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brittanylowe

Employment Immigration, F-1, Family Immigration, OPT, Student Visa

OPT is almost finished, what’s next?

Q: I’m on an F-1 OPT visa right now after completing my master’s degree. My OPT finishes in August and I’d like to stay longer. What options would I have?

A:Congratulations on completing your master’s degree, and I hope your OPT internship is going well.

Yes, this is a common situation for F-1 students. As you are likely aware, it does not sound like you would be eligible for a STEM OPT extension, even if you have stem-based OPT since your current program is not valid for an additional 150 days. You may have a few options, though.  Continue Reading
Employment Immigration, H-1b

H-1b cap completed for 2017

236,000 apply for H-1b visas, about 1 in 3 will be approved

On April 7th, 2016, USCIS announced it had completed the H-1b cap random selection process. The H-1b visa allows certain foreign national workers holding a bachelor’s or higher-level degree or  to be temporarily employed in the US. Employers apply for the visa on behalf of foreign national employees, and the visa allows the employee to work for that employer.

H-1b visas are capped at 65,000 plus an additional 20,000 for applicants with US master’s degrees. As the number of applicants usually exceeds 85,000, USCIS uses a lottery system to select petitions to approve. This year USCIS received 236,000 applications for H-1b visas, so only about 1 in 3 will be approved. The number of applicants only increased a small amount from last year, as shown in the table below. Continue Reading

Citizenship/Naturalization, Family Immigration

If I apply now for US Citizenship will I be able to vote in November 2016 election?

Q: If I apply now for US Citizenship will I be able to vote in the November 2016 election?

A:

Seattle, WA

If you live in Seattle, the answer is most likely yes! Most recently, applications for naturalization (N-400) has been taking about 5 months to process. There is probably time to apply, have the naturalization interview and ceremony in time to register for November 2016 elections.

 

Other cities

To get a general idea on the processing time for your area, check USCIS Processing Time, select your city’s field office, and check the date listed by N-400. Using Seattle, WA as an example, the chart shows that May 2015 applications were being processed in December 2015. The wait in December was about 7 months, but this wait has shortened recently to closer to 5 months as Seattle has recently added new Officers. Check with a local immigration attorney to get a more specific idea of processing times.

 

Apply right away

It is best to apply as soon as possible. Processing times are subject to change over time. Also, you may need to respond to a request for evidence from USCIS, which increases processing time.

This may be a popular time to apply for citizenship, with the contentious upcoming election. The New York Times reported today that many Latinos are seeking citizenship in order to vote against a particular candidate. Further, as the article points out, 8.8 million legal residents are eligible to naturalize right now.

 

 

Asylum, EAD Work Permit, F-1, Student Visa, TPS

Can an F-1 student apply for asylum?

Q: I’m currently on an F-1 student visa studying in the US. I am afraid to go back to my home country. Can I apply for asylum?

 

A: Yes, immigrants present in the US may apply for asylum, as long as they have a true non-frivolous claim. Although applicants generally need to apply during their first year in the US, there are some exceptions, including maintaining another lawful immigration status (like your F-1 status.) However, you should still apply as soon as possible.

TPS: Some countries have been designated for Temporary protected Status, or TPS. You should check the list of current TPS countries, and talk with your international student advisor or an immigration attorney about this option as well.

Asylum: Asylum is not just based on being afraid. Your situation/fears need to meet 3 specific criteria, and need to be reasonable. For example, as part of the application, you would provide reports to show that harm you suffered, or are afraid of suffering is reasonable for your country. I’ll outline the general  3 criteria below: Continue Reading

Citizenship/Naturalization, Employment Immigration, Family Immigration, Naturalization

Overcoming trips outside the US when applying for Naturalization

Q: I applied for US citizenship by submitting the n-400, but I have 2 trips within the last 5 years that lasted 9 months. What can I do?

A: Among many other requirements, those who apply for naturalization need to show they meet continuous residence and physical presence.

Continuous Residence means the applicant has resided in the US for 5 years before applying, or resided continuously for 3 years if he or she is a qualified spouse of a US Citizen. Trips outside the US that last more than 6 months can disrupt continuous residence, as can trips longer than 1 year.

Physical Presence means the applicant was physically present in the US more than half of the time. Applicants need to show they were present in the US for thirty months or more within the last 5 years (or 18 months out of the last 3 years for qualified spouses of US Citizens.) Also, US law requires that applicants have resided for at least 3 months in state where they apply for naturalization before submitting the application.

Since you mentioned two trips that were between 6 months and 1 year, this response will focus on continuous residence, though you should also check to make sure you meet physical presence requirements. This information is meant to be general and review the most common situations. For specific advice related to your case, be sure to speak with a qualified immigration attorney. Continue Reading

Adjustment of Status, Children, Family Immigration, Green Card

Can my wife’s children get a green card?

Q: I am sponsoring my wife for a green card. She has 2 children from a previous marriage. Can we add her children to her green card application as derivatives or dependents?

 

A: Your wife’s children may be able to receive permanent resident status (green cards), but not as derivatives of your wife. Your wife is considered an Immediate Relative for immigration purposes, and so her children would need to qualify on their own for permanent residency. Generally this is done by the stepparent (you) sponsoring the stepchildren. Here’s how it works:

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Adjustment of Status, B Visitor Visa, Family Immigration, Green Card

Extend a visitor visa or apply for a green card?

Q: I am a US Citizen, and my mom is a citizen of China. She is here on a B-2 visa for a visit and she’s considering extending her stay or applying for a green card. Which is a better choice?

A: Yes, either extending a B-2 visitor visa or applying for permanent residence (a green card) might be possible for your mom. I’ll list some guidelines below to help you start to think about this situation:

Extending a B-2 visa: B-2 tourist visitors may be granted extensions up to 6 months after their status expires. To request an extension, your mom needs to apply before her current visa expires. I recommend she applies after being in the US about 3 months. When she applies, she needs to provide a reason for her request, and provide evidence of the reason if possible. A common reason for extending a B-2 tourist visa is related to health issues. Sometimes a visitor needs to stay longer because of a doctor’s order, or in order to obtain medical treatment.

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Employment Immigration, Family Immigration, Green Card

My Green Card is expired. Have I lost my permanent residence status? What should I do?

Q: My Green Card is expired. Have I lost my permanent residence status? What should I do?

A. Your status as a permanent resident does not change just because your card is expired. You remain a permanent resident unless your status is terminated by “final administrative order of exclusion, deportation, removal, or rescission (8 CFR § 1001.1(p)). Also, an expired permanent resident card only shows that a person’s card has expired. It does not show that the person’s work authorization has expired (8 CFR § 274a.12(a)(1)).

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Children, Citizenship/Naturalization, Naturalization, Passport

What are the steps for my child to become a US Citizen?

Q: My 5-year-old son and I have been in the US as permanent residents and I recently married a US Citizen. My new US Citizen wife has adopted my son. What steps do we need to follow to get my son US Citizenship? Can he naturalize more quickly now that he has been adopted by a US Citizen? 

A: Congratulations on your recent marriage! Your child has a couple options, but none of the options will allow him to immediately become a US Citizen (USC). The process will involve simply applying for a US Passport for him. He does not likely need to go through the naturalization process.

There are 2 paths your son could follow to become a USC:

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