Virginia Immigration Lawyer

Trying to navigate the immigration system in Virginia is certainly no easy task. Not only are the federal laws and regulations complex, but they are also subject to frequent changes in interpretation by the Immigration Courts, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), and the Circuit Courts. Additionally, immigration regulations are administered by multiple governmental agencies, so it can be difficult to determine where to go when you need information or have a question.

If you are facing an immigration issue, a Virginia immigration lawyer could help you better understand your situation and how to achieve your goals. A lawyer in Virginia who thoroughly understands how the system works can guide you through all the necessary stages in the immigration process and help you reach a desirable and effective resolution.

In addition, if you encounter a delay or difficulty, an experienced immigration attorney could investigate to determine the appropriate options for resolving the issue as efficiently as possible. Whether you are just beginning to seek information or have been working on an immigration matter for some time, call to learn more about how a dedicated immigration lawyer could assist in your particular situation.

The Advantages of Consulting an Attorney Now

The federal government does not require those addressing immigration matters to be formally represented by an attorney, but they allow and often expect immigrants to consult with legal counsel and make use of a legal advocate in many situations. For a variety of reasons, it is usually wise to begin working with an experienced immigration attorney in Virginia as soon as possible in the process.

The stakes are often quite high in immigration cases, and the pressure to succeed, combined with the complexity of immigration laws, can make immigration issues extremely stressful. But working with a knowledgeable lawyer could allay concerns and provide reassurance right from the start.

Because our attorneys have a wide range of experience with the full spectrum of immigration issues, we could explain the options available in different situations, as well as advise as to possible repercussions. We could also help develop a strong legal strategy tailored to the specific circumstances of each individual.

A skilled Virginia immigration lawyer could assist with petitions and applications to confirm that the right information is being provided and supported with the right documentation. Applications that are incomplete or are not executed properly can cause delays or even prevent approval, so it is wise to take steps up front to help provide the best chance of success.

An Overview of Immigration Law

Immigration law refers to the broad area of U.S. statutes, federal regulations, executive orders, and other legal documents and court decisions that establish and define the policies and procedures that enable foreign nationals to lawfully live and work in the United States. Many of the application of these laws and regulations can and do change often, and the way the laws are enforced also frequently change based on policy directives.

For many years, immigration matters were handled by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, also known as INS. However, after the Department of Homeland Security was created in 2002, the functions of INS were split among three new agencies.

The first agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), administers immigration and naturalization procedures. In conjunction with the U.S. State Department, USCIS oversees many of the processes involved in obtaining immigrant visas, lawful permanent resident status (Green Card) and citizenship.

The second agency, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enforces immigration laws and conducts investigations into suspected criminal activity of foreign nationals in the U.S. Finally, the third agency, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) regulates and enforces international trade, customs, and immigration regulations.Virginia immigration lawyers often assist with matters involving all three of these agencies and the U.S. Department State.

Visas Allow Entry and Residence in the U.S.

The U.S. government issues both immigrant and nonimmigrant visas that permit foreign nationals to enter the United States. In addition, residents of certain countries may travel to the U.S. for stays of less than three months without the need for a visa if they comply with the requirements of the Visa Waiver Program.

Immigrant visas allow the holder to live and work permanently in the U.S., while nonimmigrant visas allow employment only under certain categories. Nonimmigrant visa holders may only remain in the U.S. for a limited period of time. The number of immigrant visas granted each year is limited by law, so in many cases, even well-qualified applicants must wait a substantial amount of time to obtain an immigrant visa. Applicants often choose to work with an attorney to avoid mistakes that can cause additional delays.

Sometimes those seeking a permanent immigrant visa may obtain a temporary visa first. For example, an “F” nonimmigrant visa allows foreign nationals to stay in the U.S. to study at a university or other academic program and an “M” nonimmigrant visa enables a foreign national to remain in the U.S. while enrolled in a vocational or other nonacademic training program. Often F and M visa holders are offered employment after completing their study or training and may pursue lawful permanent status through an employer.

