Immigration and Naturalization Law

Immigration is a distinct and complicated area of law. Most immigration attorneys focus on only a few specific types of cases within the field.

Law Offices of Heather M. Boxeth provide services in the following areas:

    • Expert Consulting Regarding Criminal Arrests and/or Convictions and Prior Immigration Violations
    • Post-Conviction Relief
    • Family-Based Immigration
      • Western Hemisphere Priority Dates (The ability to use a priority date before Jan. 1, 1977 to expedite your immigrant visa petition.)
    • Employment Based Immigration
    • Naturalization and Citizenship
    • Waivers of Inadmissibility
    • Cancellation of Visas at a Port of Entry

There are two lists of reasons that someone can be refused a visa, denied permission to enter the United States, or removed from the country. Reasons on the first list are called “grounds of inadmissibility.” They apply to people who are trying to get a visa—whether at a U.S. embassy or consulate, or through “ adjustment of status. ” They also apply to people who are trying to use their visa or “green card” to enter the United States through an airport, seaport or land border crossing. They even apply to certain people who are already inside the country if they did not enter legally.

The second list applies to people who are already inside the country. Things on the second list are called “grounds of deportability.” The grounds of deportability apply to people who are here legally and to people came here legally but no longer have legal status. If the government decides that there is a ground of deportability that applies to someone, they will start removal proceedings against that person in immigration court. “Removal” is a legal term that replaced “deportation” in 1996. There are some very technical legal distinctions between removal and deportation, but most of those differences are not important to understanding the removal process in general terms.

    • What things make someone “inadmissible?”
    • What criminal convictions make someone “inadmissible?”
    • What can you do if the government says you are “inadmissible?”
    • How can you fight a removal case?
    • What might make you “deportable?”
    • How do “removal” cases with the immigration judge work?
    • What can you do to stay in the United States if you are “deportable?”
    • Who can help with your ‘removal’ case?
    • What happens when your ‘removal’ case is finished?

What things make someone “inadmissible?”

There are many grounds of inadmissibility, including certain diseases, lack of financial support or an ability to support yourself, past immigration violations, criminal convictions, misrepresentations (lies or fraud) made to the U.S. government, and others. Some can be forgiven (“waived”); others cannot. The most common grounds of inadmissibility that can be waived are misrepresentations and criminal convictions. Two examples of misrepresentations that can make you inadmissible are a lie that you told on a visa application or using someone else’s visa or green card to enter the country. You can only qualify for a waiver of a misrepresentation if you have a parent, spouse or child who is either a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. To actually get the waiver, you need to show that those family members would suffer “extreme hardship” if you were not given your visa or allowed to enter the country legally.

What criminal convictions make someone “inadmissible?”

There are many different kinds of criminal convictions that can lead to inadmissibility. Violent crimes and drug crimes make it very difficult or impossible to get a visa. Theft and fraud crimes are also very serious and may make you inadmissible. It is important to realize that serving your criminal sentence and completing probation does NOT make a difference in how the conviction affects your immigration status. Sometimes admitting criminal activity can make you inadmissible, even if you were never arrested or charged with a crime. If you are facing criminal charges or have a criminal conviction it is important to consult with an experienced attorney versed in both criminal defense and immigration issues.

What can you do if the government says you are “inadmissible?”

Some grounds of inadmissibility can be excused—or “waived”—by the government. Some cannot. The requirements for getting a waiver depend on the ground of inadmissibility that applies in your case.

If any of the things mentioned above applies to your case, you should talk to an immigration attorney with experience in these types of cases BEFORE you contact U.S. immigration authorities. If you have already applied for your visa and an immigration officer thinks that you are inadmissible, he /she will tell you. He should also tell you if you are eligible for a waiver; but immigration officers are human and they make mistakes. If you have been told that you cannot be given a visa, talk to an immigration attorney about your case to see if the government made a mistake.

There are different types of waivers available for different grounds of inadmissibility. Your eligibility for a waiver will depend on varying iactors—like any history you have living in the United States, any family members you have here, how recently your immigration violation or conviction occurred, and others. An immigration attorney with experience on waiver cases will be able to tell you about all of the factors that will be considered in your case and will be able to put together the strongest possible application for you.

How can you fight a removal case?

