Immigration law can be tricky to navigate. Here are some frequently asked questions that might help you figure out the kind of help you need.
Q: I was charged with a crime and I’m not a U.S. Citizen. How will a conviction affect my status in this country?
A: It depends on the crime. If you are convicted of what is called an aggravated felony or a crime of moral turpitude it may have an effect on your ability to apply for immigration benefits such as getting a green card if you don’t have one yet, or applying to become a United States Citizen. It is also possible that it could put you at risk for both being removed from the United States (deported) and being inadmissible if you leave the country and try to come back in. It’s important that you contact an immigration attorney who is familiar with the state where you are being charged with the crime. In Maryland, you should contact a Maryland licensed attorney who can answer questions specific to Maryland Criminal Law.
Q: I met a girl online and we’d like to get married. How can I sponsor her to come here as my fiancé?
A: First, there is a requirement that you’ve actually met your intended in the flesh, unless you can prove that it is not culturally accepted to do so (i.e. arranged marriage, which is common in a lot of cultures). This requirement is to prevent ‘mail order brides’ or people who get married just for immigration purposes, which is against the law. If you can demonstrate that you have met your girlfriend in person and then decide to get married, you can fill out what is called an I-129 form and apply for a K-1 visa, which is what the fiancé visa is called. While it seems pretty simple, just filling out forms, a lot can go wrong so your best bet is to contact an immigration attorney who can guide you through the process.
Q: I would like to apply for asylum. What do I do?
A: There are two ways to apply for asylum, either affirmatively before the government tries to have you removed from the country, or defensively, after there are proceedings in immigration court. If there are no proceedings against you in immigration court, you must file for asylum within one year of your arrival in the U.S. In order to apply for asylum, you must prove that you have been persecuted or fear you will be persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group or political opinion. If you don’t qualify for asylum, there may be other avenues for you to stay in the United States, including temporary protected status.
Q: I am married to a U.S. citizen. He is very abusive towards me and tells me that if I leave him he will tell immigration I married him just for papers. He refuses to go with me to our interview. I don’t know what to do.
A: You do not have to stay with an abuser, regardless of your immigration status in the United States. There are options for you to maintain your status while leaving your abuser. There are visa categories specifically for women and children who are being abused and treated with extreme cruelty by their citizen or green card holding spouse or parent. The first thing to do is go someplace where you and/or your children are safe. Then contact an immigration lawyer who can help you move forward with filing a waiver for joint interview, or seeking a visa that will help you stay in the United States.
Q: I’m starting a business that will need a lot of temporary workers for the summer. Can I hire them from overseas? What do I have to do?
A: The short answer is yes, you can hire foreign workers on a temporary basis, whether it’s for a short term project (under 3 years) or for seasonal work such as a resort. This type of visa is called an H-2B visa and it does not lead to a green card, unlike some other types of non-immigrant visas. In order to hire foreign workers on a temporary basis you have to conduct recruiting efforts to find qualified U.S. workers. If there are not enough qualified U.S. workers, you have to apply for a Temporary Labor Certification with the Department of Labor showing that you have conducted a thorough search for qualified U.S. workers including placing ads in newspapers and that not enough workers who were qualified applied for the position. After that, you have to file a petition with USCIS on behalf of the foreign workers you intend to hire. The government has imposed a cap of 66,000 visas per fiscal year in this category. In order to secure an H-2B visa for your business you must conduct file with USCIS before the cap is reached. Also, the H-2B visa stays with your company. So, if you get a visa for someone, they can’t get it and then use it to work for another company.