Another example is the “K-1” nonimmigrant visa, which permits people to enter the U.S. if they are engaged to a U.S. citizen. This type of visa requires the holder to marry a citizen within 90 days of entry. Once the marriage takes place, the new spouse will be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa as the immediate relative of a U.S. citizen.

Types of Immigrant Visas

Permanent or immigrant visas give the holder status as a lawful permanent resident, or LPR. Because the identification cards issued to those with LPR status in the U.S. have traditionally been green, having LPR status is often referred to as having a “Green Card.”

While immigrant visas may be granted through different means, most visas are granted to those with family ties in the U.S. or qualified business connections providing employment to the applicant. However, the government also grants visas to support public policy objectives. So foreign nationals from countries with proportionately low immigration may obtain visas through the diversity visa lottery. Other immigrants may be granted asylum on the basis of persecution abroad and eventually gain eligibility to apply for Green Card after one year as an asylee.

Most family-based and employment-based visas are limited in number, classified by qualifications, and ranked by preference. However, visas for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens are not limited in number.

Family-Based Immigrant Visas

Certain family members of citizens and LPRs may be eligible to receive an immigrant visa based on that relationship. The relative initiates the process by filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative with USCIS.

It is easiest for immediate family members of U.S. citizens to obtain immigrant visas because the number of visas issued in this category are not limited. Immediate family members include spouses, unmarried minor children (including orphans adopted abroad), and parents of adult U.S. citizens.

Other relatives, who are not an immediate relative of U.S. citizens, may be able to obtain a family-based immigrant visa, these include (in order of preference):

• Unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens and their minor children
• Spouses and unmarried children of LPRs
• Married children of U.S. citizens and their spouses and minor children
• Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens (and their spouses and families)

The number of visas granted in each of these categories is limited by law. Some visa candidates wait a substantial length of time for their application to be processed because of this limitation and the limit on the number of people who may come from countries with high rates of immigration.

The long routine delays can make it difficult for an applicant to realize when a delay is caused by a problem that should be addressed. A Virginia immigration lawyer may be able to investigate to determine whether a delay is due to missing or lost information, which can then be supplied to put the case back on track.

Employment-Based Immigrant Visas

Immigrant visas are also frequently granted on the basis of employment. In most cases, an employer must first obtain certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and provide a job offer for an applicant to qualify for an employment-based visa. Once the DOL issues the labor certification, the employer may file Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker with USCIS.

Certain individuals who are highly regarded in their profession may be able to file their own immigrant petition and do not need an employment offer if they are coming to the U.S. to continue working in the same field. These individuals must be able to document “extraordinary ability” in the arts, sciences, business, athletics, or education.

Employment-based immigrant visas are ranked in order of preference. Generally, the more education, training, or renown an applicant has amassed, the higher the category for which the intending immigrant may qualify.

An experienced immigration lawyer in Virginia could assist in determining the appropriate category for which to apply based on an applicant’s qualifications. While it is usually preferable to qualify in a higher category, if an applicant tries to gain entry without the proper qualifications, the application is likely to be denied. Moreover, if it is determined that an applicant attempted to gain entry by fraudulently misrepresenting qualifications, that applicant can be permanently barred from obtaining a visa.

When Immigration Status Becomes Endangered

Through immigration policies, the U.S. government retains the right to remove foreign nationals even if they have been granted lawful permanent resident status. The government usually refers to the process as removal rather than deportation.

Once a foreign national becomes naturalized as a citizen, then deportation is only a possibility under very rare circumstances. But until that time, there are a number of ways that someone’s immigration status may be compromised.

For instance, when individuals violate the terms of their visas, they risk deportation. A foreign national may also be deported for engaging in certain criminal conduct or taking actions that can be viewed as threatening to public safety. Assistance from an experienced immigration attorney often proves invaluable in these situations.

