supporting evidence.

Applying for An Adjustment of Status? Start Here

An American Flag, Immigration LawyerEligible immigrants in Illinois may apply for an adjustment of status to become lawful permanent residents. To apply for an adjustment of status, it is important for immigrants to understand whether or not they are eligible, the correct forms to complete, and whether they might need someone else to serve as a sponsor. After the application is filed, there are several steps that will take place before a decision is made. Immigrants should be prepared for each step and complete their petitions correctly.

Eligibility for Adjustment of Status

An adjustment of status is the process that certain immigrants must go through if they want to become lawful permanent residents. Immigrants who may be eligible to apply for an adjustment of status include spouses, immediate family members, asylees or refugees, people who have won visas in the diversity lottery, Cuban nationals, and certain highly skilled workers who have employment-based visas.

There are some disqualifying factors for people who fall within the eligibility categories. People who have been convicted of certain crimes or who have disqualifying health conditions may be inadmissible. People who have previously broken the U.S. immigration laws, are considered to be threats to national security, or who are believed to be likely to become dependent on public welfare may also be deemed to be inadmissible.

Applying for Adjustment of Status

To apply for an adjustment of status, eligible immigrants must complete form I-485 along with documents that prove their eligibility. These include their birth certificates, USCIS medical examinations, passports, and proof that their sponsors will be able to support them financially. They may submit secondary evidence of one of the required documents are not available. They must also pay the fee of $1,225.

After the application is filed, immigrants can expect the process to take up to 11 months. During that time, they may have to attend an interview if the USCIS decides that one is necessary. Immigrants might also receive requests for more information and must respond with the requested documents. Once the application is processed and the USCIS makes its decision, it will issue the immigrant a decision. If the immigrant’s application is denied, he or she may file a motion to reconsider or a motion to reopen.