It is widely known that the United States’ immigration laws have created a complex system. Individuals who wish to enter the United States legally and obtain legal permission to live and work in America often find the process to be confusing, frustrating, and long. It is far more tempting to live and earn a living in the United States without first obtaining proper documentation, but this path includes the risk of deportation. Either decision – to seek legal status or to attempt to live “under the radar” – is fraught with unique perils and difficulties. Attorney Philip Weylie of Weylie Centonzio, PLLC, understands the stress and anxiety that the immigration system can cause in the lives of immigrants and their families. While Mr. Weylie may not be able to cause a complete overhaul of the U.S.’s immigration laws and policies, his counsel and representation may be able to assist you in obtaining more favorable results more quickly in your immigration case. Hiring an experienced Pinellas County immigration lawyer like Mr. Weylie can make a difference in the outcome of your immigration matter.
Becoming a United States Citizen – Lawful Permanent Resident Status
For many immigrants who come to the United States (whether to escape harsh conditions in their home countries or simply to “start fresh” in an exciting new country and culture), obtaining citizenship is the ultimate prize sought. A United States citizen is protected against deportation or involuntary removal from the United States and can fully participate in American society (by voting, for example). This prize comes at the conclusion of a very long and arduous process that begins with obtaining the status of a lawful permanent resident.
Lawful permanent resident (LPR) status – sometimes referred to as having a “green card” – gives the LPR the ability to live and work openly in the United States. The individual is not eligible to vote and can have his or her LPR status revoked and be deported if he or she engages in certain criminal activity. In addition, you are not permitted to leave the United States frequently or for a prolonged duration or you may have your LPR status revoked.
Obtaining LPR status requires you to obtain a visa. A visa allows you to remain in the United States for a specific amount of time and/or purpose. You may be eligible to obtain a visa if:
- You have a family connection in the United States. Immigration law enables you to apply for a visa if you have certain family members living in the United States. If you are the spouse, a child under the age of 21, or parents of U.S. citizens that are age 21 or older, you may be eligible to obtain a green card. Visas are always available for the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. Visas may be available (but are limited in number) to other qualifying family relations, including:
- Being the unmarried son or daughter (so long as you are over the age of 21), a married son or daughter, and/or the brother or sister of a U.S. citizen;
- Being the spouse or unmarried child of a LPR / “green card” holder;
- Falling into a special category, such as being the victim of domestic violence or the surviving spouse of a U.S. citizen.
- You have been offered employment in the United States. If you have accepted a job or been offered employment in the United States, you may be eligible to apply for a visa based on this circumstance. The number of visas granted to individuals seeking LPR status through this method is limited in number. Applicants are approved or denied based in part upon the number of visas available and the following preference scale:
- The highest preference goes to “priority workers” like exceptional researchers, distinguished professors, and other applicants who demonstrate extraordinary abilities;
- The next-highest preference goes to individuals who hold an advanced degree or who are otherwise exceptionally gifted;
- Next is skilled workers or other professionals;
- The lowest preference is given to those applicants who are investors, entrepreneurs, or who have other certain special skills.
- You fit into another special category. There are limited numbers of visas for applicants who fit into other, specialized categories such as victims or witnesses of certain crimes. These visas generally have very strict eligibility requirements.
Applicants for LPR status must complete a petition (or, in the case of an application based upon an immediate family relation that is a U.S. citizen, that family relation must complete the petition) and, in many cases not based on an immediate U.S. citizen family relation, show that an visa is available. Individuals seeking LPR status must also prove that they are legally admissible to the United States. This usually means they must show they do not fall into one or more categories of inadmissible immigrants. An immigrant may be deemed inadmissible by law based upon previous criminal convictions, previous unlawful presence in the United States, and/or security concerns the federal government may have concerning the LPR applicant. If you are determined to be inadmissible due to unlawful presence in the United States (for example), an immediate family member may be able to apply for an I-601 or I-601A waiver for you that will “waive” your inadmissibility and allow your petition to proceed.
Your Florida immigration attorney can assist you through all stages of the process of obtaining lawful permanent resident status, including determining your eligibility for a visa, assisting you in completing the petition, preparing you for any interviews you must complete, and/or helping you apply for waivers of inadmissibility.
