Bringing your family to the United States (The I-130)

Most immigrants who come to the United States—whether it’s alone or with members of their family—dream of eventually having the whole household together in one place. A Family Immigration Lawyer, like Daphne Hankins, can help. She’ll work to help make the American dream a reality. If you have any questions about Family-Based Petitions or Family Immigration Services, Attorney Daphne Hankins can assist you and make sure you have everything you need to get the U.S. family immigration process started.

U.S. Family Immigration Services for Immediate Family Members

Although there are options for non-immediate family members, it’s easier for immediate members of the household to gain permanent resident status. This includes:

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens
  • Unmarried children of U.S. citizens who are under 21 years old
  • Parents of U.S. citizens (Keep in mind that the petitioning citizen must be 21 or older.)

Visas are always available for immediate relatives of United States residents. This means your family member will not have to wait in line for a visa. Immediate relatives who are already in the United States can file Form I-485, or an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, while they file a Form I-130. If the person petitioning is abroad, they may choose consular processing instead. If you have any questions about this process, contact Daphne Hankins at Daphne@HankinsImmigration.com. She’s been helping immigrants and their families understand the family immigration process and obtain the documentation they need for a happy life in the United States.

An attorney that’s there for you and your family, every step of the way

Obtaining an I-130 Visa can be a difficult process. If it’s done incorrectly you could be waiting for weeks or even months. That’s why it’s important to have a family immigration lawyer who knows the U.S. Green Card application process and can step in should any problems arise. Contact Daphne Hankins, Attorney and member of the American Immigration Legal Association, if you have any questions.

Form I-944: Everything You Need to Know (’20-’21)

Important Facts You Need to Know

Form I-944, or the Declaration of Self-Sufficiency, is a complex step recently introduced to the green card application process. The form, in short, requires additional information and documentation to be submitted along with a green card application. If this form isn’t submitted correctly or submitted at all, those seeking a green card status may face delayed application processing or even an application rejection.

This article will go over the form and what this means for green card applicants in general terms. However, for detailed information and formal assistance, it’s best to reach out to us for guidance. Please call or contact us if you have any questions.

What is Form I-944?

Form I-944 was introduced in 2020 as an addition to the United States green card application process. The form asks for personal information such as health and financial status. The reason this information is collected is to help the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials determine whether an individual is “self-sufficient.”

The USCIS does this to see if the beneficiary is likely become a “public charge”. A public charge is an individual who relies on or uses government assistance or benefits. Those who are deemed likely to become a public charge are more likely to have their green card application denied.

Originally introduced under the Trump administration, Form I-944 is relatively similar to Form I-864 or the Affidavit of Support. The Affidavit of Support takes a look at the financial status of an immigrant’s sponsor (typically a spouse) to ensure they can assume financial responsibility for the green card applicant. However, Form I-944 takes a look at the applicant’s financial status as well.

What Form I-944 changes were passed in September of 2020?

All green card applications moving forward must include Form I-944, and the form must be filled out accurately.

The Department of Homeland Security has re-enacted this form retroactively dating back to February when it was originally suspended. This means individuals who applied for a green card between February 24 and September 11, 2020, will likely have to send in Form I-944 to have their application processed.

Key takeaways about the Form I-944 September 2020 update:

  • Form I-944 is a detailed, complicated form that asks a lot of questions about the green card applicant
  • The form evaluates an applicant’s financial status and asks for supporting documentation like proof of income or assets
  • Applicants who don’t fill out the form correctly (or don’t submit it at all) along with their green card application face delays or rejections
  • The form was temporarily delayed from February through September because of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Starting September 11, 2020, the form is required again
  • Individuals who applied for a green card between February 24 and September 11, 2020, will probably have to fill out the form and send it in

For more information about Form I-944 or help filling out this form, contact Hankins Immigration. We’re available at all hours, no matter where in the world you’re located, and are here to help you every step of the way. Give us a call or send us a message online today.

Getting a work permit as an asylum applicant

As an asylum applicant in the United States, you may be eligible to apply for a work permit known as the Employment Authorization Documents (EADs). Before 1994, asylum seekers were able to receive EADs on arrival to the United States. This is no longer the case however.

There are two ways to apply for an EAD now: you must win your asylum case or you must wait six months / 150 filing days.

Winning Your Asylum Case

Once you win your asylum case and receive a grant of asylum, you are no longer required to even apply for an EAD. Upon winning the case, you are automatically granted a social security number, which can be used to apply for employment in the United States. Some clients choose to apply for an EAD regardless because it provides a form of federal identification.

However, for many asylum clients, this path isn’t the best option. The reason for this is because the asylum process can be complicated and time consuming. Thus, many will find that the best method for them is the Six Month Waiting Period.

The Six Month Waiting Period

Because many applicants often have to wait months, if not years, for a decision to be made, the six month waiting period is a better option for them if they wish to work.

If an applicant has to wait more than 180 days to hear an initial decision on their asylum case, the applicant is entitled to apply for EADs. At 150 days after filing an asylum claim, the applicant may apply for an EAD by filing an I-765 Application for Employment Authorization. The USCIS then has 30 days to approve your application. At the 180 day mark, the asylum applicant may be granted a work permit. There is no filing fee for the first work permit under the (c)(8)—it is typically valid for 2 years. Thereafter, USCIS currently charges $410 for additional EADs (this filing fee may go up soon).

