By Brian in Visas and Green Cards | on 2023-02-27 08:00:51
Below is an overview of how the annual H-1B visa lottery works, and you do not want to miss the registration window. One of the experienced visa attorneys with J. Sparks Law, PLLC, is standing by to consult on your visa case and help you prepare for the lottery.
In order to receive one of the limited numbers of H-1b visas, it is important to properly register with USCIS for consideration. The next annual lottery begins on March 1, 2023, and runs for a few weeks.
To qualify for an H-1B Visa, it is necessary that the temporary worker applying fits into one of the certain categories. To achieve an H-1B visa, you must be engaged in a “specialty occupation,” be engaged in Department of Defense cooperative research or development projects, or work as a fashion model.
To qualify as a “specialty occupation,” your occupation must require:
The purpose of the H-1B visa is to accept persons into the United States to engage in work that is in demand. Additionally, the work must require a certain level of educational attainment and qualifications to perform.
To achieve an H-1B visa, the process must be followed exactly, and a great many documents and certifications must be provided to the government during the process.
The following three steps must be completed:
Gaining access to an H-1B visa requires that each and every step of the process is adequately, accurately, and comprehensively completed. A mistake or error at any step of the process can lead to lengthy delays and even the potential that your H-1B visa is denied altogether. Working with an experienced attorney who knows the process will support the best outcome.
An experienced, board-certified specialist in immigration and nationality law from J. Sparks Law, PLLC has the knowledge and experience you need to achieve the best possible outcome in your visa process. To discuss options on how we can help, schedule a consultation today.
By Brian in Immigration | Visas and Green Cards | on 2023-02-22 19:22:59
If a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder) marries a spouse who is from another country, a natural question that comes to mind and is often asked is, how long will it take to bring my spouse to the United States? At J. Sparks Law, we get this question all the time. It is a good question, but the answer depends on one’s individual circumstances.
To understand the process and how long it takes, it is important to have an overview of the process itself, including what the steps to be taken are, the immigration forms that must be completed, and how each of these steps relates to processing times.
Processing times can also be affected by factors not directly related to the specific steps that must be taken, such as changes in staffing levels, policy considerations, and priorities in other agencies involved in the immigration process. Most people assume the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the only agency that handles immigration, but that is not the case as there are other agencies involved, such as the State Department, and this impacts processing times.
Seeking any government benefits requires completing one form or another. USCIS is no exception, and even though the U.S. government has done a good job of making it less paperwork-heavy, the immigration process still requires completing and filing multiple forms and going through several phases to successfully complete the immigration process.
To start the immigration process to bring a spouse to the U.S., the U.S. citizen or green card holder spouse must first file an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. The person filing this I-130 is referred to as the “petitioner,” and the person they are filing for is referred to as the “beneficiary.” In this article, we are assuming you are the petitioner, but the information also applies to the beneficiary.
The I-130 petition must include the following:
Once you have gathered all the information and the I-130 petition is ready to be filed, this will be filed with USCIS, along with the applicable filing fee of $535.
Processing time for the I-130 will depend on whether the petitioner is a United States citizen or a green card holder. I-130 petitions by U.S. citizens are a priority and are processed much faster compared to all other green card processing categories because there are no limits on visa numbers for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. The time it takes to process an I-130 petition for a U.S. citizen filing for their foreign-born spouse is usually between 5 and 12 months. However, in some cases, petitions in this category can be processed in as little as two months.
If you are a green card holder, then you can expect your I-130 to be processed for a much longer period because there is a backlog of cases like yours. If you happen to live in a region where there is no backlog, then you can expect your I-130 to be processed just about the same time it takes to process one for a U.S. citizen. However, that is rare because USCIS is usually backlogged everywhere, and that being the case, expect your petition and applications to take much longer than those filed by U.S. citizens.
Processing an I-130 petition filed by a green card holder usually takes 6-24 months.
The current processing time for an I-130 petition filed by a U.S. citizen as of August 2022 is from about 11 months to over two years. If a spouse is a U.S. green card holder, then the waiting time is about 20 months to around three years or longer.
The processing time for an I-130 petition filed by a U.S. citizen for a spouse is currently 11.5 months at the Texas Service Center (TSC), which has jurisdiction over several states, including Texas. That is only an estimate based on the fact 80% of these I-130 petitions filed at TSC are completed within that time. However, the processing time at TSC for green card holders filing for their spouse is 20 months.
The filing date of an application for a green card for your spouse is what determines your spouse’s spot in line for the immigration visa (green card). For this reason, the processing time for the I-130 petition does not affect the wait time for the visa; it only determines when the processing of your I-130 happens during that waiting period.
