COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS
About our Agency
What does your agency do?
We are a Not-For-Profit Immigration legal services provider organization. As such, we only deal with Immigration law; our staff attorneys, paralegals and counselors are all regularly trained and updated in this field. We specialize in family based Immigration law and applications such as ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS (I-485), ALIEN RELATIVE PETITIONS (I-130), NATURALIZATION (N-400) AND GREEN CARD REPLACEMENT (I-90) and many more.
Why should we do our case with your agency?
Although there is no requirement that you use any organization or attorney/accredited representative to file your case, there are reasons why it makes common sense. 1) Any legitimate agency or attorney will file a Form known as a G-28 if they represent your interest as a petitioner, beneficiary or applicant. One of the best things about this is that the USCIS then has to send all appointments and receipts- any correspondence- to both you and our office. What this means in practical terms is that the chances of you not receiving a timely appointment are greatly lessened. This is of great importance in a field where even missing one appointment usually derails the application. ( Since USCIS fees are going up on 12/23/2016.)
Secondly, and probably most importantly, submitting an Immigration filing is one of the most serious and important documents you will ever file. Outside of getting married and starting a family, becoming a legal permanent resident or citizen of our country is one of the most life changing experiences. The legal ramifications and far reaching consequences of an insufficient or botched application cannot be overemphasized. NTA’s (Notices To Appear) or Deportation notices are now issued much more readily on non-qualifying cases because of the extra personnel available. A consultation prior to filing with one of our staff is always a good idea. No appointment is necessary for consultations and they are free.
Lastly, all our agency does is Immigration work; our staff- attorneys, paralegals, supervisors, clerks- all practice only Immigration. What this means to you is that we keep up on current laws and procedures so that you don’t have to. In this way procedural errors are lessened for your application. Anyone can fill out Immigration forms, but knowing that they are done correctly is another story. Using taxes as an analogy, it’s always better to consult and file with an expert in the field to avoid unnecessary aggravation due to inexperience.
What are some of the other agencies that can help?
There is a group called AILA (American Immigration Lawyer’s Association) which can be a very good resource for many different types of cases. Always ask for a lawyer that specializes in your type of case whether it be a Labor Certification, Deportation/Removal Proceedings, Asylum Adjustment etc.
Non-profit groups such as ours are also available and a good way to contact them is to call the New York Immigration Hotline; they have a current listing of these groups which have Attorneys, Accredited Reps and Paralegals available. Accredited Representatives are individuals who have been approved by the USCIS to represent applicants in Immigration matters. Some of the larger examples are Catholic Charities and Lutheran Immigration Services. There may be a long wait for an appointment.
When I get on the Web and search “Immigration Services” a confusing thing happens – there are a ton of sites that come up and so many of them look like government sites. Only after submitting my information do I notice that they might not be the real deal. What should I do and what advice can you give me?
First off, it isn’t your imagination. When you put in those two keywords, literally millions of sites come up and the majority of them are not ‘the real deal,’ meaning that many of them imitate the government site and make you believe that you have filed electronically with USCIS when, in fact, all you have done is pay for the privilege of filling out your own forms. We always advise people filing any immigration form that a free, walk-in consultation with one of our staff members is the way to go. Always get an expert opinion BEFORE FILING.
Second, recognize the tricks above and avoid troublesome websites. The fraudulent sites usually are looking for identity theft opportunities, are touting some non-existent program such as “Amnesty,” or are mimicking a free legitimate program like the Diversity Visa lottery, all to make you believe that you have won and now must pay to advance your application. Others imitate the USCIS government site with common logos and descriptions to make you believe that you are at the real site. If the web address does not end in “.GOV”, then it is NOT a government site. Anything that ends in “.net,” “.com,” or “.(anything else)” are not government websites. Lately, these fraudsters have gotten smarter and include “gov” somewhere in the web address, but not at the end, to further confuse you.
The most common and easily mistakable are the sites that allow you to download forms and then charge you for the “privilege” of filing and filling them out online when, in fact, there is no such service. U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) only offers e-filing for the I-90 or “Green Card” replacement form online. All the other forms, such as Adjustment, Alien Relative petitions, Naturalization, Extensions, etc. are all done via regular mail. If you pay for any form online, excluding the USCIS application fee, you are actually paying a PRIVATE agency just to fill in and download your own forms. Most importantly, these forms are not going to the government and therefore will not give you the result you are seeking. See the sites for what they are, they are not the government and they are not signing a G28 as your legal representative so they do not represent you with the USCIS.
What should I watch out for when I’m filing my case?