However, there are certain events which could stop the 150 day clock for the applicant:

  1. Failure to appear at your interview or fingerprint appointment
  2. Failure to receive and acknowledge your asylum decision in person (if required)
  3. A request to reschedule your interview for a later date
  4. A request to transfer your case to a new asylum office or interview location, including when the transfer is based on a new address
  5. A request to provide additional evidence after your interview
  6. Failure to provide a competent interpreter at your interview

 It is very challenging to start the 150 clock back up once it has been stopped, and will likely require the assistance of an attorney to do so. Recently, the Trump Administration has proposed extending the six month 180 waiting period to a full calendar year waiting period of 365 days. Although this proposal has not yet gone into effect, it should serve as a warning to get your asylum application in as soon as possible to start the clock!

The Most Commonly asked DACA Questions (2020)

The twelve most commonly asked questions about DACA, answered.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a policy which allows certain children who were brought into the US and accrued unlawful presence to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation. Even the perfect candidate for DACA may struggle to jump through the many hoops this policy demands.

  • Am I still eligible for DACA if I dropped out of high school?

No. In general, if you dropped out of school or left an educational program you will not be eligible for DACA or a DACA renewal. But you may sign up for a new educational program and apply.

  • My primary school is no longer around to request transcripts from. Who do I contact?

Contact your school district to inquire about this information.

  • Can I travel to more than one country on my Advance Parole?

You can but be certain that you return to the US before your travel document (Advance Parole) expires. The reason for your travel must also be employment, educational, or humanitarian related.  

  • I received a traffic ticket – do I include this in my application?

No. You don’t need to include minor traffic violations unless they’re alcohol or drug-related.

  • How do I prove that I’ve been in the US since 2007 if I did not attend primary school or go to a doctor?

You may prove residency in a number of ways. You can use your Parents’ Federal Income Tax Returns or Tax Transcripts if you’re listed as a dependent, if that is applicable. You may also use your parents’ leases, rental receipts, bank statements, etcetera.

Religious records from a church, mosque, or any other place of worship may also be used. For example, documents related to baptism, presentation, naming ceremonies, or any other public even or rite of passage your family celebrated with you while you were in the US.

Any photographs placing you in the US since the age of 16 and since 2007.

  • Can I travel to Puerto Rico or the Virgin Isles without Advanced Parole?

You may technically visit Puerto Rice and the US Virgin Islands without Advance Parole, but you should be aware that there are risks in doing so. Though they are US territories, flights can be rerouted through other countries, which may impact your ability to reenter the United States.

Additionally, entry back into the United States is always at the discretion of the Customs and Border Patrol officer inspecting your return. This means that even with an approved Advance Parole you’re not guaranteed to be allowed back in.

  • Can I submit bills and utility letters from my parents as proof of residence if my name is not on the bill?

Yes, if there is no better evidence available you may submit your parents’ utility bills in conjunction with evidence that you lived in your parents’ home at the time.

  • Can I purchase a home under DACA?

This depends on the lender. DACA status by itself does not stop someone from buying a home, that it can complicate the financing process since DACA status can make you ineligible from receiving certain types of loans. For example, the Federal Housing Authority loans from US Housing and Urban Development.

  • Do DACA recipients get COVID stimulus checks?

No, DACA recipients are not eligible to receive COVID stimulus checks. These checks are only being sent to US citizens, lawful permanent residents, and “resident aliens” (defined as a non-citizen who resided in the US for 31 days in 2019 and a total of 183 days in 2018 and 2019).

  • What kind of healthcare can I get under DACA?

DACA recipients are not considered an eligible immigration status for applying for health insurance through the Federal Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). The type of health insurance you may qualify for depends on the state in which you live, and whether the state has any programs or private providers who accept enrollment from DACA holders.

  • Can I get a private loan under DACA?

It’s possible but it depends on the terms set by the lender. Some lenders accept enrollment from DACA holders who do not otherwise have status in the US.

  • Do I need to update USCIS if I move?

Yes. If you are in the US under DACA you should update the United State Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within 10 days of a move. But if you’re out of status, it’s not recommended to contact the USCIS, because it may draw unwanted and negative attention.

The Naturalization Test is Getting Harder

Becoming a citizen of the United States has gotten harder and the trend promises to continue with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) unveiling of a new test for naturalized citizenship.

Passing the naturalization test is the final requirement for permanent residents (also known as green card holders) to become US citizens. The test is taken orally during the naturalization interview as one of the final stages of the citizenship process.

This new test is drawn from 128 American history and government questions. Previously, there was a pool of 100 questions to draw from. Certain questions have been reworded and other questions will require more explanation.

For example, a question that had previously asked, “There were 13 original states, name three,” is now, “There were 13 original states. Name five.”

Another question, “What are two rights of everyone living in the United States?” is now, “What are three rights of everyone living in the United States?”

Additionally, applicants must answer 12 out of 20 questions correctly to pass. Previously, applicants needed to answer six out of 10 correctly. Despite the increase of questions, the pass percentage remains the same at 60%.

This is the first time the test has been updated in over a decade. Anyone who applies for naturalization after December 1st, 2020 must take the new version.

These modifications have come under criticism from certain immigration advocates, who state that the questions have been made more difficult without evidence of need for it. Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, has stated that the questions now have a, “subtle political stance”.

“One question in particular raises concerns of politicization. On the old test, applicants could be asked ‘Who does a U.S. senator represent?’ The suggested answer was ‘all people of the state.’ On the new test, the suggested answer is ‘citizens of their state,’” Reichlin-Melnick stated, adding, “This is not correct. Members of Congress represent everyone who lives within their district, regardless of citizenship status. It’s been that way since the nation was founded.”

The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation compiled a national survey that found that just 1 in 3 Americans would pass the citizenship test. For this reasons, it’s important to have an attorney who can guide you through the process and ensure that you get the results you’re looking for the first time.

So far, it is unknown whether or not President-elect Joe Biden will make any revisions to this test once he takes office.