If your I-130 petition is approved, USCIS will notify you of the decision and forward your case to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC). USCIS will also mail a copy of the approval to your spouse. NVC will contact you and provide information as to what you and your spouse need to do to complete the immigration process. At this stage, the process is referred to as “consular processing.” Consular processing takes approximately between 6 and 12 months.
If you and your spouse are about to embark or are already in the process of applying for a green card, J. Sparks Law, PLLC, can help and make a difference in seamlessly obtaining the green card. Contact us today and ask to speak to one of our experienced immigration attorneys.
By Brian in VAWA | on 2023-02-15 08:22:54
Many people have VAWA protection since they obtained immigration protection. When Congress initially passed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 in an effort to protect victims of violence. If you were a victim of violence and would like to know whether you might qualify for VAWA protection, contact an immigration lawyer for help as soon as possible.
The VAWA protections petitioner must show he or she is a spouse, under age 21, and parent of an abused child. Even if is a parent who suffered “extreme cruelty” from a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. Seek assistance if you were Abused.
Many victims are too afraid to call the police at the moment, so not calling the police does not disqualify them from filing a VAWA program self-petition form.
If you are eligible under this criteria, then you would need to file Form I-360 Self-Petition (VAWA petition) with USCIS along with supporting documentation. To be successful, you must gather and provide extensive evidence, including evidence of a battery, abuse, extreme cruelty, and proof of the qualifying relationship to the abuser.
If you meet the basic requirements outlined above, then you will be given a prima facie determination that you have gone over this hurdle, and with that determination, you will be eligible for certain public benefits. Deferred action status means that you will not be subject to deportation, and neither will you be placed in proceedings where you are supposed to defend against deportation. You will also be eligible for work authorization.
You will then need to apply for a green card based on your approved petition. A green card is what will allow you to permanently live and work in the United States as a permanent resident, and after the required time passes in that status, you will be eligible to apply for citizenship if you so desire.
To discuss any questions or concerns you may have regarding VAWA protection qualification, contact the immigration team at J. Sparks Law, LLC, today to schedule your initial consultation.
By Brian in Asylum | Immigration | on 2023-02-08 15:31:59
For asylum applications, the people fleeing persecution in their native countries can apply in the United States. Only a few are eligible for the application. They also need to follow a specific process that involves complex paperwork. You want help from an Asylum lawyer with your asylum application.
You are eligible to apply for asylum status in the United States if you satisfy the following requirements:
If you are eligible to apply for asylum, then you will need to file paperwork with the appropriate immigration office to request asylum protection.
The paperwork you will need to file includes different things, starting with Form I-589 Application for Asylum. Information contained in the application will be the primary information an immigration officer reviewing your file will consider, so the application form must be accurate and complete. If there are errors or incomplete information in the application, then your asylum could be denied, or you will be asked to fix the errors or provide the missing information.
As part of your basic application package, your attorney will need to include the following items:
If you are in the United States and cannot return to your native country for fear of persecution, contact J. Sparks Law, PLLC, today and schedule your initial consultation. We can discuss your situation and offer counsel on your best way forward.
By Brian in Citizenship & Naturalization | on 2023-01-26 17:46:12
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is a federal government agency that processes immigration benefits for both temporary visitors and permanent immigrants. The agency reviews applications for many different visa categories, but getting any of the visas approved is no easy walk in the park.
At J. Sparks Law, we help clients in Austin and across the state to navigate this complex immigration system and obtain the benefits they seek.
A nonimmigrant or temporary visa is a visa that allows one to come to the United States to work for a specific American employer for a specific time, usually three years, to visit for business or leisure, and in all cases, the holder of a nonimmigrant visa must leave the United States at the expiration of their authorized stay.
A non-citizen living in the United States can seek permanent residence in the United States by applying for a green card, which is the informal term for what is formally known as lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. An LPR or “green card holder” is allowed to remain permanently in the United States if they are not convicted of a crime that makes them deportable. A green card holder can also apply for U.S. citizenship after five years in that status, or three years if they obtained the status through marriage to a U.S. citizen.
Whether one seeks a nonimmigrant or permanent visa, the steps to be followed are generally as follows:
Sponsorship. Unless one is self-petitioning, one must have a sponsor, meaning a U.S. citizen or entity whose relationship with the person seeking a green card is the legal basis for the non-citizen to be given a green card. This relationship can be family (for family-based immigration) or employment (for employment-based immigration). If the relationship is family, then the qualifying family member, usually a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, files a Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with USCIS. If the relationship is employment, then the employer files Form I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.
