green card

How Can I Obtain a Green Card as a Special Immigrant?

By Peek & Toland on April 3, 2019

Some immigrants may qualify for a green card as a special immigrant. There are several different categories of special immigrant that might allow you to obtain a green card.

For example, you can apply for a green card as a special immigrant if you are a religious worker who is coming to the U.S. to work for a non-profit religious organization. Special immigrants also include international broadcasters, or members of the media who are coming to work in the U.S. Retired officers or employees of certain international organizations, NATO, and certain family members also may qualify as special immigrants.


How Can I Obtain a Green Card as a Special Immigrant?

Individuals also may qualify as special immigrants if they have Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status as children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by a parent. To be eligible for SJI status, these individuals must have been present in the U.S. prior to age 21, unmarried, and declared a dependent by a juvenile court. Furthermore, the juvenile court must make findings that reunification with one or both parents is not in the child’s best interests and that it would not be in the child’s best interests to be returned to his or her native country.

Finally, nationals of Iraq or Afghanistan may be eligible for green cards as special immigrants if they fall into one of the following categories:

·         Nationals who worked for the U.S. government as an Iraqi or Afghan translator

·         Nationals who worked for the U.S. government in Iraq for at least one year, so long as it was on or after March 23, 2003

·         Afghans who were employed by the International Security Assistance Force (SAF)

No matter the type of immigration issue you are facing, the skilled and knowledgeable immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland are here to assist you. We handle many different types of immigration cases every day and have the kind of strategic experience and skills that are necessary to reach the desired outcome. By calling our office as quickly as possible after your legal issue arises, we will have the best opportunity to successfully resolve your immigration law case.

Posted in Green Cards

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How Can I Remove Conditions From My Green Card?

By Peek & Toland on January 24, 2019

When you received your green card, or legal permanent residence in the U.S., you may have been granted conditional residency, which is valid for a period of two years. This can be due to receiving your green card based on marriage or as an entrepreneur. Whatever the case may be, you must take action to remove the conditions from your green card at least 90 days prior to its expiration. Otherwise, you risk losing your green card, no longer having a lawful immigration status, and being potentially subject to removal from the country.


How Can I Remove Conditions From My Green Card?

To remove the conditions on your green card due to marriage, you must file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions of Residence. You generally are eligible to remove the conditions on your green card if you are still married to the same U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident after two years, if you are now widowed but entered into the marriage in good faith, your marriage was divorced or annulled, but you entered into the marriage in good faith, or if you entered into the marriage in good faith, but you or your child were battered or subjected to extreme hardship by your spouse. You also can include your children on your petition if they received a conditional green card at the same time that you did. However, if your child received a conditional green card more than 90 days after you did, then the child will need to file a separate Form I-751.

With a few exceptions, you generally must apply together with your spouse to remove the conditions from your green card. If you are no longer married to your spouse or you or your child has been abused by your spouse, then you can apply for a waiver of the joint filing requirement.

When you or a loved one is facing an immigration law dilemma, you need legal advice and counsel from experienced Texas immigration attorneys. At Peek & Toland, we are here to help you with your immigration case. We will devote all our efforts to representing your interests, answering your questions, and calming your concerns. Don’t hesitate to contact Peek & Toland and schedule a time to meet with us today. We can help protect your rights and get you the relief that you need.

Posted in Immigration, Visas

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Supreme Court to Decide if Sex with a Minor Voids Green Card

By Peek & Toland on January 17, 2017

The U.S. Supreme Court is to rule on whether unlawful sex with a minor is grounds to void a green card and deport a Mexican immigrant.

The nation’s highest court will review a ruling by the Sixth Circuit court. The court reaffirmed a Board of Appeals decision to deport the immigrant after he was convicted in California of having unlawful sexual intercourse with an underage girl.

The Sixth Circuit Court concluded the terms “sexual intercourse” and “sexual abuse” are synonymous in removal proceedings.

The sex with a minor case concerns Juan Esquivel-Quintana, a lawful U.S. permanent resident. He was convicted of violating a California law that makes it an offense to have sexual relations with someone under 18-years-old if the age difference between the two parties is more than three years.

Supreme court to decide immigration case about sex with a minor

Esquivel-Quintana has consensual sex with a 16-year-old who was his girlfriend when he was 20 and 21. The federal government wanted his removal from the country, claiming the conviction was “sexual abuse of a minor” – an aggravated felony.

If you are a green card holder in the United States, you can be deported for a range of offenses. Aggravated felonies and crimes of moral turpitude are on the list.

The Supreme Court is to decide if a conviction under statutes in seven states that make consensual sexual intercourse between a 21-year-old and someone aged almost 18 a criminal offense, constitutes an “aggravated felony” under immigration law.

The list of aggravated felonies had grown steadily over the last few decades. However, it’s questionable if someone who commits a crime under a California law that is not a crime in many other states should face compulsory removal.

