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Chicago Immigration Law Blog

Options for getting legal status in the U.S.

Illinois residents who are interested in helping foreign-born family members get legal status in the United States may be interested in learning about some of the options that are available. In most cases, the individual applying has to be in the country legally. However, some exceptions exist, especially when undue hardship is placed on the individual or family members.

If an individual is in the country illegally and would otherwise be eligible to apply for legal status in the United States, the government may allow the individual to leave the United States and then reenter after some time has passed. Individuals who spent more than 180 days in the U.S. illegally may be able to apply for reentry after three years have passed. If a person spent more than 365 days in the country illegally, they will not be able to reenter for 10 years.

Green cards and denial of earlier marriage petitions

A person in Illinois who attempts to obtain a green card after marriage could face a denial if the person was earlier determined to have entered into a fraudulent marriage in an effort to get a green card. This is covered under INA Section 204(c). It says that for anyone who has engaged in marriage fraud, approval of an immigrant visa petition is prohibited.

However, this is not as straightforward as it may seem. There are circumstances in which an immigrant petition could be approved despite this problem. In order to bar a subsequent visa petition, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is required to independently determine that fraud took place. It can use evidence gathered during the first visa petition, but it cannot rely on those conclusions. New evidence can also be introduced.

Online filing could speed family immigration process

Many immigrants in Chicago and across the country have been concerned about changes to U.S. immigration rules, as many of them seem to make it more difficult to support their family members joining them in the United States. However, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced one reform that could make it easier for people to apply for family immigration. When people become U.S. citizens after having their green cards, they often want to help sponsor their loved ones to join them.

In order to start the process, people must file Form I-130, also called a Petition for Alien Relative. This petition must be submitted first along with proof establishing the relationship between the applicant and the person they want to sponsor. Only after this initial form is approved can the relative apply for a green card. USCIS said that it was now making the form available for online filing and digital completion, given that it is one of the most widely used forms in the immigration system. The first step to proceeding with an online family immigration application is creating an online account.

Learn more about the H4 visa

The spouses and children of H1B visa holders who would like to accompany their spouse or parent while working or visiting Illinois or other U.S. states may apply for an H4 visa, which is a dependent visa. Spouses and children under 21 years of age who are interested in the H4 visa need will need to apply at a U.S. consulate in their country of citizenship.

It is possible for the individual applying for the H1B visa and their spouse or children applying for the H4 visa to submit both applications at the same time. If a person is granted the H4 visa, they will have the opportunity to pursue education, open a bank account, seek employment and get a driver's license in the United States. They may also be eligible for getting a tax ID. A dependent holding an H4 visa must first apply for Employment Authorization before getting a job in the US.

Undocumented immigrant children’s rights to attend public schools

All children deserve to learn in an environment where they can grow socially, emotionally and academically. All children deserve a quality education, so that they can grow in confidence, competency and quality of life. All children In the United States, despite immigration status, have the right to an education.

However, many undocumented immigrant families don’t know that their children’s immigration status doesn’t matter for school enrollment. In 1982, the Supreme Court issued Plyler v. Doe, a decision that guarantees undocumented immigrant children the right to free public education from kindergarten through grade 12 and up until the age of 21.

Immigration for spouses and children of U.S. citizens

Some Illinois residents may be concerned about how they can bring their close family members to join them in the United States. In the family-based immigration process, there are several types of family relations that take priority, especially spouses, fiancé(e)s, and adopted children. When a U.S. citizen wants to bring their spouse to live as a permanent resident, he or she must file a visa petition for the spouse. In some cases, the spouse is already living in the U.S. When the petition is approved, the spouse can then petition to adjust status to that of a green card holder.

If the spouse is living abroad, he or she can go to the closest consulate to finalize the processing of the immigrant visa. If the U.S. citizen and the spouse were married for less than two years, the permanent residency granted will be considered conditional. The spouses must show their marriage is real and not conducted solely for immigration purposes. They must file a petition to remove the conditional status before the two-year period is over.

Immigration issues and young children

We have covered a variety of topics related to family immigration on this blog, but some people have an especially hard time with respect to immigration matters. For example, those who have young kids may be under an incredible amount of stress, and they may also struggle with helping their children work through these concerning issues. For example, some children are too young to understand what is going on, and communication can be very hard. Not to mention, kids often have difficult issues of their own to work through (such as problems at school) which can make this situation even more troubling.

For starters, it is important to look at this issue from your child's point of view. Try to understand what they are going through and provide them with some reassurance. You may not be able to answer all of their questions, but it is very helpful for you to do your best to give them answers as well as reassurance. Whether you run the risk of deportation or you are worried about your entire family being sent out of the country, we know how tough this situation can be.

Victory for immigrants after Trump plan denied

With the barrage of new immigration laws that are coming into play and have been throughout Trump's administration, many immigrants are feeling the pressure and fear of having their families dismantled. For immigrants in Illinois and elsewhere around the nation, policies in their favor have been far and few between despite the relentless efforts of immigration groups pushing for protection, liberty and tolerance. 

Recently, a court judge denied a plan from the Trump administration that would have made it so migrant families, regardless of the ages of family members, would be detained at the border without any consideration. Experts and immigration activists have expressed disdain over the decision of the Trump administration to detain young children in conditions that can have detrimental effects on their growth, development and safety. 

What is a fiance visa?

Preparing for marriage may be one of the happiest moments of your life. What if, however, your spouse-to-be is not a U.S. citizen and is legally residing in another country? You could wait until you are married and then apply for a spouse visa to bring the new member of your family into the country, or you could have your fiance apply for a K-1 visa that will allow them entrance into the country prior to the marriage ceremony. 

Keep in mind that if you do apply for a fiance visa, you are not required to stay in the country. You may decide to move out of the country once the marriage is finalized. However, you do have the option of using your fiance visa to apply for a green card, or permanent residence in the country. 

US announces new immigration policy for foreign-born children

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) says children of U.S. service members and other government employees born abroad will no longer have automatic citizenship status. The agency says the new policy will go into effect Oct. 29.

The policy applies to children who are born in U.S. military hospitals located outside the country, and to children of government employees and military members who are serving abroad.

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