The first thing to know about removal cases is that different rules apply depending on when and where you were caught by immigration officers. If you were caught at the border when you were trying to cross into the country (or if you entered the country illegally and cannot prove that you have been here for more than two years) you can be charged as an “arriving alien.” That classification means that you can be charged with removal based on the grounds of inadmissibility discussed above. It may also affect your eligibility for release from detention on bond and your eligibility to apply to the immigration judge for permission to stay in the United States.

What might make you “deportable?”

People who are arrested after they have been in the United States for a while are usually charged with a ground of deportability. The list of reasons that make someone deportable is very similar to the list of grounds of inadmissibility. But because the lists are slightly different, sometimes someone might be deportable but not inadmissible, or the other way around—inadmissible but not deportable. If you are deportable but not inadmissible, you might be able to immigrate (or re-immigrate) in immigration court to solve your problem with deportability. If you are inadmissible but not deportable, the government might not be able to deport you, even though it would be able to keep you from coming back to the country if you ever left. You should consult an immigration attorney with experience in these types of issues to advise you about the options in your case.

How do “removal” cases with the immigration judge work?

The judge has two basic decisions to make in every immigration ‘removal’ case. First, he has to decide if the government is right about the reasons it wants to remove you from the country. For example, the government might want to deport you because you have a criminal record; but not all crimes make you deportable. Sometimes the government even tries to deport U.S. citizens by accident. You can tell your side of the story to the judge if you think that the government’s reason for wanting to deport you is wrong. So the first part of your case is having the judge decide if there is any reason to deport you.

What can you do to stay in the United States if you are “deportable?”

If the judge decides that you are deportable, then he needs to move on to the second part of the case and decide if there is any way for you to get “relief” from deportation. There are different kinds of “relief” from deportation that the judge could give you. If you would be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa or green card through the regular processes, you might also be able to apply to the immigration judge for a green card—or reapply for a green card, if you already have one. If you are afraid for your life or safety in your home country for certain reasons, you might be able to ask the judge for asylum. If you have been in the United States for a long time, you might also be eligible to apply for cancellation of removal.

You might be eligible for one of these types of relief from deportation, or you might be able to apply for all of them. If it looks like you qualify for some type of relief from removal, the judge will give you a chance to file an application for that type of relief. There are different application forms and different documents that you will need to give the judge for each type of relief you want him to consider.

Who can help with your ‘removal’ case?

It is very important to document your case completely for the judge; it is difficult to win a case on your testimony alone. An experienced immigration attorney will know what the judge is looking for and will help you put together all the documents that could be important for the judge to make his decision.

A good attorney will also help prepare you and your witnesses for what to expect when you testify in court. Most people are nervous when they testify in court; and nervous people do not always make the best witnesses. That is why it is important for witnesses to know what to expect. Proper preparation will help them keep their composure and tell the judge what he needs to know.

What happens when your ‘removal’ case is finished?

In the end, the judge will decide whether you get to stay in the country or whether you must go. If you are allowed to stay, you will be given a green card or some sort of protected status, like asylum. If you must leave the country, the judge might allow you to leave on your own—which is called a “voluntary departure”—or he might order that the government send you back to your country—a “deportation.” The difference between voluntary departure and deportation can be important in some cases. If you are deported, you will not be allowed to get a visa to return to the United States for a long time. On the other hand, a voluntary departure will not necessarily affect your ability to get a new visa to come back to the country legally in the future. Your eligibility to return to the United States legally after a voluntary departure involves many technical provisions of law, and you will need to consult an experienced immigration attorney.

Citizenship and Naturalization

Boxeth & Associates represent many clients going through the naturalization process. It is an exciting time for most; however, there can be difficulties in the filing process. Much of citizenship (also called “naturalization”) processing is document intensive and involves the careful exchange of immigration information between the client and attorney. After years of experience, we have developed a system that optimizes our immigration legal expertise and provides our clients with an unmatched personalized experience, customized to their needs. If you have resided outside of the country, have any sort of previous arrest or criminal conviction, difficulties entering the country you should consult an experienced attorney in immigration and criminal defense. We are skilled at requesting records, reviewing them and providing you with the necessary information and advocacy to assist you in becoming a United States Citizen.