Juan Esquivel-Quintana pointed out the circuit courts appear to be divided over whether state laws that criminalize sex between 21-year-olds and people under 18 constitute sexual abuse of a minor.

While the Second and Third Circuits have ruled having sex with a person under 18 to be “sexual abuse of a minor” which is consistent with the Sixth Circuit’s ruling, the Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits have issued different opinions.

Esquivel-Quintana became a lawful permanent resident after arriving in the United States with his family when he was 12. He was charged with violating the California Penal Code in 2009.

If you are a permanent resident who is facing deportation over a crime, it’s essential to get legal advice from a dedicated Texas immigration lawyer as soon as possible. Call Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

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How to Fill Out Biographical Information on a Green Card Application

By Peek & Toland on October 26, 2016

Making a green card application can be one of the most difficult and time-consuming things you will ever do. The federal authorities don’t make it easy and it often makes sense to hire an immigration lawyer to help you.

One of the forms you will have to fill in is the G-325A, Biographic Information form. The form asks for lengthy background details of names of your family members and former residences and places where you worked in the past.

Making a green card application is complex

These details aren’t always hard to find but it can be a laborious process. U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) doesn’t always make the process easy for those who seek residency in Texas or elsewhere.

When you are making a green card application, you will find there are parts of G-325A that are straightforward and well-explained. Other parts can be confusing.

The Straightforward Parts of the Green Card Application

When you start the process, you may mistakenly think it’s easy. The first few questions ask for basic details that you should have at your fingertips such as your name, your date of birth and where you were born, along with some biographical information about your parents.

There is also a section for information about your relationships. You will be asked for names, dates of birth and marital details of former spouses. This information is particularly important if your application for a green card is based on marriage. The immigration authorities must be satisfied that all previous marriages were legally terminated.

If your spouse has sponsored green cards applicants in the past it may flag up concerns about possible marriage fraud.

The More Difficult Parts of the Green Card Application

The G-325A contains tougher questions as you progress through it. There are questions about where you have lived for the last five years and where you have worked. It’s not always easy to recall every single detail if you have moved around a lot. Make sure to answer questions about your employment history in reverse chronological order. You can get away with the occasional “unknown” answer but too many unknowns could lead your application to be returned.

There are a number of routes to obtaining a green card and residency. Our Austin citizenship attorneys can guide you through every step of the process. Call us today to make an appointment to meet with a lawyer at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Immigration, Visas

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Can I Apply for Naturalization With an Expired Green Card?

By Peek & Toland on September 27, 2016

We are often asked whether an immigrant can apply for naturalization with an expired green card.

Many people in this situation are understandable distraught. Once you have gained a green card it’s tempting to think that’s the end of the story. You may not pay attention to when it will expire.

Often immigrants don’t realize that their green cards have expired until they try to apply for citizenship.

You can still apply for naturalization with an expired green card

If you have a 10-year green card, and it’s set to expire within six months, you should follow these instructions on how to renew it on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

However, many immigrants who are considering naturalization balk at paying a $450 renewal fee for their green card. The fee includes an application fee and a biometrics fee. These costs are expected to rise even higher in the future.

This can present a quandary for those who are considering citizenship but have stalled on the application. USCIS says if you apply for naturalization six months or more before the expiration date on your card, you don’t have to apply for a new one.

If you make your application for naturalization less than six months before your Permanent Resident Card expired or if you wait until it has expired, USCIS says you must renew your card.

An Attorney Can Helo You if You Have an Expired Green Card

This is the official advice and it makes sense to apply for citizenship at least six months before the expiration of your green card. Ideally, it should be sooner. However,  you can successfully file for citizenship if your green card has expired.We would recommend you use an experienced Texas family immigration attorney to help you.

As an immigrant, you don’t lose your permanent resident status if your card expires. You do lose your proof of residency. It is still possible to successfully apply for citizenship with an expired green card.

There are instances in which your green card should be renewed before you apply for naturalization. If you travel out of the United States, you will need a valid green card to get back into the country again.

It makes sense to hire a Texas immigration lawyer to help you deal with USCIS if you have an expired green card. See our resources about citizenship here.

Do not hesitate to contact us if you need help with naturalization or have any concern or fear. Call us today at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Citizenship, Uncategorized

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Court Extends the Liability for Family Immigration Sponsors

By Peek & Toland on August 9, 2016

When you sponsor someone to immigrate to this country you have to make a binding promise that they won’t end up being a burden on the state.

But what happens if the sponsor separates from the immigrant? This thorny issue came before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in June.

The case of Erler v Erler looked at the responsibility of sponsors

In the case of Erler v Erler, Yashar Erler, a wealthy realtor, sponsored his future wife, Ayla Erler. The sponsor must be able to show an income 125 percent above the federal poverty line on Form I-864 of the INA. Erler was worth more than $4.5 million, so the test was not an issue.