Application for Green Card. If the green card is sought under a category where there is no waiting time and for which an immigrant visa (green card) is immediately available, then the person being sponsored for a green card, referred to as the beneficiary, can concurrently file their application for a green card at the same time when the I-130 or I-140 petition is being filed by their sponsor. If there is a waiting time for the category under which the green card is sought, then one must wait for the I-130 or I-140 petition to be first approved before filing their application for a green card.
Biometrics and Interview. Once your application for a green card has been accepted for processing, you will be scheduled for biometrics, where your fingerprints are taken, and a background check is done on you, usually to find out whether you have a criminal record. You will then be scheduled for an interview, where an immigration officer will verify the information on your application.
USCIS is notorious for its slow processing times for family and employment-based visas, especially green card processing, which causes some applicants to wait months and months and, in many cases, for years for a final decision on their applications. There are many factors that determine how long your immigration case will be processed, and these include an annual quota cap, your native country, and even whether your application is accurate and complete.
Things got worse during COVID-19 as the already overwhelmed USCIS immigration system has seen normal processing times get even longer. According to an analysis of USCIS data, as of June 2022, the DHS-USCIS backlog had reached nearly 8.8 million cases—up from 5.7 million in 2019.
USCIS understands that in some cases, circumstances may change for applicants that make it difficult to wait for the normal processing time, as long as that is. If this happens to be the situation in your case, there are several options you have that you can pursue to request faster processing of your application:
You can request USCIS to expedite (speed up) the processing of your petition or application. However, this is a rarely granted request, so to be successful in having your request granted, you must provide USCIS with compelling reasons. To be eligible to even file this request, you must have documentation that proves, among other grounds:
The Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (CIS Ombudsman) helps in expediting a case or assisting in situations where one is unable to get an issue resolved by USCIS in a manner that is unique. However, before the CIS Ombudsman intervenes, one seeking their help must demonstrate that the case is outside the normal processing time and that USCIS has not denied your expedited request. If you seek USCIS expedite and the USCIS denies it, the CIS Ombudsman cannot intervene.
In some situations, there is an option available through the office of the Member of Congress for the district where you reside. This is normally done in conjunction with submitting a request for expedited processing. If you have a strong reason or reasons why your case should be expedited, you can make the request on your own but also ask your local Congress Representative to chime in, and if they do, then your request is likely to be granted.
If you have an immigration need and wish to have it addressed by USCIS, J. Sparks Law can help you successfully tackle the matter as expeditiously as possible. We can also determine if any of the expedited options are available to you and if so, we will guide you through the process of filing this request. Contact us today and schedule an appointment for a consultation to discuss your situation.
By Brian in Visas and Green Cards | on 2023-01-19 15:21:01
When applying for a U.S. marriage visa or another type of U.S. visa you may be required to appear in person for an interview. Not all visa applications require an interview. If you have been asked to go for an interview, then you must go.
An interview depends on where you are physically located and the type of visa you are applying for. If you are in the United States, the interview will usually be conducted at the nearest USCIS office. If you are in the United States but have a situation that requires you to leave and apply for a visa outside of the country. The process can only be done at any U.S. consulate which accepts your case there.
An application for a visa for someone living outside the United States, the applicant can only apply for the visa at the consulate. Applicants must apply for an interview in the country U.S. consulate where they live. Anyone facing a visa interview should discuss the matter with an immigration attorney.
To clarify there are two typical types of visa applications. The first one requires an interview at your nearest USCIS office and the second one is just for adjustment of status for asylum.
An application for adjustment of status is the same thing as an application for a green card. Whether your application for a green card is family or employment-based, you can expect to be called for an interview.
If it is a family-based green card application, the questions you can expect are related to your familial relationship. For example, if your application is based on marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, then the interview will focus on questions that show how well you know each other as a married couple and to test whether your marriage is real and not intended to circumvent U.S. immigration laws.
Consular and the USCIS office interviews are exactly the same if you are applying for a family-based green card. The visa officer will be asking you questions to determine whether the family relationship you claim is real. Just having documents on file that show the legal relationship is not enough as those can be obtained in circumstances where the relationship does not exist in fact.
If you are applying for a temporary non-immigrant visa – such as a student or visitor visa. You can expect questions that seek to confirm whether you intend to return to your country. Under the expiration of your visa validity.
The focus for a non-immigrant visa interview is on what your ties are in the country from where you seek the visa, such as your employment history, business or property owned, and whether you have previously applied for a visa to the U.S.
If you have been called for an interview for a visa interview, contact us at J. Sparks Law, PLLC, today for a consultation regarding how best to prepare for that interview.
