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October 2013

Vol. 2, Issue 5
Green Card & Immigration Updates


Five Easy Ways to Lose Your Green Card

It takes time, patience, money and work to get a green card.  After all that, you can lose it. You might not even know you have a problem until you leave the U.S. on a trip, then try to re-enter and aren't allowed back into the country.  Here are some common ways to lose your green card:


1. Leave the U.S. for a long time.  People often treat their green cards like permanent tourist visas; that's not what they are. Immigration can decide you abandoned your U.S. residence if you stay outside the U.S. more than a year, or if you spend more time abroad than in the U.S.  If you have a good reason, such as taking care of a sick relative, you might be able to keep your green card.

2. Commit a crime. Not every crime will cause you to lose your green card.  But if you commit an "aggravated felony" or a drug offense you may be deported and not be able to re-enter the U.S. - ever. 

3. Vote.  Only U.S. citizens can vote, so registering to vote or voting in a federal election is a crime.  You can be deported and denied naturalization if you vote before you're a citizen, or falsely claim you're a U.S. citizen on another form.

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4. Enter into a sham marriage. If you got your green card through a fake marriage, you can be deported.  The government tries to sniff out fraudulent marriages before granting a green card, but if they later discover there was fraud, you've got problems. 


5. Wait too long to become a citizen.  If you stay out of trouble, you can renew your green card many times.  Green card holders don't apply for citizenship because of the fees, or they're worried about the civics or English tests, or that they'll lose their native citizenship.  But taking such a long time means there's more time to run into a problem and risk losing your green card. 


Bottom line: if you've been in the U.S. long enough to naturalize (usually 3 or 5 years) and meet all the requirements, do it! Contact us to review your situation before you apply; sometimes people apply for naturalization, only to discover there's a problem and they end up without citizenship or a green card.  

Getting a Tourist Visa to the U.S.
It can be simple, impossible or something in-between to enter the U.S. as a temporary visitor.  Visitors from most countries need a B-2 visa to be allowed onto a plane or boat to the U.S. and all are subject to questioning at the border, where they can be refused entry. You can check the wait times for visitor visa appointments at your embassy or consulate here.

The Visa Waiver Program allows most citizens of 37 "low-risk" countries who intend to leave the U.S. within  90 days to enter without applying for a visa.  The countries are mostly European, along with South Korea, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.


By law, all persons seeking entry to the U.S. are presumed to be immigrants and the burden of proof is on the visitor to show that s/he does not intend to remain in the U.S. permanently.  This requirement is the reason most visas are denied without much consideration at all, especially in countries with high rates of visa fraud or overstays.  Many applicants have very little time - often a minute or less at the embassy window - to prove their case.  Nonetheless, documenting your case as well as possible can help.


What if you're denied a visitor visa?  You may be able to get the embassy to reconsider the decision; there is no right to appeal.  Many applicants have very strong ties to their country but are still refused visas.  You can pay another fee, complete another application and apply again, but it's important to know all you can about the first refusal before doing so.

Immigration Reform, Government Shutdown, Iraqi Translators 

Immigration Reform. There may be better news one of these days, but there's none yet.  The U.S. Senate passed an immigration reform bill in June after careful bipartisan consideration.  President Obama is eager to sign immigration reform into law, but the House of Representatives is not moving it forward. Many Republicans don't want to see the laws changed. Nonetheless, many groups - business, faith, immigrants - are working hard to pass immigration reform this year.  Please email or call your Representative  to voice your support.  Your message can be as simple as "Please support immigration reform now!"


Government Shutdown. Visa and passport operations continue during the shutdown.  Immigration courts are hearing cases of people in detention (jail).  If you have a hearing or application pending, try to find out the status before going to the office or court.  The Department of Labor is not processing Labor Condition and other employment-related applications. Many government websites are not working.  


Special Visa Program for Iraqi Translators Extended. A popular special immigrant visa program for Iraqi translators,started in 2008, was recently extended until the end of the year. Under the law, the Department of State can issue up to 25,000 special immigrant visas for Iraqi translators/interpreters who worked for the U.S. Armed Forces or Embassy. To date about 5,000 have been issued and there is a large backlog of applications. There are similar programs for Afghani translators, and for Iraqi and Afghanis who worked for or on behalf of the U.S. government.


As Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) stated, "If we want foreign nationals to help us in the future, and risk their lives to help our troops, they need to see that we have kept our commitments to our allies in Iraq and Afghanistan."


Green Card Lottery
Green Card Lottery. Every year the U.S. Government holds a lottery to allow 50,000 green cards for applicants from countries that have low levels of U.S. immigration, such as Ethiopia, Finland, Northern Ireland and Taiwan. Citizens of high-immigration countries like Mexico, Philippines, China and India are not eligible. You must also have a high school education or its equivalent, or two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years' training or experience. You can register online, for free, from Oct. 1 - Nov. 2 through the State Department's site - you DON'T need to pay a lawyer or anyone else to help you with this step.  As usual, don't fall for scams such as websites that look like official government sites and charge you a fee.  If you're chosen in the lottery, you have to complete an application to show you meet the requirements; consider an immigration lawyer for that step.

We're rapidly approaching the holiday season - a time when you're likely to miss your far-away family members more than ever. We suggest you apply for citizenship, start that visa application, or do whatever you can to make this the last year you're apart.  Wherever you are, let us know if we can help.

Ida Keir, Esq.

Ida Keir Law | 704-778-2891 | |
1821 Graybark Ave.
Charlotte, NC 28205

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