Frequently Asked Questions
- How old do I have to be to sponsor my parents for a greencard?
- How old do I have to be to sponsor my husband or wife for a greencard?
- Can I sponsor my aunt, uncle, cousin, friend for a greencard?
- How long do I have to have a greencard before I can apply for U.S. Citizenship?
- My spouse, child, parent is an undocumented immigrant; can I help them get a greencard?
- My husband is in immigration detention how can I stop him from being deported?
- Should I sponsor my girlfriend/boyfriend on a fiancée visa or marry first?
- Can my girlfriend/boyfriend come to the U.S. on a B1/2 visitor’s visa and then get married?
- I am gay, can I marry my U.S. Citizen boyfriend in a state that allows gay marriage and have him sponsor me for a greencard?
- Am I eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals?
1. How old do I have to be to sponsor my parents for a greencard?
You must be at least 21 years old and a U.S. Citizen to petition for your parents. The process for petitioning for an immigrant visa for a parent is similar to that of other family greencards. Parents of U.S. Citizens are considered immediate relatives and thus immigrant visas are always available as long as the parent is admissible. The immigration process differs depending on whether the parent is currently inside the U.S. and whether they entered with inspection or not. Among other requirements, the petitioner must also meet certain financial criteria or find a joint sponsor who can provide an additional affidavit of support.
2. How old do I have to be to sponsor my husband or wife for a greencard?
You must be at least 18 years old and to petition for your parents. The process for petitioning for an immigrant visa for a spouse is similar to that of other family greencards. Spouses of U.S. Citizens are considered immediate relatives and thus immigrant visas are always available as long as the spouse is admissible. The immigration process differs depending on whether the parent is currently inside the U.S. and whether they entered with inspection or not. Marriage greencards require significant evidence that the marriage is bona fide and was not entered into solely to obtain a greencard. Immigrant visas for spouses of Lawful Permanent Residents are not always available. There may be a several year wait for an immigrant visa depending on the nationality of the spouse. In some cases it may be preferable for the Lawful Permanent Resident petitioner to apply for Naturalization in order to speed up the process. Among other requirements, the petitioner must also meet certain financial criteria or find a joint sponsor who can provide an additional affidavit of support.
Immigration Lawyer, Andre Olivie helps individuals file greencard petitions for their spouses and evaluate whether your spouse is eligible to adjust their status. If your spouse is in the U.S. but entered without authorization it is important to speak to an attorney before filing anything with USCIS.
3. Can I sponsor my aunt, uncle, cousin, friend for a greencard?
U.S. Citizens may only petition for a greencard for spouses, parents, children under 21 years old, unmarried children over 21 years old, married children over 21 years old and siblings.
Lawful Permanent Residents may only petition for a greencard for spouses, children under 21 years old and unmarried children over 21 years old.
4. How long do I have to have a greencard before I can apply for U.S. Citizenship?
Generally, Lawful Permanent Residents may apply to naturalize when 4 years and 9 months after the date they received lawful permanent resident status. This date can be found on Lawful Permanent Resident Card (Greencard). They cannot actually receive U.S. Citizenship until five years after the issue date of their greencard. There are many more eligibility requirements for U.S. Citizenship then just this time period. Speak with an immigration attorney if you are considering applying for Naturalization.
Lawful Permanent Residents who have been married to U.S. Citizens for at least two years and 9 months and have been lawful permanent residents during that same two years and nine months can apply for naturalization before the general 4 years and nine months. They cannot receive U.S. Citizen until the three year mark. The relationship must be bona fide marriage. There are many more eligibility requirements for U.S. Citizenship then just this time period. Speak with an immigration attorney if you are considering applying for Naturalization.
In some cases, active U.S. Military members and their spouses may seek expedited naturalization. Speak with an immigration attorney if you or your spouses are active U.S. Military and are considering naturalizing.
