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Immigration & Naturalization Law

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The Immigration Process

What is a Port of Entry?

You can enter the US through over 300 Ports of ­Entry (POE). A POE is any station: land, air or water, through which a person can enter the US. Immigration officials inspect all persons entering the US at a port­ of­ entry.

At the port of entry, an official must authorize the visitor’s admission to the U.S.  At that time Form I­94, Record of Arrival/­Departure, which notes the length of stay permitted, is stamped. Those visitors who wish to stay beyond the time indicated on Form I­94 must contact the USCIS to request Form I­539, Application to Extend Status. The decision to grant or deny a request for extension of stay is made solely by the USCIS.

Can I live and work in the U.S. if I have family living there?

Only U.S. citizens or permanent resident relatives may sponsor the noncitizen for permanent residence. Only the following family-based groups are eligible to file for their noncitizen relative:

  • Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (parents and spouses and sons/daughters over 21 years of age);
  • Spouses and unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents;
  • U.S. citizen brothers and sisters can file for their siblings.

How long can I stay in the U.S. as a student?

Foreign nationals on a student visa are allowed to stay in the U.S for as long as the student is enrolled in a full-time educational program, and making progress toward completing the course of study. Once the program is finished, there is a 60 day grace period to allow the individual to depart the U.S.

If approved, students will be allowed to stay in the country up to twelve additional months beyond the completion of their studies to pursue practical training, (OPT).

How do I apply to study in the U.S.?

You first must apply to study at a USCIS-approved school in the United States. When you contact a school that you are interested in attending, you should be told immediately if the school accepts foreign national students. If you are accepted, the school should give you USCIS Form I-20 A-B/ID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status – for Academic and Language Students). If you require a visa, then you should take the USCIS Form I-20 to the nearest U.S. consulate to obtain a student visa. Only bring the USCIS Form I-20 from the school you plan on attending for visa processing at  the U.S. consulate. You must also prove to the consulate that you have the financial  resources required for your education and stay in the United States.

What is a motion to reopen?

If a person within the United States has been denied citizenship, a visa, or other lawful means of staying in the country, they may be ordered to leave the U.S. At the point the removal order becomes final, that person has 90 days to file a motion to reopen. This filing reopens the person’s case and allows him or her the ability to introduce new evidence.

Can I use a motion to reopen to stay in the United States?

After a removal order becomes final, one of the only methods a person can use to argue their case is to file a motion to reopen. This allows the individual the right to introduce new evidence into their case. However, filing the motion to reopen may not necessarily prevent the person from being deported.

Who can file a motion to reopen?

Individuals who wish to remain in the United States legally but have been ordered removed may file a motion to reopen. This allows the person the ability to present new evidence in their case.

How long do I have to file a motion to reopen?

Noncitizens of the U.S. have 90 days to file a motion to reopen after their removal order has been finalized if they wish to present new evidence in their case.

Can I file a motion to reopen if I’m outside the United States?

Yes, individuals who are residing outside the United States may file a motion to reopen within 90 days after the removal order becomes final.

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