Immigration Law Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


FAQ Topics:

Student Visas

Deportation / Removal


U - Visas

Visitor Visas

Employment Visas


Student Visas

1.    What is an F-1 Visa?

An F-1 visa is a non-immigrant student visa which allows a student to enter into the United States to attend a full course of study at a university, college, conservatory, or academic high school.

2.    How do I qualify for an F-1 student visa?

  1. Be proficient in English, unless you are coming to the U.S. to participate in an English language training program. In some cases, the school may make special arrangements to teach you English.
  2. Prove that you have sufficient funds to complete your education.
  3. Come to attend a full course of study by a school approved by the USCIS.
  4. Have Form I-20A-B issued by your school or academic institution.

3.    What do I need in order to apply for an F-1 Visa?

A student will need to provide the U.S. consulate with a SEVIS Form I-20 issued by the school upon the student’s admission. Additionally, the student must: prove that he or she has paid the SEVIS I-901 fee; have a passport valid for at least six months after the date of the visa interview; show evidence of financial ability to meet the required expenses as indicated on Form I-20; provide evidence of English ability; evidence of intent to depart the U.S. after completion of studies; provide Forms DS-156 Nonimmigrant Visa Application, DS-157 (if applicable), and DS-158; photographs; applicable visa application fees; proof of transcripts from previous institutions attended; and scores from standardized tests required by the educational institutions such as TOEFL, SAT, GRE, etc.  Finally, the applicant must show proof of nonimmigrant intent.

4.    What is a SEVIS Form I-20?

An official Department of Homeland Security document issued to the student, which contains information about the school, the degree the student wishes to obtain, and the time frame within which the degree will be attained.

5.    Can I change my status from tourist to student?

Yes. If an individual is unsure about which school in the U.S. he wishes to attend, he may be granted a B-2 visa marked “prospective student,” which allows entry to research and apply to schools. After the student is accepted to a school, the B-2 may be changed to an F-1 visa.

6.    Are there any limitations with an F-1 visa?

Yes. With an F-1 Visa, you may work off campus only with prior USCIS permission, attend only the specific institution you’ve been approved for, and you may bring your dependents, but they may not work in the U.S., or apply for a green card.

7.    How long can I stay in the U.S. on the F-1 visa?

You are permitted to stay until you finish your course of studies.

8.    If I have an F-1 Visa, can I also work?

Yes, but you are only permitted to work on-campus. You may not work off-campus during your first academic year unless you have sufficient funds to cover your education and living expenses while applying for the visa.

9.    Can I transfer schools with an F-1?

Yes, but you must be a full-time student, and intend to be a full-time student at the new school. You must also prove that you have the financial resources required for your education.

10.      How long is a visa interview?

At most Embassies around the world, visa interviews last roughly 2 minutes. However, the time varies depending upon the volume of applicants that must be interviewed.

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Deportation (Removal)

1.    What are the grounds for Deportation?

There are five grounds for deportation:

  1. Entering the U.S. without proper authority
  2. Violation of the terms of the admission
  3. A broad range of criminal convictions
  4. Membership in certain, prohibited organizations
  5. Being a public charge within 5 years of entering the U.S.

2.    Must the government give me some time before deporting me?

When the government wants to remove/deport you, they must first serve you with proper notice, thereby enabling you to appear before an immigration judge.

3.    If I admit to the grounds of deportation, is it still possible to remain in the United States?

Yes, in certain circumstances, other relief can be granted. For example, if one was seeking asylum.

4.    If I’m being removed, is it better to just leave the country?

Many times, you may want to leave the country because this would make it easier to obtain a visa to reenter the country if you choose to come back in the future.

5.    What happens if I fail to appear before a removal hearing?

A removal order can be entered in your absence. Once this happens, you will be barred from seeking any other type of relief for a period of ten years.

6.    Who do I appeal my removal order to?

There are over 200 immigration judges across the United States in 53 immigration courts. These judges will be responsible for a removal order appeal.

7.    Which agency is responsible for the removal process?

At this time, only the Department of Homeland Security is responsible for the removal process. If the Department of Homeland Security claims that a person has violated immigration laws, it can serve the person with a document known as Notice to Appear.

8.    Who should I consult if I have a removal hearing before an immigration judge?

It would be in your best interest to consult a qualified and experienced immigration lawyer.

9.    Is it possible to get a deportation order removed?

Yes. It is possible for one to seek a suspension of deportation, but these are granted sparingly and only for good reason.

