July 27, 2010

I filed for my VAWA petition and change of status form. about how long should I wait to receive a decision for the VAWA petition? What is the waiting period (aprox) time for VAWA petition?   When do I receive a working permit, change of status, and social security card?

The short answer is, if you filed your petition with the Vermont Service Center(VSC), you can expect your petition to be processed within 5 months.  You can find the link for processing times here:  https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/processTimesDisplay.do

If you think that you deserve expedited treatment of your application due to extraordinary humanitarian concerns (their term not mine), call the VSC VAWA Hotline (1-802-527-4888) and make your case.

As you know, VAWA stands for Violence Against Women Act.  Congress passed it in 1994 to protect spouses, children, and parents of American citizens from physical and mental abuse.  It allows the victim to self-petition for permanent residency and adjustment of status without the abuser’s consent or knowledge.  To be eligible, you must meet certain criteria:

  1. You must be either legally married to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident batterer or your marriage was terminated by the abusive spouse’s death within the two years prior to filing. Also, you may file a petition if you divorced your spouse directly because of that abuse within two years before filing the petition.
  2. The abuse and battering must have taken place in the United States, unless the abusive spouse United States government employee.
  3. You must have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty during the marriage, or must be the parent of a child who was battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse during the marriage.
  4. You are a person of good moral character.
  5. You entered your marriage in good faith and not for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits.

When you receive your employment authorization card (work permit), change of status, and social security card depends on to whom you are married and  how well you made your case in the VAWA application.  If you qualify as an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, then you do not have to wait for an immigration visa to become available.

If your application is strong enough to establish a “prima facie” case of abuse, you will be considered a “qualified alien” for the purpose of eligibility for public benefits.  The VSC reviews each petition initially to determine whether you have addressed each of the requirements listed above and has provided supporting evidence. This is called a prima facie determination.  Evidence that will help you make a prima facie case include copies of police reports, medical reports, marriage certificates, divorce decree, and any other evidence, such as eyewitness affidavits, that will support your claims of abuse and that you have a good faith marriage.

If the VSC makes a prima facie determination, you will receive a Notice of Prima Facie Determination, which is valid for 180 days. The notice may be presented to state and federal agencies that provide public benefits.

If you did not establish a prima facie case, then VSC will likely issue an RFE (Request for Evidence) to support the claims for which they think you have not submitted enough evidence.

If you do receive an RFE, you may want to consult a lawyer to help you prove your case.

God bless you.

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May 12, 2010

What do I, a U.S citizen have to provide for my relative (in India) to obtain a tourist visa? It looks like Consulate doesn’t want anything? Their website specifically states that they will not look at affidavits, financial information, letters of support etc, so why do people provide those, if the Consulate does not look at them?

Your relative should seek a B-2 visa, which is used for tourists and those seeking medical treatment in the US. Your relative must convince the consulate that once he arrives in the US that he will not seek employment or go on public welfare. That is where you can help. You can sign an I-134, Affidavit of Support, which tells the US Government that you can support your relative while he is in the US. Also, you can send a letter to your relative, confirming that he can stay with you for as long as he is in the US. These two items, the invitation letter and the Form I-134, should be included your relative’s visa application.
I am very surprised that the consulate does not want affidavits of support. Can you give me a link to the website on which you read that?


May 11, 2010

My I-130 petition was approved and I am waiting for my visa #. My current student status is about to expire. Do I have to leave US? My I-130 is as unmarried child of a permanent resident filed in 2005.

Having an approved I-130 does not give you a right to live in the Unites States. After having your I-130 approved, you must apply to adjust your status, i.e. get a green card. Since you are already in the U.S., you can adjust your status only if you are in the U.S. legally—on an unexpired visa.
If you are an immediate relative–that is, you are unmarried, under 21 and a child of at least one American citizen—you do not have to worry whether your visa has expired. As long as you entered the U.S. legally, you can apply to have your status adjusted. If you are not an immediate relative, you must file for your adjustment of status before your visa expires.
You stated in your question that your Form I-130 has been approved and that you are “waiting for a visa #”. Does that mean that you have already filed to adjust your status? If that is so, that’s great! That means that you sought to change your status while on a current visa. Otherwise, you need to apply to adjust your status. If your Priority Date ( the date on which you can apply for a green card) has not yet come up and your F-1 visa is about to expire, you should consult an immigration lawyer immediately- telling him or her your specific facts. When your F-1 visa expires; copy of your I-797 Approval Notice; etc.


May 7, 2010

Does an alien resident have to cancel a permanent resident card if he/she plans to leave the US indefinitely?

Green cards are issued to “permanent residents” of the Unites States. If you stay away too long, you could lose your green card; especially if you intend to make some other country your home.
When you attempt to re-enter the U.S. after a prolonged stay abroad, it is the border officer who decides whether you are living outside the country. The officer may ask you why you left the U.S.; what you were doing while outside the country; and where you make your home. He may also look at other facts, such as whether you pay U.S. taxes; own or lease property in the U.S.; where you work, etc.
If you want to preserve your options while you decide whether to take up permanent residency in another country, you can apply for a reentry permit (Form I-131, Application for Travel Document). You must explain the purpose of your trip and when you plan to return.

If you are serious about leaving the U.S. and living elsewhere permanently and relinquishing your Permanent Resident Card or “Green Card”, you must complete the yellow-highlighted sections in form I-407 [PDF 624Kb], “Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Residence”.
Once the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office receives your completed Form I-407 and your Permanent Resident Card, the appropriate documentation stamps will be placed on the form along with the USCIS officer’s signature. A copy of this form will be returned to you in the stamped, self-address envelope you provide. This copy of the completed I-407 is your receipt and it validates the return of your Permanent Resident Card. You should keep a copy of the completed I-407 with your passport when you travel to the United States.
Abandoning your Permanent Resident Card and status does not affect your ability to apply to immigrate to the United States at some future time. However, you will have to begin the process anew and apply through the usual application process.


