Many people who come to the United States find our immigration laws and system to be incredibly complex and frustrating. Immigration laws can be contradictory or unclear, and in recent years, the executive branch has introduced numerous executive orders and regulatory interpretations that have fundamentally changed how many aspects of the immigration system work. Some of these orders have been upheld by the courts, while others have been struck down. Still others are still pending in the courts, leaving their current applicability unclear.
Trying to navigate the immigration system on your own can be an incredibly complicated and time-consuming process. Getting even one small detail wrong can result in your application being delayed or denied, or even in your immigration status being revoked.
Do you or a loved one need legal advice on an immigration matter? The Massachusetts immigration attorneys of Brooks Law are here to help you navigate the difficulties of the immigration system. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable immigration lawyers. We can discuss the specifics of your case and explain your rights and options.
Some of the immigration matters our law firm commonly handles include:
Asylum status can be granted to an immigrant who can demonstrate that he or she has a well-founded fear of persecution, in the past or in the future, in his or her county on the basis of race, nationality, religion, political beliefs, or particular social groups (including family). An immigrant wishing to apply for asylum must be physically present in the U.S., and any asylum petition must be filed within one year of arriving on U.S. soil.
Asylum is granted at the discretion of the immigration hearing officer or court, based on their analysis of various factors. The hearing officer or court will question any applicant for asylum for details about how he or she has been persecuted or believes he or she will be persecuted if returned to the home country. Asylum is not lightly granted, and usually only those petitions that have substantial supporting documentation and testimony are granted by hearing officers or courts.
DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is a status granted by executive order in 2012 to immigrants who came to the U.S. as children under the age of 16. An immigrant without lawful status may request DACA status provided:
- The person was younger than 31 as of the date of the establishment of the DACA program in 2012.
- The person came to the U.S. before his or her 16th birthday.
- The person has resided in the U.S. continually since June 15, 2007, up to the present day, including being present in the U.S. on the start date of the DACA program and on the date of making the DACA application.
- The applicant is in school or has completed high school or a GED or honorable discharge from the armed services.
- The applicant has not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or more than three misdemeanors.
DACA defers any removal proceedings against an immigrant granted DACA status for up to two years, which may be renewed. People with DACA status are also granted work authorization. However, DACA does not confer lawful status. A person with DACA status must still apply for permanent residency or naturalization.
Green cards, or lawful permanent resident status, can be granted to immigrants who lawfully enter the United States on another temporary visa, such as a visitor visa, student visa, or work visa. Lawful permanent residency status can be applied for once a person is already in the U.S. on a temporary visa, or it can be applied for to go into effect once the person’s visa becomes current.
Immigrants who are relatives of U.S. citizens face no numerical restrictions on green cards. All other foreign nationals are subject to annual numerical caps and must effectively “wait in line,” with their priority date based on the preference category of their visa and their country of origin. Some immigrants may have to wait years or even decades before being granted lawful permanent residency.
Naturalization is the process of becoming a United States citizen. Any immigrant who has maintained permanent residency (green card) status for at least four years and nine months or has been married to a U.S. citizen for at least two years and nine months may apply for naturalization. In applying for naturalization, an immigrant must establish his or her qualifications, including residency, good moral character, and the ability to speak, read, and write English.
Naturalization provides certain benefits over permanent residency, including the ability to vote, not having to worry about deportation if you violate the law, the ability to travel outside the U.S. for extended periods without jeopardizing your residency status, and the ability to petition to have family members immigrate to the U.S.
If you or a loved one is trying to deal with an immigration matter, you can find yourself facing a confusing and unhelpful system. At Brooks Law, our Massachusetts immigration lawyers can help you and your family navigate the complexities of this system. We can help you to understand your options for pursuing or maintaining lawful status or for pursuing naturalization. We can also help you prepare applications or petitions to obtain visas, lawful permanent residency, or other lawful status. Our knowledgeable and compassionate attorneys can advocate on your behalf when there’s a hearing on your application to ensure you have skilled representation when working toward securing your status.
What is DACA?
DACA is a program that was established by executive order in 2012 under which an immigrant without lawful status who came to the U.S. as a child and who meets other criteria may have any removal actions deferred for a renewable period of up to two years. Those who have DACA status are also granted work authorization in the U.S.
What is a green card?
A green card refers to lawful permanent residency status. An immigrant who is a lawful permanent resident may, subject to certain requirements, continue to live and work in the United States for the rest of their lives, provided they maintain lawful residence in the U.S. However, breaking the law can result in deportation.
What is a naturalized citizen?
A naturalized citizen is an individual who was born without U.S. citizenship who has petitioned to receive citizenship. Citizenship is granted after a lawful immigrant meets residency requirements in the U.S. and establishes his or her good moral character, ability to read/write/speak English, and other requirements.
If you or a family member has questions about the immigration system and what your next steps should be, schedule a consultation to talk to an experienced Massachusetts immigration attorney at Brooks Law today to learn more about how our firm can help you address your immigration situation.