10.    What happens if I ask the judge for a voluntary departure?

You must leave the country, but the deportation order is kept off your record so that you may reenter again in the future.

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1.    What are the ways I can become a citizen?

  1. Naturalization (citizen upon birth).
  2. Right of Birthplace (any child born in the U.S. is a citizen, even if the mother was here illegally).
  3. Right of blood (even if a child is born outside the U.S., the child automatically becomes a citizen if at least one parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of birth).

2.    What are the privileges of being a citizen?

  1. The right to vote
  2. The right to have a passport
  3. The right to sponsor others for permanent resident status in the United States

 3.    Where can I file my naturalization application?

You can file your application with the United States Citizenship Immigration and Services Center.

4.    How can I pay my naturalization fee?

You are required to pay your application fee with a check or money order drawn on a U.S. bank in U.S. dollars payable to the "USCIS."

5.    What is the processing time for my naturalization application?

The processing time for a naturalization application will vary depending on the local office with which it is filed.

6.    If I am granted naturalization, does that automatically make me a United States Citizen?

No. You will not become a citizen until you take an Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. Sometimes, this can be done as soon as the naturalization interview is complete.

7.    What should I bring to my U.S. citizenship interview?

You should be prepared for your interview with your green card, passport, marriage/divorce certificate, income tax returns, child support receipts, military/selective service records, and criminal records (if available).

8.    Can I become a citizen again if I already lost my citizenship once?

Probably. There are some Supreme Court decisions that have opened review for loss of citizenship cases. 

9.    When does my time as a permanent resident begin?

Your time as a Permanent Resident begins on the date you were granted permanent resident status. This date is on your Permanent Resident Card.

10.     My application says I need to be fingerprinted. Where can I get this done?

After USCIS has received your application, they will notify you of the location where you should get fingerprinted.

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U - Visas

1.    What is a U-Visa?

Illegal aliens who have been victims of serious crimes may be eligible for a U-Visa, which will allow them to help with the prosecution of the perpetrator. The illegal alien would subsequently be given legal status to reside and work in the United States.

2.    What crimes are included in the U-Visa category?

Abduction, rape, incest, kidnapping, slave trade, murder, manslaughter, perjury, trafficking, serious assault, and prostitution, among others.

3.    Is a family member also eligible for a U-Visa?

A family member of a U visa applicant cannot apply for a U visa on his or her own behalf. However, the U visa applicant can file a petition on behalf of the family member in the following situations: (1) if the U visa applicant is less than 21 years of age the applicant can file for their spouse, children, unmarried siblings under 18 years of age, and parents; or (2) if the U visa applicant is 21 or older, then the applicant can file for their spouse and the applicant’s children.

4.    How long can an immigrant retain a U-Visa?

One cannot retain a U-Visa for longer than 4 years. However, the immigrant may re-apply for another visa when the 4 years have passed.

5.    Is there a deadline for submitting a U-Visa application?

There is no deadline for those applying for U-Visa relief at this point.

6.    Can an immigrant with a U-Visa eventually apply for a green card?

Yes. However, the immigrant must have been physically present in the United States for a period of three years prior to the application.

7.    Is there a certain number of U-Visas that are granted each year?

The government may grant up to 10,000 U-Visas in any fiscal year.

8.    Can an immigrant who is now outside of the United States still apply for a U-Visa if the crime occurred in the U.S.?

Yes. Immigrants, who are victims of a qualifying crime, and their family members, can apply for a U visa from outside the United States, as long as the qualifying crime was committed while the immigrant was in the United States.

9.    Are there filing fees for U-Visas?

No, however fingerprinting may cost up to $80 per person.

10.     What if I am a victim of a violent crime, but am under a deportation order. Can I still apply?

Yes, you can. Once the U-Visa is granted, you must reopen the deportation order with the Immigration court.

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Visitor Visas

1.    What is a visitor visa?

The visitor visa is a type of nonimmigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily for business, pleasure, tourism or medical treatment.

2.    How do I apply for a visitor visa?

You can apply at the United States consulate in your country.

3.    I was recently denied a visitor visa. What do I do now?

You can always reapply for a visitor visa. However, it is important to note that interviewing officers keep detailed records of prior interviews and other application materials.

4.    I am interested in flying to the United States from Mexico. Do I still need a United States passport?

Yes. A passport reflecting identity and citizenship is required for one’s admission into the United States. This requirement came into effect on January 23, 2007.