The process of deportation frequently differs depending on the situation. Some people may be removed under the expedited removal process, which does not allow for a hearing before a judge. Application of this expedited process has been limited, but it can be expanded future.

The more formal removal process usually provides an opportunity to raise defenses in a formal hearing in the Department of Justice Immigration Court. Before the hearing, it is usually necessary to determine the defensive strategy to be used and to submit appropriate relief applications with supporting documentation. Failure to abide by the proper procedures can jeopardize the right to a hearing on the merits of relief.

If a foreign national plans to seek asylum on the basis of persecution, it may be advisable to use the affirmative asylum processing approach rather than to wait until a violation is found and it becomes necessary to use asylum as a defense. An affirmative asylum case is handled through an interview process while a defensive asylum case is argued in a formal process similar to a trial in court.

In some situations, a foreign national may be detained in an Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE) facility prior to the trial or removal. If the hearing fails to lead to a satisfactory outcome, it may be possible to file an appeal before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Also, in many instances, individuals who are removed may have the chance to apply for readmission by filing Form I-212.

While an applicant may face removal or have a visa application denied due to certain types of conduct, sometimes prior offenses such as immigration violations and certain criminal offenses may be overlooked. An immigration attorney with experience handling removal situations could provide more information about the consequences a foreign national may face in removal.

Citizenship

Foreign nationals who have been lawful permanent residents for the required period may be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process. U.S. citizenship grants the right to vote in federal elections and travel with a U.S. passport. In addition, citizenship increases eligibility employment opportunities for positions such as federal jobs and enables sponsorship of family members for immigration.

In addition to status and residency requirements, an applicant seeking citizenship must be at least 18 years old, and be able to demonstrate an ability to read, write, and speak the English language (although certain exceptions do exist for disabilities). The applicant must also display a level of familiarity with U.S. civics and history. Moreover, prospective U.S. citizens are also expected to be of “good moral character” and agree with the principles of the U.S. Constitution.

The process of naturalization involves filing an application (Form N-400) and sending supporting documentation and fees. USCIS will schedule an interview, during which the applicant will be tested on U.S. civics, history, and the English language, and answer questions about information about the applicant’s background and other matters. Applicants often work with an attorney to prepare for this interview.

Immigration Services We Provide

In the area of immigration law, there is really no such thing as a routine case. Every individual coming into contact with immigration law faces unique challenges and brings distinctive qualifications to the table. So, it is important to approach each situation with a fresh perspective.

We pride ourselves on attention to detail and crafting creative solutions. Because our Virginia immigration attorneys have such a range of experience, we can confidently offer to help with a wide array of immigration services. These include:

  • Assisting with the completion of petitions, applications, and other forms
  • Analyzing qualifications and advising clients regarding their options
  • Obtaining and compiling the required documentation
  • Filing applications and other forms with the appropriate government agency
  • Researching the cause of delays and denials
  • Preparation for interviews
  • Providing representation in hearings or other proceedings
  • Following through with any necessary appeals

We offer a full scope of services in the area of immigration law. We help identify the options available given individual goals and circumstances. We help fulfill the necessary criteria to apply for a visa or Green Card. We also help petition for family members to join others in the U.S.

Our firm of accomplished Virginia immigration attorneys assist with adjusting immigration status or renewing visas when applicable, as well as assist those who run into problems with their immigration status at any point during the process.

In addition, we assist in situations where undocumented individuals in the United States have suffered abuse at the hands of a U.S. citizen. In many cases, it is possible to file for lawful permanent resident status via the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Help From a Virginia Immigration Attorney

Dealing with immigration issues can be overwhelming and even frightening, but a Virginia immigration lawyer could help. We understand the sensitive nature of immigration issues. We put each individual’s objectives at the forefront and work tirelessly to advocate for them. You do not have to face your issues alone. Call one of our dedicated immigration attorneys now to get started.

The United States can offer wonderful opportunities, but it may be difficult to put yourself in a position to take advantage of those opportunities. We want you to succeed. Let us explain how together, we can work toward a brighter future.