When Immigration Matters

US Immigration Basics for South Africans | Green Cards (Part 3)

Posted by Karen Pollak on Fri, Sep 10, 2010 @ 7:34 AM

The Most Common Green cards issued to South Africans

Employment Based Immigrant Visas
In order to receive an immigrant visa through employment, you must have a job offer from a U.S. employer, specific education and/or work experience and in some cases there must be no American willing or able to take that particular job.

In addition, visas are allocated by categories of preference. Some employment based visas include:

  • EB1 - Immigrants with extraordinary ability in business, arts or sciences, Managers and Executives of multi-national businesses and Outstanding professors or researchers
  • EB2 - Immigrants with job offers and an advanced degree or a Bachelor’s degree and 5 years of experience
  • EB3 - Immigrants with job offers and a Bachelor degree or skilled workers 
  • EB5 - Immigrant investors with substantial funds invested in the United States.  The investor must be willing to invest $1 million dollars in a U.S. business or $500,000 in a regional center where there is typically a high unemployment rate or is in a rural area.

UIS ImmigrationIn the case of an EB2 or EB3 Immigrant visa the employer must go through a process called Program Review Electronic Management (PERM). This is a procedure by which the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) certifies there is a lack of qualified U.S. workers in your job category.  The employer must advertise the position available, interview any potentially qualified employees and demonstrate that there are no U.S. workers qualified to fill the position. 

Family Based Immigrant Visas
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues Immigrant visas (Green Cards) based on a quota system. For Family Based Immigrant visas, a system of preference categories is used in addition to the quota system.

There are four basic categories of family preference:

  • Adult sons and daughters of United States citizens
  • Spouses and adult sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents or Green Card holders 
  • Married children of United States citizens 
  • Brothers and sisters of United States citizens

A U.S. citizen can file the petition on behalf of his/her:

  • Husband, wife, or child under the age of 21 
  • An unmarried child over the age of 21 
  • Married child of any age 
  • Brother or sister if the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years old 
  • A parent if the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years 
  • Fiancé (K-1 visa)

The U.S. Citizen's spouse, parent or child (under 21) is considered an Immediate Relative, and as such no preference quota is required. That means a visa is immediately available for that family member.  Marriage to a U.S. citizen does not afford you immediate lawful status - you must file an immigration petition.

A lawful permanent resident can file the petition on behalf of his/her Husband or wife and Unmarried child under 21.  A lawful permanent resident cannot file a green card petition for his or her fiancée.

The application process for Family Based Immigration includes submitting a petition to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service or USCIS. The application waiting period will fluctuate, but usually takes several months to several years depending on the family relationship.  A United States citizen must be at least 21 years of age in order to sponsor a relative for immigration.

This list of visas is by no means exhaustive.  There are several other visas available for South Africans which will largely depend on your education and experience.  Your best bet for getting any professional help with your immigration situation is to hire an experienced immigration lawyer. Ask friends for referrals or go to the website of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). 

K-1 Fiancé Visa | Immigration | Don't Try to Scam the System

Posted by Karen Pollak on Tue, Aug 03, 2010 @ 5:51 PM

As immigration lawyers, we get a lot of questions about the requirements for a K-1 fiance visa.  Last year 227,000 foreign nationals obtained green cards through marriage -- more than any other category of applicant, according to the USCIS. 

K-1 fiance visaBecause the K-1 visa leads to immediate immigration, and eligibility for employment, in the United States, it is considered to be a high fraud visa category.  For these reasons, many couples with a foreign spouse say marriage is not the easy or automatic path to legal U.S. residency.  And, efforts are intensifying from the USCIS to uncover sham marriages through more thorough interviews and investigations.

A bona fide relationship is key in these investigations.  Once your visa petiton has been filed and your interview has been scheduled, a Consular officer reviews the documents that both the American petitioner and the foreign fiancé(e) have submitted. The Consular officer looks for evidence to determine that a bona fide relationship exists. "We might ask about the number of bedrooms in their house, their dog's name or whether they even have a dog, what color toothbrush their spouse uses," said USCIS spokeswoman Chris Rhatigan of the agency's effort to uncover scams. "We'll also go to the address they give us to see that they actually live there."

Once the interview is finished the Consular officer can issue the visa, if he is convinced of a bona fide relationship that meets all legal requirements. The officer may also request that further evidence be submitted before making a decision. If the Consular officer does not think the relationship is bona fide or finds some legal impediment to issuing the visa, the petition will be returned to USCIS and recommended for revocation and no visa will be issued.

While the number of sham marriages is relatively small in comparison to the residency petitions filed by foreign spouses with the USCIS, the mere existence of fraud has adversely impacted the process for legitimate couples.  Interviews are under more scrutiny and wait times have increased.

US Citizen | How Do I Bring My Fiance to the United States?

Posted by Michael Pollak on Fri, Jan 22, 2010 @ 7:00 PM

This is the first video in a series created to answer frequently asked immigration questions. Thanks for your comments, questions, and suggestions regarding immigration topics.

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