Questions that relate to good moral character, fraud, affidavits of support and public charge issues, lack of proper documents, and omission of material facts are all things to watch out for. Many clients come to us and say “I’m really married, why should I worry?” The answer is that you must not only be in a legitimate marriage but also able to prove it on paper. The DAO (District Adjudication Officer), or IO’s (Information Officers) nowadays, does not know you and your spouse personally, therefore you must be able to offer proof that you have a bona fide case to the satisfaction of the USCIS.
The Adjustment appointment letter has a comprehensive list of the necessary documents, so follow that list closely. If you do not have all pertinent documentation or a valid reason for not having it, you can and will be denied. The local District Office often decides that, as an applicant, you have been given sufficient time and notice to provide these documents or information by the time of the interview and failure to do so can be grounds for denial. “I’m too busy” is not a valid reason. In the USCIS New York District, in particular, they adjudicate cases relatively quickly but they also take a harder line in these matters.
Do not listen to your friends, unless they are referring you to a legitimate agency which has recently helped them obtain a final positive result in their own case. It is not wise to assume that just because your friends went through the “same” process recently that they are now experts in the field. First of all, no two cases are ever completely alike. Second, USCIS makes substantive changes in laws and procedures all the time and you cannot realistically rely on your friends to be aware of something that only recently passed. Third, hearsay is notoriously unreliable and dangerous to follow in a potentially complex case involving immigration and the future of your residency.
COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS
New and Proposed Laws
What is this I hear about an Amnesty?
No, No, No, there is NO AMNESTY. Some of the worst cases of fraud perpetrated on and by immigrants have been related to misinformation about Amnesty/Legalization issues. Never sign a document until you know what section of law it is based on. Get a second opinion before you file. A finding of fraud bars you forever. Even if someone you know received an ‘Employment Authorization’ or work card from this type of case it does not mean that the final adjudication will be positive or that the card is real.
What are these new laws I keep hearing about?
There are many being bandied about. For the sake of simplification, a general explanation is in order. One was President Bush’s ‘Guest Worker Program’. Another is the ‘Student D.R.E.A.M. Act’; this has been proposed for about the last five years and if it passes it will certainly help millions of young people who came at a very young age and attended school here. In 2007, the White House and Senate agreed on a sweeping Immigration Reform bill, a conglomeration of Z visas, enforcement, Point System and other provisions. (As we all know it did not pass the House). This Bill would have eliminated or reconfigured some Family based categories- so if you’ve been thinking of petitioning extended family, this may be a good time to do so. There will certainly be differing Senate or House versions and compromises of any bills. Until any of these proposed bills go to Committee, are passed by both houses and are signed by the president they are not law. Also, they will all have enforcement and legalization components in varying degrees.
With all of these laws there is a presumption of ‘Good Moral Character’, which means that an applicant should have no criminal record or minor arrests only. There will also be certainly some kind of ‘Affidavit of Support’ requirement. Since none of these have passed yet there is no way to ‘guess’ what the requirements of each law will be. Do not rely on someone’s assumptions that you will qualify for a law before it is passed. Only Congress and the Department of Homeland Security can make any laws and administer them respectively. Again, there is no ‘Ten year law’ or Amnesty of any sort as of this writing.
Keep visiting this site for current updates on new laws and the debate over Immigration Reform
I have filed for “Late Amnesty” or some lawsuit and now I want to file an Adjustment. How will this affect me?
Any prior case that you have filed will impact on future ones, especially if you have been fingerprinted. The problem with all of the lawsuits, CSS, Lulac etc., is that there was a lot of misinformation about what they actually were- they were lawsuits, not a ‘Late Amnesty’. The overwhelming majority of people applying for them were not eligible as they were not here a sufficient amount of time.
No matter how often we told people that they would not qualify, some went elsewhere and took the bait anyway and then when their appointment came they could not find their “lawyer” or “notario”. Whenever you sign a document, you are ultimately responsible; so don’t sign unless you know what you are doing- ignorance of the law is no excuse.
What is 245i and what does it mean to me?
245i refers to a law that sunsetted on April 30th, 2001. What that means is that if someone came illegally into the country ( Eg: EWI or Entered Without Inspection) such as thru Mexico, Canada or with a fraudulent passport, they cannot obtain a Green Card (Permanent Residence) in the US, even if they marry a Citizen. The only exception is if they have a case filed for them before the sunset of the law on that date; this is called ‘Grandfathering’. There is also a Physical Presence issue involved. This law may be reenacted in the future with a new date and this will benefit many individuals who came illegally and married a USC between 04/30/2001 and today.
The information offered in this Website is general in nature and Q & A’s are intended as a guide and not legal advice. For specific legal advice for your particular case, take some time out of your busy life and visit us or other viable agencies/attorneys for an in- person consultation. Updated 10/2014