5.    On my previous visit, I left with time remaining on my visitor card. Can I still use that time on my next visit?

No. Once the date on the I-94 card expires, one may not carry that remaining time over to a later visit.

6.    What are the penalties for remaining in the U.S. after my visitor visa expires?

Anyone who stays any length of time after their visa expires becomes ineligible for any other visa of any other country other than his home country.

7.    I am in the U.S. with H1B status and would like to bring my parents over as well. How is this possible?

The parents of a person with H1B status, or even permanent resident status, are only allowed to visit the United States as tourists unless they can qualify for other non-immigrant status.

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Employment Visas

1.    I am an employer who hires foreign workers. Do I need to fill out an I-9 form for all those that apply?

No. The employer needs to complete an Form I-9 only for people who are actually hired. For purposes of the I-9 rules, a person is "hired" when he or she begins to work for wages or other compensation.

2.    How long must an employer wait to fire an employee if the employee cannot present proper documentation?

The employer may fire the employee within three (3) business days from the start of employment if he is not presented with proper documentation.

3.    I am an employer. What is my responsibility regarding the authenticity of the documents?

The employer must make a reasonable inspection of the documents and if they appear to be genuine, he must accept them.

4.    May an employer accept a photocopy of any of the required documents presented by the employee?

No. All documents presented must be the originals. The only exception is a certified copy of the birth certificate.

5.    What happens if an employer properly completes a Form I-9, but the BICE discovers that the employee is not actually authorized to work?

The employer cannot be charged with a verification violation; however, the employer cannot knowingly continue to employ this individual. The employer will have a good faith defense against the imposition of employer sanctions and penalties for knowingly hiring an unauthorized alien unless, however, the government can prove that the employer had actual knowledge of the unauthorized status of the employee.

6.    Why can’t I use experience with my current employer on my application?

The PERM regulations specifically state that the beneficiary must have qualified for the position prior to joining the employer.

7.    What is the priority date in an employment visa?

In the case of an employer-sponsored petition, the priority date is the date the labor certification was filed with the Department of Labor.

8.    Must a person with H1B status be working at all times?

Not necessarily. As long as the employer-employee relationship exists, an H1B is still in status. Thus, an H1B may work either full-time or part-time and remain in status.

9.    Can an H1B holder travel to places outside of the United States?

Yes. A holder of an H1B visa may reenter the United States during the validity of the period of their H-1B Visa.

10.     Who can an H1B alien work for?

H1B aliens can only work for the petitioning United States employer (the company that is sponsoring them) and only within the scope of H1B activities (job duties) described in the visa petition.

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1.    Who is eligible to apply for asylum?

Asylum may be granted to people who are arriving or already physically present in the U.S.

2.    When I apply, must I ask for asylum at a port-of-entry?

Yes. This request may be made at any airport, seaport, or border crossing within 1 year of arrival into the united states.

3.    What form do I need to complete in order to be eligible for asylum?

You must complete the Form I-589.

4.    Is it possible to apply for asylum if I am an illegal immigrant in the United States?

Yes, it is possible as long as you file your application within one year of your last arrival or demonstrate that you are eligible for an exception to that rule based on changed circumstances or extraordinary circumstances.

5.    If I apply for asylum, will my wife and children be protected as well?

Yes, but you must list your wife and children on the Form I-589. Only children under the age of 21 and unmarried will be eligible.

6.    Is there a fee to apply for asylum?

No, there is no fee.

7.    What should I bring with me to the asylum interview?

If you do not speak English fluently, you must bring an interpreter. Furthermore, if your spouse or children were under the age of 21 at the time the application was filed, they too must be present. Additionally, it is important to remember some form of identification, the originals of any birth certificates, marriage certificates, or other documents you previously submitted with your Form I-589, as well as a copy of your Form I-589 and other supplementary materials that you previously submitted, and any additional available items documenting your claim that you have not already submitted with your application.

8.    When will I know the results of my asylum claim?

In most cases, the asylum claim will take two weeks after the interview process.

9.    Can I travel outside of the United States if I’ve received asylum?

Yes, but you must receive advance permission before you leave the United States in order to return to the United States.

10.     Will I be permitted to work after I’ve received asylum?

Yes, but you must apply for a work permit, and you are not allowed to apply for a work permit at the same time you apply for asylum. You will be authorized to work in the United States if you are granted asylum and as long as you remain in asylum status.

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