According to research by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the American Immigration Council, nearly one-quarter of Philadelphia residents are either immigrants or have at least one foreign-born parent. This represents a sharp rise from as recently as 2006 when the percentages were half of that. Statewide in Pennsylvania, one in every 14 current residents is an immigrant.
Most of the news about immigration these days stems from our southern border, but this news overshadows the hundreds of thousands of others who are here through recognized immigration programs and are aspiring to become citizens.
If you’re in the Upper Darby region of Pennsylvania, including all of Philadelphia, Sabir Law Group is ready to help you with your immigration issues, whether it’s defending your rights against removal, helping you get a Green Card, or getting a family member here to join you. Attorney Ejaz A. Sabir is an immigrant who speaks six languages and went through the entire naturalization process himself. You can rely on his experience, knowledge, and compassion to help you pursue a resolution to your situation.
Immigration law in the United States is governed by the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA). The INA is built around four principles:
Admitting immigrants with skills vital to the U.S. economy
Protecting refugees seeking asylum
Immigration visas issued under the INA are capped at 675,000 a year, but there is no numerical limit on family members (children under 21 years of age, parents, and spouses) reuniting with U.S. citizens and lawful residents. In addition, the president sets a numerical goal each year for the number of refugees to be admitted under the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Process.
Persons coming to the United States with immigration visas are granted what is called lawful permanent residency. LPRs hold Green Cards, which allow them to live and work in the U.S. permanently. After five years of residency, LPRs can apply to become citizens. Under most circumstances, you must become an LPR before applying for citizenship.
Through a process known as “adjustment of status,” non-visa immigrants can sometimes become LPRs. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) maintains several categories of eligibility for residency and a Green Card. If you were admitted as an asylee or refugee at least one year ago, you qualify. Other avenues for obtaining LPR status include family ties, employment in certain categories, marriage, and other special needs categories, including maintaining residence in the U.S. since January 1, 1972.
The USCIS adjustment of status site explains that two forms are required to apply for permanent residency. One is an immigrant petition and the other an application for a Green Card. The immigrant petition must be based on one of the eligible categories mentioned above.
Generally, the immigration petition must be filed by someone who is sponsoring you as a permanent resident. Children under 21 years of age, parents, and spouses of U.S. citizens and LPRs are eligible to apply through the sponsorship of their family members already here. Fiancés and their children are also eligible.
In most cases, the immigrant petition must be approved before you can apply for a Green Card, though there are exceptions. Family members are among those exceptions, and they can therefore do what is called “concurrent filing,” meaning they can file the petition and Green Card application at the same time.
If you’re facing deportation, you will have to appear before a judge in an immigration court. Removal is a newer term for deportation, and a removal defense involves appearing before the judge and making a case that you should not be removed from the U.S.
One of the common defenses against removal is based on the Convention Against Torture, which provides relief from removal if you’re in danger of “persecution” — harm to your person physically or otherwise — if you are forced to return to your home country.
Women who have suffered domestic violence at home can seek relief from removal based on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Two other programs that can offer removal defenses are the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) and a program bestowing on countries and their citizens Temporary Protected Status (TPS) because of civil strife or other disruptions.
Other defenses include showing that you were detained by law enforcement or immigration officials in violation of constitutional due process or immigration regulations.
If you ultimately are removed/deported, you can file USCIS Form I-212 (Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal). The petition must be filed from abroad after a period of time during which you are barred from filing the application based on the reason for your removal (the time period varies).
Immigration law is a complex issue. Even people with family ties or who enter with an immigration visa can often face legal hurdles when trying to navigate the naturalization process. It’s even more difficult if you’re here on your own claiming refugee or asylee status. And if you face removal, you certainly don’t want to appear in court by yourself. You’ll need the experience of a knowledgeable immigration law attorney.
If you or a loved one is facing immigration issues in or around the greater Upper Darby, Pennsylvania area, including Philadelphia, rely on Sabir Law Group. Attorney Ejaz A. Sabir provides individuals and families with multilingual representation for all of their immigration needs — from adjustment of status and naturalization to removal defense and everything in between. Reach out today!