Texas Immigration Law Attorney
Every day, people come to Texas with the hope of making a new life for themselves in the United States. Unfortunately, many times, immigrants lose their opportunity for US citizenship simply because they lack proper legal representation. Immigration, citizenship, and nationality are increasingly complex and dynamic areas of law, and one small misstep could be the difference between deportation and citizenship.
At Hernandez Law Group, P.C., our attorneys are passionate about helping people make the United States their home. Whether you’re seeking a visa, a green card, citizenship, or to avoid deportation, we’re here to guide you through these complex legal processes.
Obtaining and Renewing Visas
A visa allows an immigrant or citizen of another country to stay in the United States for a specific period of time. Visas fall into two categories:
Non-immigrant visas are intended for those who only intend to stay in the US for a specific reason and then return home. Examples of non-immigrant visa types that may be issued include:
- Tourist visas;
- Business visitor visas;
- Work visas;
- Student visas;
- Victim of crime or trafficking visas; and
- Family of Lawful Permanent Resident visas.
Immigrant visas allow an immigrant to stay in the United States for a longer period of time. These visas are much harder to obtain than non-immigrant visas since they usually require sponsorship from a US citizen such as an immediate family member, a fiance, or an employer.
There are a couple exceptions to the sponsorship rule, however. If a person is seeking political asylum or refugee status, they do not require sponsorship in order to apply for an immigrant visa. The other exception is for the winners of the Diversity Visa Lottery. This lottery is designed to bring in immigrants from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the US.
Obtaining and renewing both immigrant and non-immigrant visas require filing the right paperwork in a timely manner. It’s best to have one of our immigration attorneys help you through the process so that it will be filed properly.
Obtaining a Green Card
A green card holder is more formally known as a legal permanent resident. Unlike visas, green cards do not expire – unless the green card holder is found guilty of committing a felony or otherwise violating the terms of their US residency agreement. Being a legal permanent resident is also not the same thing as being a citizen. A green card holder has all of the same rights that citizens have, except for:
- The right to vote;
- The right to serve on juries; and
- The right to receive FAFSA money for college, etc.
In most cases, you must obtain an immigrant visa before you are able to register as a legal permanent resident. However, certain people be able to obtain a visa and a green card concurrently. Such people include:
- Immediate relatives of United States citizens;
- Immigrants and families of immigrants who are coming for work-related reasons;
- Battered spouses/children of US citizens;
- Abused, neglected, or abandoned juveniles; and
- Certain members of the armed forces.
Whether you have an immigrant visa, a nonimmigrant visa, or don’t have have a visa at all, our immigration attorneys can help you determine if you may be eligible for a green card. We will then help you go through the process of filing for and obtaining a green card.
A person who lives in the United States may petition for a family member to receive a green card. Such petitions may be made for
- the spouses of US citizens or green card holders;
- unmarried children of US citizens or green card holders (no matter their age);
- married children of US citizens (no matter their age);
- the parents of US citizens; or
- the siblings of US citizens.
Certain factors may bar a relative from receiving their green card, such as if they previously resided in the United States illegally.
There is a priority order for granting green cards to relatives. In other words, a person’s status as a citizen and their relationship to the emigrating person may affect how quickly the immigrant may be granted a green card. The order of preference is as follows:
- First preference goes to unmarried sons and daughters (21 and older) of US citizens.
- Second preference (A) goes to the spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of green card holders.
- Second preference (B) goes to unmarried sons and daughters (21 and older) of green card holders.
- Third preference goes to married sons and daughters of US citizens.
- Fourth preference goes to the brothers and sisters of US citizens (if the citizen is 21 or older).
In addition to the order of preference, the country that your family member is emigrating from has an effect on how quickly they may be granted a green card. The United States only grants a certain number of visas to members of any given country each year. Since most immigrants to the US are from China, India, Mexico, or the Philippines, these visa applications typically take the most time to process.
Applying for US Citizenship
The qualifications for obtaining citizenship (also known as naturalization) depend on a number of factors, such as marital status, service in the military, and government employment. These factors all determine how many years you must have been a permanent resident (also known as a green card holder) of the United States before applying for citizenship.
You may apply for citizenship in the United States if you have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years and
- you were in the US armed forces for less than a year or were discharged more than 6 months ago;
- you served on a vessel owned by US citizens, a US corporation, or the United States;
- you are an employee of the US Government;
- you are a religious leader; or
- your job promotes trade with, the best interests of, or communication with the United States.
You may apply for US citizenship after being a permanent resident for any length of time if
- you are the spouse of a US citizen who fits the qualifications above, and you will be joining them while they serve abroad for at least 1 year;
- you are in the US military or were within the last 6 months and you have served for at least 1 year; or
- you were married to a US citizen who died while serving in the US Armed Forces.
Before applying for citizenship, you are only required to be a permanent resident of the United States for 3 years if you have been married to and living with a US citizen for the last 3 years. If you served in certain major wars, you are not required to be a permanent resident when applying for citizenship.
In the case of children under 18, the laws are much more complicated. It’s always best to consult with an immigration attorney if you wish to naturalize a child.
What Tests are Required for Naturalization?
Every applicant for naturalization must pass a civics test, which consists of 90 written questions and 10 verbal questions. The questions all regard the government, history, and geography of the United States.
Most applicants will also be required to pass an English language test. This means that applicants need to be fluent in English in order to apply for citizenship. However, there are certain people who may be exempt from taking the English language test. You may qualify for this exemption if you are a lawful permanent resident and
- you are 50 years of age or older, and you have possessed a green card and lived in the US for at least 20 years;
- you are 55 years of age or older, and you have possessed a green card and lived in the US for at least 15 years, or
- you are 65 years of age or older, and you have possessed a green card and lived in the US for at least 20 years. (This may also qualify you to be able to take a shorter civics test.)
Experienced Immigration Attorneys in Dallas, Amarillo, and Abilene
At Hernandez Law Group, P.C., we have experience representing private individuals, families, businesses, and organizations in visa petitions to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. We are qualified to represent all immigration clients in visa applications throughout the United States and in U.S. consular proceedings throughout the world. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our compassionate and experienced attorneys.