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Law for Non-Citizens

Types of Visas

Immigration Law

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Since 9/11 the Immigration and Naturalization Agency (INA) has been integrated into the Department of Homeland Security. When you deal with the government, any particular process is cumbersome and time-consuming and this is no different. There are many rules and regulations which have to be followed precisely, step by step, and deadlines have to be met. Often, this is very laborious. If English is not your first language—and I know what I am talking about, many years ago I went through the same process—it is often very difficult to make sense of the many different ways a solution can be approached or, even more so, must be approached.

I am here to help you to maneuver as smoothly as possible through the process. You can make an appointment for an initial consultation; the fee for consultation is $150.00.

If you make an appointment to discuss criminal matters, please bring your court papers, if you have them, your police report, your passport, including your visa, to show when and where you entered the United States. We will discuss how to proceed and if, what can be done. It may be advisable to contact me before you appear in court and plead guilty. Make sure and ask your defense attorney what, if any, immigration consequences your court order will entail.

My law office deals mainly with applications of family-based visas, naturalizations and appeals of denied decisions because of criminal issues. Following please find a short summation about immigrant visas for family members. It is impossible to list all possibilities and options, they depend very much on the specific circumstances of each applicant.

In a recent article appearing in the Birmingham Metro I talk about some of the difficulties that our Immigration system is facing today (Our Broken Immigration System by Dagmar Rick).

Family-based Visas

A foreign national wants to join a family member who is a citizen of the United States or a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR). The family member can be a spouse, parent, child, brother, or a sister.

There are several different avenues that may be taken to acquire the privilege of Legal Permanent Residency. However, everybody basically has to follow the same few steps:

  • You have to file an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative and get this petition approved.
  • Your relative has to be a qualifying sponsor, as to the relationship and income. The sponsorship will be unlimited as to time; however, if you become a citizen or acquire 40 quarters of paid-in social security the sponsor will be released.
  • If you fall under the preference system, you must obtain an immigrant visa number from the Department of State before you can apply for Legal Permanent Residency.
  • To keep track of the visa number visit the visa bulletin of the State Department .

The route you take to become a citizen or LPR is different whether you live here or abroad: you may apply for a family-based change of status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) inside the United States, depending on you particular situation, or you may apply for a visa through the United States consulate in your home country (consular processing).

The USCIS requires you, besides providing detailed personal information, to submit your fingerprints for a background check and to undergo a medical examination provided by a Civil Surgeon, authorized by the USCIS. It is best to explore your options before you take action to avoid unnecessary expenses and difficulties later on. Your attorney will be able to advise you as to the best possible solution for you.

US Law classifies all Noncitizens as either Immigrants or Nonimmigrants

1. Nonimmigrant Visas for Temporary Stay

  • Business visitors
  • Students
  • Temporary workers
  • and many more

2. Immigrant Visas for Permanent Stay

There are three main programs:

  • Family reunification
  • Employment
  • Diversity

Each of these categories is numerically limited, depending on the number given for worldwide admission and/or depending on the home country of the applicant—they are given for every fiscal year.

3. Removal and Deportation Notices

We can help with Deportation Notices which you may have received for the following reasons:

  • Economics
  • Crime
  • Health
  • Morality
  • Politics
  • National Security
  • Unlawful presence in the US

Lawful admitted noncitizens—even Permanent Residents—can also be deported for conduct or circumstances not concerned with the immigration system itself; a criminal conviction is the most common example.

4. Criminal Offenses

  • Illegal entry
  • Unlawful presence
  • Transporting, smuggling, or harboring noncitizens unlawfully in the US
  • Fraud, including marriage fraud

5. Sanctions

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) punishes employers for knowingly employing noncitizens who are not authorized to work, for hiring persons without observing specified paperwork requirements (even if the employees turn out to be authorized to work), or for discriminating on the basis of national origin or, in certain cases, citizenship status.

6. Bars and Waivers

Depending on your particular situation, there may be a way to achieve your goal of admission into the United States, although in most cases this will be a very lengthy and cumbersome process.

If you are the wife of an abusive husband who is either an US citizen or a LPR (legal permanent resident) you can achieve permanent residence in the US under VAWA (Violence Against Women’s Act), provided that you have proof.

Immigrant priorities

As stated before, US law classifies all noncitizens as either immigrants or nonimmigrants. Most of the nonimmigrants categories require a temporary stay of fixed duration. The number of immigrants who will be allowed to enter the country is in most cases restricted.

Immigrants Exempt from General Quotas:

The most important group are immediate relatives: spouses, parents, and children of US citizens. The child has to be at least 21 years to claim a parent immigration.

  • First preference: the unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens
  • Second preference: the spouses and unmarried sons and daughters of LPRs
  • Third Preference: the married sons and daughters of US citizens
  • Fourth Preference: the brothers and sisters of over-age-21 US citizens

Immigrants Subject to General Quotas:

The INS has specific quotas for each country, depending on the world-wide caps. There are five employment-based preferences, several of them subdivided. INA § 203(b)

  1. priority workers - persons with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics - outstanding professors and researchers - and certain multinational executives and managers
  2. members of the professions holding advanced degrees (usually graduate degrees) and aliens of exceptional ability
  3. skilled workers, professionals (without advanced degrees), and other workers who can show their labor is needed in the US
  4. special immigrants - certain religious workers and certain long term foreign employees of the US government
  5. employment creation - it covers entrepreneurs who invest at least $1 million each (less in specified instances) in enterprises that employ at least 10 Americans.


Types of visas issued

Visas for Non-Immigrants:

  • B1 temporary visitors for business
  • B2 temporary visitors for pleasure
  • C transit aliens
  • E1 treaty traders and families
  • E2 treaty investors and families
  • F1 academic students
  • M1 vocational students

Temporary workers and trainees:

  • H1A registered nurses
  • H1B specialty occupation
  • H1C certain other registered nurses
  • H2 performing services unavailable in the US

Class of Admission:

  • H2A agricultural workers
  • H2B nonagricultural workers
  • H3 industrial trainees
  • O1 workers with extraordinary ability/achievement
  • O2 workers accompanying and assisting in performance of O1 workers
  • P1 internationally recognized athletes or entertainers
  • P2 artists or entertainers in reciprocal exchange programs
  • P3 artists or entertainers in culturally unique programs
  • Q1 workers in international cultural exchange programs
  • R1 workers in religious occupations
  • TN NAFTA professionals
  • J1 exchange visitors
  • J2 spouses and children of exchange visitors
  • K1 fiancé of US citizens
  • K2 children of fiancées
  • L1 intracompany transferees
  • L2 spouses and children of intracompany transferees
  • T1-4 and U1-4 victims of trafficking and violence protection Act

Change of Nonimmigrant status

Noncitizens who are inadmissible for having been unlawfully present for more than six month, and certain other designated noncitizens, are also ineligible for change of status except if a waiver applies to your particular situation.

If you as a nonimmigrant want to extent your stay instead of changing to a different nonimmigrant category, it may not be necessary to return home for a new visa. However, extensions are not available to you if you have overstayed or otherwise violated the terms of their existing stays, absent "extraordinary circumstances."

Revised 7/1/15