Immigration law is highly complex and constantly changing, and the key to smooth citizenship processing involves constant monitoring of the daily changes in immigration law. We subscribe to immigration services like AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association) and ILW.COM (Immigration Lawyers on the Web) to receive daily emails concerning immigration and the constantly changing requirements by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Like our immigration laws, the laws that say who is a U.S. citizen are very complicated. Most people know that anyone born inside the United States or certain territories—like Puerto Rico—are U.S. citizens by birth; but there are other ways that you could be a citizen from birth, even though you were not born inside the country. An obvious example is the child of two U.S. citizens who was born in a different country. Sometimes a child born in another country is a U.S. citizen from birth even if only one of his parents or grandparents was a U.S. citizen when he was born. It sounds strange, but now and then someone will go through a lot of paperwork and spend a lot of money to immigrate because he did not realize that he was already a U.S. citizen. If any of your parents or grandparents were born in the United States, you should consult an experienced immigration lawyer if you might be a U.S. citizen.

What Is “Naturalization”?

‘Naturalization’ is the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, if you were not a citizen when you were born. In most cases, you must be a lawful permanent resident before you can become a citizen. Whether you are eligible to become a naturalized U.S. citizen depends on a number of factors—such as, how long you have been a lawful permanent resident, the way you became a lawful permanent resident, whether you ever served in the U.S. military (and when), your ability to speak English and even your age. Different rules apply to different cases. An experienced immigration lawyer can help you sort it all out and tell you what your options are for becoming a citizen.

Why Become A Citizen?

There are a number of important differences between U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. First and foremost, being a U.S. citizen provides you with more rights and privileges. Only U.S. citizens can vote in this country. U.S. citizens also have greater ability to file visa petitions to immigrate relatives.U.S. citizens are not deportable for criminal offenses.

The status of lawful permanent resident is a privilege and you can be at risk of losing that privilege. As a lawful permanent resident you may file visa petitions for your spouse and unmarried children. U.S. citizens can file petitions for their parents, married children and siblings, in addition to their spouses and unmarried children. Most relatives of U.S. citizens take priority over relatives of lawful permanent residents–that is to say, the relatives of the U.S. citizens will be able to immigrate faster.

Criminal and Immigration Violations

Our office is experienced at advising non-citizens who have been charged with a crime or convicted of a crime about how an arrest or conviction will affect their immigration status. In some cases, a one-time legal consultation can put an immigrant’s mind at ease about his future in the country or prevent him from doing something that might jeopardize that future. In other cases, it may be necessary to have an immigration attorney work with your criminal defense attorney to make sure that your immigration concerns are not overlooked.

We are experienced and skilled in representing clients accused of crimes in criminal court and advising of the immigration consequences. We make it convenient to you with hiring one office for both your criminal case and immigration case. You can be assured with all of the information in house, there is not the concern of multiple legal offices representing different interests and needs and attempting to communicate with each other. We have your best interests in mind. We work hard to protect them!

In some cases, if an arrest or conviction does harm a non-citizen’s immigration case, an immigration attorney who is familiar with criminal issues may be able to help you apply for a waiver that will allow you to get or keep your legal status if you qualify.

Often a seemingly minor criminal conviction can result in deportation from the United States or denial of a visa. Any non-citizen who is inside the United States or applying for a visa outside of the United States and who has ever been charged with a crime inside or outside of the United States (no matter how insignificant the crime may be) should consult with an attorney who is familiar with immigration law before entering a plea in criminal court or filing any paperwork with a U.S. embassy/consulate or Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

By consulting with us before entering a criminal plea or going to trial on a criminal matter, you may be able to preserve your ability to enter the country legally or your right to remain in the U.S. A lawful permanent resident or non-immigrant visa holder who has ever been convicted of a crime should speak to an immigration attorney before leaving the country or applying to USCIS for naturalization, green card renewal or other benefits. Certain convictions can make you deportable or ineligible to return to the United States.

Immigration law is highly complex and constantly changing, and the key to smooth citizenship processing involves constant monitoring of the daily changes in immigration law. We subscribe to immigration services like AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association) and ILW.COM (Immigration Lawyers on the Web) to receive daily emails concerning immigration and the constantly changing requirements by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Types of Visas

This is a brief introduction to some of the visas available in the United States. For more information on non-immigrant visas, labor certifications, work permits and permanent resident visas “green cards” please contact us to schedule a consultation. We will review your options with you to determine the most appropriate visa, the requirements and time frames in your case.

Immigrant Visas

Permanent Residence or “Green Card”

Immigrant visas grant permanent resident status (or a “Green Card”) to foreign nationals. This allows foreign nationals to permanently reside and work in the United States, as well as to travel in and out of the U.S. Generally, when an foreign national obtains a green card, his or her accompanying spouse (wife or husband) and unmarried children under age 21 also obtain green cards. Depending on the way in which permanent residence was obtained, after three to five years, a person with permanent resident status may apply for citizenship, provided that they meet specific requirements.