By Brian in Visas and Green Cards | on 2023-01-12 14:05:45
A green card through marriage process steps is one of the most common ways to get a Visa. Many people come to the United States with temporary visas, and as the name indicates, they are supposed to remain in the country only for the authorized period of stay, after which they are required to return to their native homes. While many do just that, others choose to remain in the U.S. past their authorized period of stay. If you seek a Green Card through marriage, contact a green card lawyer.
If you came to the United States legally, but you have overstayed your authorized period of stay, you are subject to deportation, meaning U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents can arrest and have you deported to your native country.
This is true also for anyone found in the country without a valid visa or another form of legal authorization to be in the U.S., and it does not matter in this case whether one came in legally or illegally.
Because of the perils of living in the United States on a temporary non-immigrant visa, many foreign-born nationals choose to seek and obtain permanent residency either through employment or through marriage.
To obtain legal status as a Green Card holder through marriage, you must comply with all applicable laws and regulations. Especially the following:
Obtaining a Green Card through marriage is no easy walk on the park, even for a genuinely married couple. This is because there is always a suspicion that marriage to a foreigner by a U.S. citizen is a sham. It is, therefore, best to have an experienced lawyer from J. Sparks Law, PLLC, helping you prepare and file a strong case for approval. If you seek a Green Card through marriage, contact us today to discuss your case.
By Brian in Immigration | on 2023-01-05 12:45:47
We’ll be the first to tell you that certain immigration issues don’t always require help from an immigration attorney. For instance, if you want to visit the U.S. for leisure and won’t overstay your welcome, you might not need legal help. You might not even need a visa if your country is part of the Visa Waiver Program.
That being said, U.S. immigration law is immensely, notoriously complex. In most cases, having the legal guidance of an experienced Austin immigration attorney could help considerably. It could save you stress, time, and money, such as in cases where you might need to defend yourself. For example, in a removal proceeding following a failed application or need to redo your application.
Answering the question, here are some common situations in which calling an immigration attorney may be your best move:
You should strongly consider at least discussing your case with an Austin immigration attorney. That is how you find out more about your specific immigration issues and secure the immigration benefit. Even cases that seem straightforward and simple can have hiccups and delays.
Get started on your American dream by reaching out to J. Sparks Law, PLLC, to learn how we can help you. To arrange a consultation with our Austin immigration attorney, simply call us or use our online form.
By Brian in Uncategorized | on 2022-12-27 16:20:48
If you are applying for an immigration benefit such as a green card, naturalization as a citizen, or some other U.S. immigration benefit, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will require you to submit a biometrics fee. You will then receive a notice for a biometrics appointment, which is typically scheduled a few weeks before you go to USCIS for your interview if one is required before a decision is made on your application.
If you need to file anything with USCIS, it is best to do so with help from an immigration attorney who knows how to navigate through the system.
As the name suggests, a USCIS Application Support Center or ASC is an office that provides complementary or support services in the adjudication of the vast volume of applications for immigration benefits. The bulk of processing of these applications is done at the 5 USCIS Service Centers, namely the Nebraska Service Center, California Service Center, Texas Service Center, Potomac Service Center, and Vermont Service Center. Each one of these Service Centers has a corresponding and USCIS-authorized ASC, which mostly handles biometrics appointments.
The staff in these ASCs are only there to take your biometrics and nothing else. They have no access to and wouldn’t know what the status of your case is. For that, you will need to contact USCIS online or by calling USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283. You can always have an experienced immigration attorney handle the process and keep you informed about your case status.
When you receive a notice for your biometrics appointment, the notice will tell you what to bring with you, and this is usually a copy of the appointment notice and some form of photo identification, such as your passport or a driver’s license. If you do not have a driver’s license or state-issued identity card but have an expired passport, it is better you apply for renewal of your passport and bring a copy of the receipt for renewal with your expired passport.
The notice may also tell you what NOT to bring with you, and these are typically cameras, food, or drink. If you bring your phone, it must be off or in silent mode when you enter the building.
Your notice for biometrics should also contain the latest COVID-19-related instructions.
In general, USCIS field offices and asylum offices are open with additional precautions to prevent the spread of COVID. On March 4, 2022, USCIS updated its COVID guidelines as follows:
You may NOT enter a USCIS facility if you have:
“Up to date” on your COVID-19 vaccination means you have received all recommended doses in the primary series and one booster when eligible.
If you wish to reschedule your biometrics appointment, call the USCIS Contact Center at 800-375-5283 (TTY 800-767-1833). Your biometrics appointment notice will contain more instructions for visiting USCIS facilities. For more information, check the USCIS Visitor Policy page.