March 31, 2010

I heard that the new immigration law says that you do not have to be interviewed to renew your F1 visa. How does it work? And, how can I renew my F1 visa?

I am not aware of a change in the immigration law that would allow you to skip the F-1 visa renewal interview.  You may be confusing two different renewals.  There is something called automatic visa revalidation.  Automatic visa revalidation allows most F-1 students to take a trip of less than thirty days to countries contiguous to the United States and reenter on an expired visa provided you have proper documentation and have not applied for a new visa during the visit. This process revalidates your visa (making it eligible for the single trip back to the United States), but does not renew it.

If your F-1 visa has expired or is about to expire, there is no need to worry.  You can stay in the U.S. with an expired F-1 visa as long as you are student in good standing and have not violated the terms of your status.

There are some good reasons to renew an expired F-1 visa.  For example, you may want or need to travel outside the United States.  You cannot re-enter the United States on an expired visa (except in the limited automatic visa revalidation manner discussed above.)  Also, if you entered the United States under a different visa status and changed your visa status to F-1 while in the United States – you will also need to apply for an F-1 visa if you leave the U.S.

You cannot renew an F-1 visa while in the United States.  You must do so at a United States embassy or consulate.  Although the Department of State encourages you to apply in your home country, you may apply at another U.S. embassy or consulate.  Before you travel to an embassy or consulate that is not in your home country, contact that embassy or consulate and confirm the procedures for renewing your F-1 visa. Inform them of your country of citizenship, and ask them whether they will accept and consider your application and approximately how long it will take for the visa to be issued, if approved.

It may be more difficult to obtain a visa from a U.S. Consulate which is not located in your country of citizenship or lawful permanent residence.  You cannot re-enter the U.S. until your visa renewal is approved.  If the visa is denied, you will not be able to return to the United States as a student.

Click here to find out how long it will take to get a visa application appointment at a U.S. Consulate.

If you are going to leave the country to renew your F-1 visa, there are some steps you need to take before you leave.

  • SEVIS I-20 – Check the front of your I-20 to make sure your major, and source of funding are correct. If you need a new I-20 you will need to provide updated proof of financial support.
  • PASSPORT – If traveling outside the U.S. your passport must be valid at least 6 months into the future upon your return to the U.S. Passport may be renewed at your country’s embassy in the United States, or in your home country.
  • LETTER FROM YOUR FOREIGN STUDENT ADVISOR – A letter from your international student advisor certifying that you are an international student at your school and are maintaining status.
  • TRANSCRIPT – Bring a copy of your transcript to prove that you have been maintaining your status and making academic progress. Also, bring with you a copy of your current semester schedule, with proof from the your financial office that you have paid your bill.
  • FINANCIAL DOCUMENTATION –Updated documented proof of financial support from the sponsor that appears on your I-20, particularly if the documentation is from more than a year ago.

You should start the visa process as soon as possible upon your arrival back in your home country or the country in which you will apply for the renewal. Keep in mind that the holiday periods (Christmas/New Year) and summer vacation are very busy times at visa issuing posts. In addition, security checks on visa applicants may further delay the issuance of visas.

I hope this helps.


March 29, 2010

I have a question. I’m in H4 visa status now. Can I work outside USA? May be in London, India or anywhere in the world except USA?

If that’s not the case, can I work for for-profit organization for FREE?

The H-4 visa is issued to accompanying family members (spouse and children under the age of 21) of H-1 and H-3 visa holders. The H4 visa holders may reside in the United States as long as the H visa holders maintain their legal status.  Under the rules of the H-4 visa, you cannot be employed while in the U.S.  You can do volunteer work while in the U.S., provided that it is clearly not an employer-employee relationship and the work is not done in anticipation that you will be hired in the future based upon your current work.  To cover yourself, get a letter from the company or organization confirming your volunteer status.

Under an H-4 visa there are no travel restrictions.  So, if you wanted to travel to London or India you could.  But, since you are a temporary resident of the US, any money that you earned there, even on a very short-term basis, could be considered income for US purposes, thereby violating the restrictions on the H-4 visa.  You could volunteer overseas under the same arrangement that I mentioned earlier–getting a letter confirming your volunteer status.

Does this answer your question?

1. I have a question. I’m in H4 visa status now. Can I work outside USA? May be in London, India or anywhere in the world except USA?

If that’s not the case, can I work for for-profit organization for FREE?

The H-4 visa is issued to accompanying family members (spouse and children under the age of 21) of H-1 and H-3 visa holders. The H4 visa holders may reside in the United States as long as the H visa holders maintain their legal status.  Under the rules of the H-4 visa, you cannot be employed while in the U.S.  You can do volunteer work while in the U.S., provided that it is clearly not an employer-employee relationship and the work is not done in anticipation that you will be hired in the future based upon your current work.  To cover yourself, get a letter from the company or organization confirming your volunteer status.

Under an H-4 visa there are no travel restrictions.  So, if you wanted to travel to London or India you could.  But, since you are a temporary resident of the US, any money that you earned there, even on a very short-term basis, could be considered income for US purposes, thereby violating the restrictions on the H-4 visa.  You could volunteer overseas under the same arrangement that I mentioned earlier–getting a letter confirming your volunteer status.