Top Ten Immigration Tips
Coming to the USA is exciting -- new people, new places, new opportunities, new customs . . . and new laws! Unfortunately, all this novelty can seem overwhelming, especially when it comes to immigration law. To ensure that you are afforded all of the rights of residency or citizenship in USA, follow these immigration tips.
1. Plan for delays in application and renewal processes. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is constantly behind schedule. Some applications can take up to three years to process. If you are already in the USA and you have applied for renewal of your immigration status, expect to wait for some time. Most green cards are good for ten years, so apply for your renewal well in advance. If your green card or immigration visa has expired, the immigration authorities can arrest you and even deport you - even if you have applied for renewal and are just awaiting your renewed green card or immigration visa. Therefore, plan far in advance by submitting your application or renewal forms with plenty of time before the expiration date.
2. Consider establishing citizenship in the USA. If you already have a green card, and are considering staying in the USA, file for U.S. citizenship as soon as the laws allow you. Most people can apply for citizenship five years after their green card is granted, or three years or less if they have a citizen-spouse or obtained their green card through marriage. Citizenship protects you against certain grounds for deportation, which you would be subject to with just a green card. Having citizenship also makes your close relatives more likely to secure a legal status in the USA. For more information, see the USCIS website.
3. Avoid summary removal. Summary removal refers to the power that border officials have to turn you away from entering the USA. You can avoid this by preparing yourself to convince border officials that you deserve an immigration visa. They have the power to turn you away if they think you are a security risk or if they believe you have lied in order to get your immigration visa. If you are only coming to the USA as a tourist, be sure not to pack anything that would imply you intend to stay, such as a wedding dress or job resume.
4. Notify USCIS of address changes. All immigrants who stay longer than thirty days must notify USCIS of any address changes. This notification must be given within ten days of your change of address. A separate notification must be given for each member of your family, including children. You can print, fill out, and mail Form AR-11, or go through USCIS's online change of address service. If you have any applications pending, do not forget to send written notice of your new address to each and every USCIS office that is handling your application. Otherwise, the office may not be notified of your address, and this could slow your application process.
5. File multiple immigration visa petitions. If you are applying for a green card or immigration visa through the petition of a family member, check if more than one of your family members is eligible to petition for you. For example, if you have a parent and a sister who are both eligible to petition for you, apply via both of them and have both of them petition for you. This will give you more options if one of the applications gets denied, goes too long, or if one of your family members dies.
6. Be on time to every appointment with USCIS. Do not ever arrive late for any scheduled appointments with a U.S. consulate or embassy, immigration court, or the USCIS. Being late can result in your deportation or in delays to your processing or proceedings. Since status applications are so time sensitive, you want to avoid delays at all costs. Timeliness is one of the most important immigration tips.
7. Do not violate any immigration visa provisions or laws. This is probably the most important of any immigration tips, because the consequences here can be so catastrophic. Learn all of the requirements of your immigration visa, work permit, or green card and follow all laws and provisions with extreme care. The smallest violation can cause for your deportation, your immigration visa to be cancelled, or even permanently ban you from the USA. For more information on the laws of various immigration visas and green cards, see U.S. Immigration Basics or the USCIS website.
8. Keep copies and stay current on the status of your application. The USCIS is notorious for habitually losing paperwork. Always send your applications and paperwork to the USCIS via certified mail, with a return receipt. Keep a copy. These copies will prove that you filed the necessary paperwork. It may also become necessary to give these copies to the USCIS in the event that the lose the original documents you sent them.
9. Conduct research from reliable sources. There are common myths, rumors, and beliefs about immigration that can be misleading or flat-out wrong, so be careful about who you get your advice from. Your legal situation is unique and may be completely different from your friends' or family members'. Even USCIS employees sometimes give out wrong and misleading immigration tips and information. Even if you make a mistake based on something an USCIS employee told you, it is you, not them who is held responsible and will pay the consequences. Do your own research. The information available on the USCIS website is all accurate and reliable. When necessary, consult an immigration lawyer.
10. Get help from legislators. If you are having difficulties, contact your U.S. congressperson. They are usually happy to make inquiries for you and can even encourage the appropriate agency to take action or get your application process moving for you.
These immigration tips are all essential to your success in pursuing U.S. citizenship. Each immigration case is different and unique. For more immigration tips, review the USCIS website or consult an immigration lawyer.