When you visit ASC for your biometrics appointment, follow these guidelines:
A biometrics appointment allows ASC staff to capture anatomical or physiological data by which you can be uniquely identified. This is typically done by ASC staff taking your fingerprints, and your photo, and having you electronically sign your name.
The biometrics process usually takes about 20 minutes, but you may have to wait a while after you arrive and before the process begins. Because several people are given appointments for the same date and time, the practice is to call and process individuals on a first-come, first-served basis.
Make sure you have either been given a number or asked to sign in when you are inside the ASC facility – otherwise, you may find yourself waiting for a long time without being tended to. If you are given a number, pay attention and don’t miss it when called or if you signed in, pay attention, and don’t miss your name when called.
If you have been scheduled for a biometrics appointment or have completed one, it is important to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer. One of the purposes for having biometrics done is the USCIS uses the information captured to conduct background checks. If the checks find a criminal record, this may lead to the denial of your petition or application.
An experienced immigration attorney from J. Sparks Law can help you in finding a solution. Contact us today and schedule your initial consultation to confidentially discuss your situation.
By Brian in Uncategorized | on 2022-12-14 22:36:54
DACA is an acronym that stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and is a policy put in place by President Barack Obama to protect about 800,000 young people — known as “DREAMers.” These are individuals who were brought or entered the United States unlawfully as children. Although the program does not grant these individuals official legal status or a pathway to citizenship, the program does allow the individuals to apply for a social security number, a driver’s license, and a work permit. The individuals who qualify can also not be deported while under the program.
Anyone who needs assistance with a DACA-related matter should reach out to an immigration lawyer near you as soon as possible.
Unfortunately for DREAMers and their families, the program has been under attack by those who do not wish to have it in place. The policy was challenged in federal courts, and President Donald Trump tried to completely do away with it.
On October 5, 2022, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s ruling in July 2021 that DACA is unlawful. However, the Court of Appeals remanded the case to the district court to consider the program under the new 2022 DACA regulations that were set to go into effect on October 31, 2022. The district judge extended his injunction to block the Biden administration from implementing the new DACA rule on October 31st.
Because of these legal challenges to DACA, there are many questions that arise, and in this blog, we are answering some of them.
Your DACA registration and work permit are valid if you are currently registered. Your social security number is permanent and valid, so it will always remain your number regardless of the outcome of DACA litigation. Everything else remains the same, pending the outcome of the litigation. However, make sure you renew your DACA status when it is time to do so. Consider renewing your DACA, ideally with assistance from an immigration attorney.
Yes. If you have DACA now or you have had it in the past, you can still renew. The USCIS suggests that you submit your renewal application between 150 to 120 days from the expiration date of your current DACA.
Yes, but only if you are within one year from the time your DACA expired. If it has been more than one year since the expiration of your DACA, then you can still request DACA, but your application will be treated the same as a first-time or initial application, meaning nothing will be done about it until the DACA litigation ends.
No. USCIS will still accept initial or first-time DACA applications, but the agency cannot grant the applications at this time because of the district court order and the Court of Appeals’ opinion that affirmed the order. The expectation is the program will somehow survive all these challenges, and if it does, then those applying for the first time since the judge’s order can ultimately get the benefits.
Yes, you can file for DACA renewal online. If you are a current DACA recipient, you must first create a USCIS online account to file Forms I-821D (DACA), I-765 (application for employment authorization), and I-765WS online. The online USCIS account provides a quicker method of submitting immigration forms, paying fees, and tracking the status of your USCIS application. However, this only applies to DACA renewal requests. Initial DACA requests are made by mail or courier. It is to your benefit to use the services of a USCIS-accredited organization or an immigration attorney when submitting any immigration documents.
Yes. You can still apply for Advance Parole if you are already in DACA. However, Advance Parole is only granted for humanitarian, educational, and employment purposes. For example, if you are traveling to visit a sick relative, you can be given humanitarian Advance Parole. If you need to travel outside the United States to participate in a study abroad program, you can be given an education Advance Parole, or if your travel is work-related, such as attending a conference or training, you can be given a work-related Advance Parole. In all these situations and others, it is best to have an experienced DACA immigration lawyer assist you.
As a DACA recipient, you must explore and find a long-term, permanent solution to your immigration status because DACA, even if it survives current legal challenges, is a temporary solution. DACA itself does not provide legal immigration status; rather, it protects you from being deported and allows you to enjoy certain benefits, such as obtaining a social security number, a work permit, and the ability to travel outside the United States under qualifying circumstances.
Some of the options someone may consider and pursue after DACA include:
If you are on DACA or believe you or a loved one qualifies to receive DACA benefits, contact J. Sparks Law, PLLC, today and schedule a consultation to discuss your case.