Individuals & Families
Family Petitions and Fiancé(e)s
United States citizens and lawful permanent residents may petition for lawful permanent residency (a “green card”) for close family members. United States citizens may also petition for a “green card” for a fiancé(e). Requirements and wait times vary depending on the relationship and the beneficiary’s country of origin.
- Spouses, parents, and unmarried children under the age of 21 of U.S. citizens are considered “immediate relatives.” There are no backlogs for this category of petitioners because there is an unlimited number of immigrant visas available to “immediate relatives.”
- Married children of citizens, unmarried over-21 children of citizens, spouses and unmarried children of lawful permanent residents, and siblings of citizens are considered “preference relatives.” Preference relatives are eligible for immigrant visas but face backlogs and strict numerical limits based on the relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary and the beneficiary’s country of origin.
- K-1 visas are available for fiancé(e)s of United States citizens. The couple must demonstrate that they have met in person during the preceding two years, that they intend to marry, and that they are willing and legally able to marry within ninety days of the fiancé(e)’s arrival in the United States.
- Unmarried children under age 21 of a fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen are eligible to receive a visa to accompany a parent to the United States and may ultimately apply for lawful permanent residency (“green card”).
The process of petitioning for a family member or fiancé(e) to be granted a visa can be overwhelming, but the attorneys at Wilkes Legal, LLC guide clients through each step, helping them understand what documents are necessary for their case, preparing the appropriate paperwork, explaining the timeline, and accompanying them to interview(s) before the Immigration Service. Wilkes Legal recognizes that no two families are alike and will work with clients to present compelling evidence of their relationships.
Adjustment of Status
Eligible men, women and children who are present in the United States may apply for lawful permanent resident status, also known as a “green card,” through a process called “Adjustment of Status.”
- Those who qualify for Adjustment of Status do not need to leave the United States to apply for their lawful permanent residency (“green card.”)
- Applicants must be physically present in the United States. Men, women and children who are abroad can seek lawful permanent residency through a parallel process known as “consular processing.”
- In most cases, applicants for Adjustment of Status must be in valid visa status. However, spouses, parents, and under 21-year-old unmarried children of U.S. citizens are considered “immediate relatives” and may apply for Adjustment of Status so long as they last entered the United States in valid visa status. Other exceptions include individuals in certain humanitarian-based categories, such as asylees and refugees, Special Immigrant Juveniles, and U & T visa holders.
- With the exception of immediate relatives, certain professional workers, and Special Immigrant Juveniles from some countries, individuals will be subjected to different waiting periods before they may submit their applications for Adjustment of Status.
Wilkes Legal, LLC can determine whether individuals are candidates for Adjustment of Status. Our attorneys guide applicants through every step of the process. We help our clients understand what to expect and ensure proper preparation of all the materials they need to succeed and gain lawful permanent residency (“green cards.”) We educate clients about the waiting period that applies in their particular case, keep careful track of their eligibility date, and contact them when that date approaches to begin preparing the required immigration forms and documentation. Our attorneys take every measure available to achieve lawful permanent residency (“green cards”) for our clients.
United States consular officers adjudicate both non-immigrant and immigrant visas for individuals who are outside of the United States. This is known as “consular processing.”
- Depending on the country and type of visa, consular processing may include the submission of documents, interviews with a consular officer, medical exams, criminal background checks, and more.
- An applicant may be required to present evidence of financial support and ties to the United States. For certain non-immigrant visas, such as visitor’s visas or student visas, applicants may be required to present evidence of ties to their home country.
- Although applications are technically made from abroad, for immigrant visas and certain non-immigrant visas much of the review of “consular processing” applications actually occurs within the United States. In most cases, the final interview occurs abroad, but applications are made online and processed along with fees and supporting documents at offices within the United States.
- Applicants seeking lawful permanent residence (“green cards”) who are based in the United States go through a parallel process known as “adjustment of status.”
Consular officers have a great deal of authority to interpret and apply U.S. law and their decisions are difficult to challenge. Therefore, it is extremely important for applicants to present the strongest case possible. The attorneys at Wilkes Legal, LLC have the knowledge and experience to maximize our clients’ likelihood of success. We remain in close communication with our clients abroad and family members in the United States to help them navigate the complexities of consular processing with confidence, advising them about what information and documentation will be necessary for consular processing, completing and submitting applications on their behalf, and preparing them for consular interviews.
A waiver is a form of pardon available to individuals who are inadmissible, meaning they belong to a group of people that is not permitted to enter the United States or become lawful permanent residents unless a waiver is granted.
- Common grounds of inadmissibility which can be cured with a waiver in certain cases include medical conditions, criminal histories, fraud, and prior immigration violations.
- In order to receive a waiver, an applicant must demonstrate that he or she has a qualifying relative who would suffer extreme hardship if the applicant’s visa were denied and that he or she is deserving of the waiver. The specific requirements vary depending on the grounds of inadmissibility.
- Special, more generous waiver provisions apply to refugees, asylees, men, women or children seeking relief under the Violence Against Women Act, crime victims, survivors of human trafficking, and Special Immigrant Juveniles. These waiver provisions have relaxed requirements and allow waivers for a greater range of inadmissibility grounds.
The attorneys at Wilkes Legal, LLC take the time to understand the unique circumstances of every client facing inadmissibility. If clients are eligible for a waiver, we work with them to tell their stories effectively and gather the necessary evidence to support their cases. We approach each individual’s situation with compassion and the conviction that all people deserve a fair chance to be with their loved ones.
Naturalization is the process through which a lawful permanent resident (“green card” holder) becomes a United States citizen. In order to gain citizenship through naturalization, individuals must prove they meet a number of statutory requirements.
- To be eligible for naturalization, an applicant must be 18 or older, a lawful permanent resident, and have good moral character. In assessing moral character, immigration officials investigate an applicant’s criminal background, federal income tax returns, support of dependents, and other factors.
- Applicants must show they have been continuously present in the United States as a lawful permanent resident (“green card” holder) for a “statutory period” of five years. Individuals who have been married to and lived with a United States citizen are eligible for naturalization after just three years of continuous presence. Survivors of spousal abuse are also eligible for a three-year statutory period (if married to a U.S. citizen) and need not have lived with the spouse for the preceding three years.
- Any absence from the country of more than six months is presumed to break the required continuous presence, but trips between six months and one year in length may be excused if the applicant is able to prove he or she did not abandon his or her residence in the United States.
- Applicants must also establish “physical presence” in the United States for the statutory period (5 years, or 3 in the case of spouses of U.S. citizens) by showing that they have been physically present on U.S. soil for at least half of the statutory period. Applicants must also demonstrate that they have been a resident of the state where they are applying for citizenship for the three months immediately prior to beginning the naturalization process.
- Applicants are required to attend an interview and pass a test of English, United States civics and United States history.
- Applications for citizenship on behalf of children go through a separate process with distinct requirements. Unmarried children under the age of 18 may become citizens if at least one of their parents is a United States citizen and meet certain residency and other requirements.
The attorneys at Wilkes Legal, LLC are available to help individuals assess whether they are eligible for naturalization. While some cases are straightforward, individuals with criminal records, those who have not consistently provided financial support to their dependents, those who may have been absent from the country for longer periods, and others may have a case for naturalization but require careful presentation of evidence to prove their eligibility. The attorneys at Wilkes Legal understand how important attaining U.S. citizenship can be for clients and their families and the many benefits that come with being a citizen. We guide our clients through every step of the naturalization process to help them achieve this goal whenever possible. We also counsel clients on steps they can take to become eligible for citizenship as early as possible.