Becoming a United States Citizen – Naturalization
While lawful permanent resident status gives an individual the ability to live and work in the United States indefinitely, this status can be revoked for reasons such as criminal convictions or frequent presence outside the United States. In addition, some rights afforded to citizens (like the right to vote) are not given to LPRs. Naturalization may be available if:
- You have been a permanent resident for five or more years, meet certain requirements relating to residency and presence in the United States, and meet other eligibility requirements;
- You have been a permanent resident for three years and are eligible to file for naturalization as the spouse of a U.S. citizen;
- You meet the eligibility requirements and have sufficient qualifying service in the United States’ military;
Naturalization may also be available for your child if you are a United States citizen, your child was born outside of the United States, your child is currently residing outside the United States, and other eligibility criteria are met.
These are just some of the ways in which a person can obtain citizenship through naturalization. There may be other paths to citizenship available to you based on your specific circumstances. One of the best methods by which to learn what pathways are available to you is to have Florida immigration attorney Philip Weylie analyze your situation. Upon doing so, Philip Weylie can advise you of the most effective and efficient method(s) available to obtain citizenship.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Relief May Be Available
As an alternative to obtaining LPR status or citizenship, certain individuals may be able to obtain authorization to work in the United States and limited protection from deportation under the federal government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Enacted in 2012, the program aims to provide limited immigration benefits to certain individuals who were brought to the United States by their parents when they were children. Individuals who are accepted into the DACA program are given a renewable two-year work permit that enables them to legally work in the United States. However, DACA does not provide an alternate path to citizenship (that is, being accepted into the DACA program does not, standing alone, entitle someone to thereafter apply for citizenship).
(Proposed executive action would have created a new program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), and would have made DACA available to a wider group of immigrants. This leg
In order to qualify for the DACA program, an applicant must:
- Have entered the United States before his or her 16th birthday;
- Have lived continuously in the United States since June 15, 2007 (a limited number of brief absences from the United States may be acceptable);
- Have had no lawful status enabling him or her to be in the United States lawfully on June 15, 2012;
- Have been born after June 15, 1981;
- Have been physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012;
- Be physically present in the United States when making application for relief under DACA;
- Be enrolled in school, have obtained a high school diploma or GED, or have been honorably discharged from the U.S. military or the U.S. Coast Guard;
- Be free from any felony conviction, conviction for a serious misdemeanor, and/or three or more misdemeanor convictions; and
- Not pose a threat to national security.
As an applicant, the burden is on you to show you qualify for the DACA program. Therefore, it is wise to have an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney like Philip Weylie of Weylie Centonzio, PLLC to assist you in your application. Attorney Philip Weylie will discuss the benefits and limitations of DACA with you and help you decide if DACA is the right choice for your situation. If so, he can help you in completing and submitting the necessary forms to apply for the DACA program.
Information Your Immigration Attorney Will Need
Because immigration law cases are inherently complex and depend on the specific facts of your situation, your immigration attorney will need certain information from you in order to determine a suitable course of action designed to achieve the best possible results. Be prepared to discuss the following topics with your Pinellas County immigration lawyer:
- Your age, birthdate, and when you came into the United States;
- Where you have lived since coming into the United States;
- Any periods where you have left the United States, including the dates of your departure, your destination, and the reason for your departure;
- Whether you intend to reside permanently in the United States;
- Whether you presently have any status to be in the United States lawfully;
- Whether you had any legal status to live and/or work in the United States in the past;
- Information about your family, including names and addresses of your parents, siblings, and/or children, and whether any of these individuals are United States citizens or lawful permanent residents;
- Whether you have any previous convictions. If you do, be prepared to disclose the nature of your criminal history, including the charge of which you were convicted, the date of your conviction(s), and what sentence you received;
- Whether you have been previously deported?
If you hold an advanced degree or have specialized skills or training, this would be helpful information for your attorney to know. Additionally, if you have received an offer of employment from a U.S. business, be ready to provide the details of your offer or a copy of the letter sent by your employer describing the details of your job offer.
While compiling all this information for your attorney may seem like an exhausting task, it is crucial that your immigration attorney have all the facts and details about your situation so that attorney Philip Weylie can provide you with the most accurate legal counsel possible.
Contact Philip Weylie of Weylie Centonzio, PLLC Today
For assistance with your immigration case in Florida, seek out legal advice and counsel from an attorney who is well-versed in the current state and federal immigration laws. Florida immigration lawyer Philip Weylie has assisted numerous clients seeking to obtain legal status in order to remain in the United States. His knowledge of the law enables him to take swift and decisive action on your behalf. The sooner you contact Weylie Centonzio, PLLC, the sooner attorney Philip Weylie can begin working to help you achieve the outcome you desire. Call Weylie Centonzio, PLLC at (727) 490-8712 today for help with your immigration matter.