There are many types of visas available to foreign nationals seeking permanent residence in the United States. For example, if you are engaged to someone in the U.S., you may qualify for the fiancé(e) visa. Those with relatives who are U.S. citizens may be eligible for family visas. Work visas may be available to those skilled in a field or industry that have been offered employment in the U.S.
Depending on the purpose of your travel, there are a variety of non-immigrant or temporary visas. The most common is the tourist visa for the purpose of coming for a short time on vacation. You must consult with an attorney to discuss the purpose of your trip to determine which visa you are eligible for. All non-immigrant visas have specific restrictions, and you need to be informed as to what you can and cannot do during your stay. For example, working or going to school is not allowed on many temporary visas. If you violate the terms of your non-immigrant visa, you could suffer severe consequences such as deportation or the inability to travel to the U.S. in the future.
In order to apply for U.S. citizenship, you must be 18 years old or older, and must first be a lawful permanent resident for five years. There is an exception to the five-year rule for lawful permanent residents who obtained their status through marriage and continue to be married to that same spouse, and the exception allows you to apply in three years instead of five. You must also meet the physical and continuous residence requirements, read, write, and speak basic English, know fundamental U.S. history to pass the civics exam, and be a person of good moral character. When applying for U.S. Citizenship, your entire immigration history will be reviewed to ensure you qualify.
The law does not permit a person to enter the U.S. for a temporary visit when your intention is to stay permanently. A person can be petitioned while living abroad as a spouse or as a fiancé. There are certain circumstances, however, where you can petition for your spouse while in the U.S. In order to determine the right path, you should contact an attorney to decide the best route.
While an arrest alone should not affect your immigration status, you can be detained by immigration authorities when in custody for an arrest. Depending on the crime, a criminal conviction can result in being placed in deportation proceedings and ultimately in deportation. Traveling internationally after a criminal conviction may also make you inadmissible upon your return and cause you to be detained. This is why it is important to contact our firm as soon as possible after an arrest to understand your options.
Work permits are not granted to all non-U.S. citizens. In order to obtain a work permit, you must qualify for one due to your specific immigration status or situation. Some individuals are able to obtain work permits while their principal cases are pending, because they have a protected status, or because they have a non-immigrant visa that permits employment. If this is not your case, you may not qualify for a work permit.
The fact that a person has been present in the U.S. for a long period of time does not immediately qualify you for anything. Many people hear of the "10 year rule" because of something called "Cancellation of Removal." Cancellation of Removal is a defense available in deportation proceedings, and is not available to people that are not in deportation proceedings. One of the requirements for Cancellation of Removal for non-residents is being present in the U.S. for over 10 years, but it also requires other things such as extreme hardship to U.S. citizen or permanent resident family members and demonstrating good moral character.