5. My spouse, child, parent is an undocumented immigrant; can I help them get a greencard?
This question comes up a lot and unfortunately there is no way to answer this question without having a thorough consultation with an experienced immigration attorney. The law is very complicated and strict when it comes to dealing with individuals who have either, entered the U.S. without a visa, or overstayed their visa. Generally, an individual who entered the U.S. without a visa cannot adjust their status in the United States even if they are married to a U.S. Citizen unless there have had an immigration petition filed in their name prior to April 30th 2001 or their U.S. Citizen spouse is in active military. In general, the undocumented immigrant must apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country. However, upon exiting the U.S., undocumented immigrants, who have gained more than 1 year of unlawful presence in the U.S., are barred from returning for 10 years. There is a waiver for this 10 year bar, however it requires that the immigrant prove that his or her U.S. Citizen spouse or child would suffer extreme hardship. If you are an undocumented immigrant you should always speak with an immigration attorney before filing anything with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.
6. My husband is in immigration detention how can I stop him from being deported?
Contact an immigration attorney! If your relative is already in immigration detention or in jail with an immigration hold then the situation is so serious that there is no time to waste. In some cases there may be ways for your relative to seek bail from immigration detention and possibly relief from deportation. Positive factors include length of time in the U.S., presence of U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident relatives and lack of criminal history. Each case is different and any good advice would require a through consultation with an experienced immigration attorney to be followed by attorney representation in immigration court.
7. Should I sponsor my girlfriend/boyfriend on a fiancée visa or marry first?
Only U.S. Citizens can petition for fiancée visas. Whether or not you should petition for a fiancée visa for your fiancée or marry your fiancée in their country and petition for an immigrant visa depends on several factors. If you are not currently married to your fiancée and they are not in the U.S. then you should decide where you would like to marry. If you want to marry in the U.S. then you should consider the fiancée visa. Keep in mind that an individual who enters the U.S. on a fiancée visa must marry within 3 months of entry. The cost of the fiancée visa process are slightly more than the immigrant visa process as the fiancée visa requires that your spouse apply for adjustment of status after marriage in the U.S.
If your fiancée is already in the U.S., they cannot apply for a fiancée visa unless they return to their home country (which they should only consider if they have not gained any unlawful presence in the U.S.). U.S. Citizens with fiancées already in the U.S. should consider marriage and then adjustment of status based on that marriage.
8. Can my girlfriend/boyfriend come to the U.S. on a B1/2 visitor’s visa and then get married?
Tourist visas are for tourists. If you receive a tourist visa or use the Visa Waiver Program then you are telling the U.S. government that you intend to visit the country and then leave within a certain period of time. Entering the U.S. on a tourist visa with the intention to seek adjustment of status by marrying and applying for a greencard or through another avenue is considered immigration fraud.
If you have already entered the U.S. on a tourist visa without the intention to adjust your status but the opportunity has come up unexpectedly, then in some cases you will be allowed to adjust your status. Speak with an immigration attorney if you are considering marrying a foreigner and petitioning them for a greencard.
9. I am gay, can I marry my U.S. Citizen boyfriend in a state that allows gay marriage and have him sponsor me for a greencard?
Unfortunately, at this time only opposite-sex spouses are eligible for greencards based on marriage to a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident. However, there are many people working to change this. Unjust laws like the Defense of Marriage Act help to prevent this from happening. Speak to your congressman or woman about your support for immigration benefits for partners of gay and lesbian U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents. Speak with an immigration attorney to see if there are other ways for your same-sex spouse or partner to enter or remain in the U.S. If you or your partner believe that they will be harmed or killed if they are forced to return to their country because they are gay, speak to an immigration attorney as soon as possible about the possibility to apply for asylum or withholding of removal. Read this website’s page on Gay Immigration.
10. Am I eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals?
As stated on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services webpage. You may request consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals if you:
- Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
- Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
- Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
- Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
- Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or your lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012;
- Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
- Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
Speak with an immigration attorney before filing your request for deferred action so that you may weigh the risks. I have filed several successful DACA requests. It is important to know that Deferred Action does not provide any legal status. It is not a pathway to a greencard or U.S. Citizenship. It does allow one to be lawfully in the U.S. and to obtain employment authorization for two years which can then be renewed. It is not the Dream Act.