Q: I have recently married a U.S. citizen. I am in the U.S. in a temporary visa status. Is there a process for me to get a green card based on the marriage, and if so, what is that process?
A: If your marriage is genuine and in good faith, you have not had significant problems in your U.S. immigration history or criminal law convictions with seriously negative immigration consequences, you may be able to get green card (lawful permanent or conditional U.S. resident) status. There are two different processing routes, the adjustment of status route and the consular processing route, that may be available to you. The adjustment of status route involves the processing of applications and the scheduling of an interview for you and your spouse while you remain in the U.S. The consular processing route culminates in an immigrant visa interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside the U.S. Note that in some cases, even if you have overstayed your temporary visa status in the U.S., you may still remain eligible to apply for adjustment of status; in other cases, that will not be possible. This answer is a simplification; reliable case planning requires a discussion of more details than can be given in a summary answer.
Q: How long does the adjustment of status application process take? When can I get my green card?
A: Processing times on these cases vary from season to season. Currently (January, 2020) they can range from over a year to several years, according to reports from U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).
Q: Would I be able to travel internationally while my adjustment of status case is pending?
A: If you have not triggered the 3- or 10-year re-entry bars in your U.S. immigration history and have no other serious complications in your case, you may be able to apply for, receive and use a travel document from USCIS that would enable you to re-enter the U.S. from travel abroad while your adjustment of status case is pending. That document must have reached you before your departure from the U.S., however; otherwise, your departure would terminate the adjustment of status application and force you to finish processing for green card status from outside the U.S., assuming your case would tolerate such a change. Currently (as of January, 2020), it can take USCIS 4 or 5 months or more to process the travel document application.
Q: How do you work on immigration cases?
A: I generally start work on an immigration case, especially for new clients, with an immigration planning consultation, the purpose of which is for me to analyze and discuss in detail with the client what planning option or options (if any) they have for obtaining temporary or permanent resident status in the U.S., whether the case appears to present issues or risks of petition or application denial or removal/deportation, and the likely costs involved in the case.
Q: How much will it cost me for you to handle my case?
A: I’m happy to discuss likely costs, on a provisional basis, with clients in an initial phone inquiry, and can usually give more definite fee quotes by the end of an initial consultation. I also regard initial phone inquiries (for which I do not charge a fee and which, understandably, must therefore be brief) as a good opportunity for me and the potential client to consider whether it is worth it to the caller to schedule an initial consultation. In an initial inquiry phone call I will quote the fee I would charge for an initial consultation session.
Q: Do I have to come to your office in order for you to handle my case?
A: While clients who live or work in the New Jersey or greater New York City area will generally prefer to meet with me in my office in Maplewood, New Jersey, face-to-face at least for the initial consultation, some clients live or work far from my office. I can and do handle their cases, and follow-up correspondence and case preparation even with locally-based clients, via phone and email at a distance. I’m happy to meet clients face-to-face but that is not always convenient for the client.
Q: Who would handle my case if I hire your firm to work on my case, a lawyer or a paralegal?
A: A lawyer. All communications between me and my clients on their cases are between me and the client directly.
Pusin & Sklar, LLC
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