“Extraordinary” or “Exceptional” Ability

Foreign nationals of exceptional or extraordinary ability in their particular field of work, outstanding professors or researchers, and members of professions holding an advanced degree may be eligible for a green card. These kinds of cases are very difficult however and require in-depth evaluation.

Alien (Employment) Labor Certification

This process allows a U.S. employer to obtain a green card for their workers based on the unavailability of U.S. workers in the workforce. This requires recruitment for the offered position and approval by the Department of Labor for Labor Certification. After this approval, an immigrant petition may be filed by the employer on behalf of the employee.

Investor Visa

Qualified investors and their families may be eligible to enter the United States on this type of visa if they invest $500,000 to $1,000,000 in an existing or new business in the United States.

Family-Based Sponsorship

United States citizens may sponsor spouses, parents, children and siblings (brothers or sisters) for permanent residence. Green Card holders may sponsor only spouses or unmarried children.

Religious Worker

Religious ministers, priests and ordained religious persons may qualify for a green card through sponsorship by a congregation.

Non-Immigrant (Temporary) Visas

B-1 Business Visitors

This visa is used for individuals who are coming to the United States to visit for specific business-related reasons.

B-2 Tourist Visa

The tourist visa allows foreign nationals to travel to the United States for a temporary period of time.

E-1/E-2 Treaty Trader/Treaty Investor Visa

The treaty trader and treaty investor visa have very specific requirements that allow certain persons and their families to enter the United States for trading or investment activity. The applicant must be a national of a country having a particular treaty with the United States. That person must also be making a substantial investment in a company in the U.S. or carrying on regular trade with the U.S. The applicant must also be the principal investor or hold key employee status in the company. The duration of the visa and extensions depend on the viability of the business as well as other factors.

F-1/M-1 Student Visas

These visas allow foreign nationals to attend certain U.S. colleges or universities or vocational programs in the United States.

H-1B Specialty Occupation Visa

To qualify for an H-1B visa, a foreign national must have a U.S. bachelor’s degree (or its equivalent) or substantial professional work experience. This category requires that an employer sponsors the worker for a visa. The visa is generally valid for 3 years and can be extended for an additional 3 years, for a total of 6 years. Examples of persons that may qualify for this visa include engineers, licensed doctors, architects, scientists, dentists, lawyers, etc. This visa allows persons to apply for legal permanent residence in the United States.

K-1 Fiancé/Fiancée Visa

This visa is available to persons who are planning to marry a U.S. citizen, but are currently outside of the United States. Persons who are granted the K1 Fiance visa must get married within 90 days of entering the U.S. After getting married, they must then go through the process of obtaining legal permanent residence.

L-1 Intra-Company Transferee Visa

This visa allows managers, executives or individuals with “highly-specialized knowledge”, working for a company abroad, to be transferred to that company’s U.S. branch or affiliate. One can then apply for legal permanent residence while in the United States.

O/P Extraordinary Ability Visas

Foreign nationals who can demonstrate “extraordinary ability” in the arts, sciences, education, business or athletics may qualify for this kind of visa.

R Religious Worker Visa

Religious worker (R-1) and dependents (R-2).

S Visa

People who provide information or other assistance to U.S. law enforcement agencies.

T Visa

Human trafficking victims who cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking.

TN Visa

The TN visa is provided for by NAFTA and is available only to Canadian and Mexican nationals. This visa is very similar to the H1B visa, is valid for one year and can be renewed indefinitely.

U Visa

Victims of criminal activities such as rape, torture, trafficking, incest, domestic violence, prostitution, etc.

V Visa

Spouse (V-1) and unmarried children (V-2 or V-3) of permanent residents who have been waiting (either in the U.S. or outside the U.S.) for permanent residence for three years or more under the family based second preference classification who filed by December 21, 2000.

Deportation Defense and Waivers

If you or someone you know is facing deportation it is important to consult an experienced attorney in both criminal defense and immigration issues. We have experience representing non-United States Citizens in both criminal proceedings and immigration proceedings. We are familiar with the immigration consequences of criminal convictions. We represent our clients in Criminal Court Proceedings, Immigration Court Proceedings, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of State (DOS) relating to visa issues and necessary waivers.

Please contact us to schedule a consultation to review your case, strategies and options.