Immigration: Frequently Asked Questions

Below, we have provided some frequently asked questions and definitions of immigration terms that can help you understand the process and other materials you have read. If you have specific questions related to a fact-specific case, you should contact an immigration attorney for a consultation.

What Immigration Opportunities Are Available For People?

The immigration options available to a given person depend on what type of connections that person has to the United States. For instance, if you’re a foreign-born person and you have family in the United States, then they may be able to petition for you for some kind of status. If you’re an immediate relative, you may be able to obtain entry fairly quickly, whereas if you’re a brother or sister of a United States citizen you may have to wait many years – right now the wait is well over a decade – to obtain any kind of permission to enter based on that relationship.

There are other kinds of temporary visas for people who are entering for business or as tourists, and for many of these it’s necessary to convince the U.S. government that you do not plan to stay permanently once you’re here. It really just depends on the individual, which county they’re from, and what kind of connections they already have in the United States.

What Does “Legal Permanent Resident” Mean?

A legal permanent resident is someone who has either been granted adjustment of status to a legal permanent resident from within the United States, or someone whose family member has filed a petition for them abroad and they are entering the country as a legal permanent resident.

However, there are limitations on that and in many cases it doesn’t really end up being a “permanent” status. This is because, unlike U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents are still subject to being deported.  Despite the word “permanent,” people are often deported from the United States because they have violated the terms of their legal permanent resident status by doing things like committing certain crimes or for being outside of the United States for extended periods of time and thereby “abandoning” their residency. So while it can be a permanent status, it is not always. Citizenship, on the other hand, except in certain rare cases involving denaturalization, is permanent.

In most cases, you need to expect to be patient. No matter what type of benefit or relief you’re applying for it is not a quick process. You need to expect to be cognizant of deadlines and documentary requirements, and you need to know all your options and potential obstacles before moving forward with a case.  The adage “prepare for the worst, hope for the best” is a good rule to live by in immigration law.

What Is A “Green Card”?

The term “green card” is or “green card holder” is interchangeable with legal permanent resident. It just basically means that you are in a status that will allow you to remain in the United States for the rest of your life if you choose.

What Is E-Verify?

The E-Verify is a program that employers can use to verify the legal immigration status of their employees. So, if an employer uses E-Verify and discovers that you are working for them but are not legally authorized to work, it could lead to termination of your position and it could lead to problems in the future with immigration.

Will I Be Deported If My Visa Expires?

Maybe. Not necessarily, and at this point, if you don’t have any sort of criminal record or any other sort of immigration violation, probably not. That’s partly a result of Obama’s executive action and prosecutorial discretion programs. Just overstaying a visa does not place you on the list of enforcement priorities. But, the second you commit a crime or that you try to leave the country and return, you’ll be denied entry or placed into immigration proceedings.  Despite the relatively lower probability, there is still always a chance that you’ll be picked up by ICE and placed into proceedings if you are here illegally.  While ICE agents and prosecutors are encouraged to exercise the discretion outlined in the executive action memoranda, it’s still just that – discretion.  It’s their job to exercise it and it’s not a guarantee that you won’t have issues if you’re out of status.