However, the Erlers later divorced. Under the terms of a prenuptial agreement, the wife received no support at all. She ended up living off the charity of her son who was earning less than $40,000 a year.

The court considered whether Mr. Erler was violating his support obligations. He argued he was not because the household his former wife was in was making about $40,000 which is above the poverty line.

However, the former wife argued she was alone in a “household of one” and living off hand-outs.

The district court ruled that the adult son constituted part of Ayla Erler’s household. However, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling, holding that Ayla’s household size comprised her alone. The justices said it could be problematic if other people were counted in the household.

The court decided that in the event of a separation or divorce between the sponsor and the immigrant, the sponsor’s duty of support is based on a household size equivalent to the number of sponsored immigrants who reside in the household rather than the total number of people living in it. In other words, the financial resources of Ayla Erler were the only factor to be taken into consideration and her son’s income did not count in the calculations.

The Ninth Circuit made it clear that under federal law neither a premarital agreement nor a divorce judgment may terminate an obligation of support contained in a Form I-864.  When a sponsor signs an affidavit to support a single intending immigrant, the sponsor would reasonably expect that, in the case of separation, that the obligation of support would be based on a household size of one.

However, if a sponsor agrees to support multiple immigrants his or her obligation of support would extend to all of them following a separation.

At Peek and Toland, PLLC, we advise and help those who are sponsoring spouses to come to the United States and the spouses themselves. You can see our green card resources here.

If you need help on issues about permanent residency contact us here, or call us at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Fiance Visas, Immigration

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How Marriage Fraud Allegations Can Destroy Your Green Card Claim

By Peek & Toland on June 8, 2016

Marriage fraud is taken very seriously by the U.S. authorities. Not only will both parties face serious immigration consequences but they may also face criminal charges. An allegation can wreck your green card claim.

Typically, marriage fraud describes a situation in which an individual who is born abroad marries a U.S. citizen or, in some cases, a lawful permanent resident, so as he or she can obtain a green card.

Every year hundreds of marriage frauds are exposed. It’s easy to see why this is an attractive option. While the process of obtaining a green card is never a simple one, the route of obtaining an I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, is comparatively straightforward.

marriage fraud allegations can ruin your green card application

Immigration Welcome Letter and Green Card

As many as one on three weddings between U.S. citizens and immigrants may be fraudulent, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. However, this figure was based on a survey from the 1980s that has since been called into question. It, nevertheless, highlights the suspicion that USCIS harbors toward these applications and the fact that officials are looking out for irregularities. If you are suspected of this kind of fraud, you could face an uphill task in obtaining a green card. Our experienced Texas immigration attorneys can help you and anticipate potential issues with green card applications.

Penalties for Fraudulent Marriage

Immigrants who commit marriage fraud face deportation from the United States. If they are in the country on a visa, it would likely be revoked.

The sham marriage would also mean the immigrant would be unlikely to be eligible to qualify for a green card or a U.S. visa in future.

There are also criminal penalties for engaging in marriage fraud set out in the Immigration and Nationality Act section 275(c). People who are found guilty can face a custodial sentence, a fine or both. It states:

Any individual who knowingly enters into a marriage for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws shall be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or fined not more than $250,000, or both.

A U.S. spouse can face prosecution as well as an immigrant. A spouse who is a permanent resident, as opposed to a citizen, may face deportation. The highest sentences are given to people who engage in conspiracy schemes, arranging fraudulent marriages in a systematic way.

Marriage fraud can be uncovered at any phase in the immigration process. As part of the initial application for a green card, the immigration authorities will demand proof that the marriage is a valid one.

Another juncture when the authorities frequently uncover marriage fraud is two years later when immigrants must apply to remove the conditions on their residency and switch to permanent resident status.

The authorities may also look again at the validity of the union when the immigrant applies for U.S. citizenship at a later stage. Although these are the times when the discovery of a fraudulent wedding is most likely, there is no point in the process when an immigrant who commits marriage fraud is totally safe from discovery and eventual deportation.

The authorities that investigate marriage fraud have very wide investigative powers. They can ask for submission of documents and force the immigrant and his or her spouse to be interrogated during the application process. They can talk to friend and employers and even visit the couple in their home.

The 1975 case of Bark v. INS, defined the idea of marriage as a union which the parties enter with the idea of establishing a life together.

USCIS will look particularly closely at unions that were not even two years old at the time a green card is approved or when an immigrant from abroad enters the United States with an immigrant visa. Read our resources about adjustment of status through marriage here.

Given that allegations of marriage fraud can destroy your application for a green card as well as lead to criminal charges, it’s vital to contact an experienced Texas green card attorneys, if you fall under suspicion. We would be happy to help you and answer any questions you may have relating to green cards, permanent residency and charges of marriage fraud. To learn more about how we can assist you, contact us at (512) 474-4445.


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