The Ins and Outs of Immigration
También puedes leer este artículo en español, Las Dificultades y Enredos de la Inmigración.
Immigrating to the United States can be a complicated process. From finding the best pathway for their plans to having the correct materials for their citizenship journey, there are some important things for prospective immigrants to keep in mind when deciding to come to the U.S.
More than one way in
A person can enter the U.S. on a temporary or permanent basis. Visiting as a student or tourist are temporary ways to enter the country and often requires visas.
To become a permanent resident, the process is more involved. People can come to the country to stay with family or become permanent employees and work toward the Green Card, officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, that allows someone to live and work permanently in the United States.
Sometimes the temporary visas can lead to more permanent opportunities, said Amelia McGowan, Director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Arkansas.
“It can lead to a job that might petition for a more permanent employment position, and that employer can file for a green card,” she said.
McGowan’s clinic offers support to those seeking residence in the country without authorization, such as asylum seekers, and other United Nations protections, such as withholding of removal protections.
“Asylum you can apply for, really, any time you’re in the country. [It] doesn’t matter how you enter the country — you can apply for it,” McGowan said. “But the related protections … you have to actually be put in immigration court, which is what we used to call deportation proceedings.”
For those seeking asylum, there are still deadlines to keep in mind.
“If there is someone who arrived recently, there are some deadlines that they need to be aware of,” said Miriam Ramirez, an immigration attorney with Ramirez Law Firm. “They must submit it before their one-year anniversary of being here. There are certain exceptions, but they're limited. People should start making arrangements to submit their application as soon as they can.”
The UA Immigration Clinic also assists undocumented people looking to gain status in the country.
The need for numerous documents
Ramirez said proof of your time in the country is required to receive immigration benefits.
“I advise people to start gathering documents — bills, receipts, titles to property, insurance policies, their children’s birth certificates… I’d like to get around five to 10 solid pieces of proof for each year,” Ramirez said.
As for the birth certificates, she recommends looking them over and making sure everything has the correct spelling and information.
“Many immigrants have two last names. Some have a parent listed on the birth certificate with incorrect spelling, [for] example Rodriguez/Rodrigues, Perez/Peres,” Ramirez said. “Some males do not have their name on their children’s birth certificates … therefore, they don’t have any legal documents to prove that a certain child is theirs.”
Ramirez said good moral character is often looked at in immigration cases. She recommends volunteering in the community and getting letters of support from community members, school administrators or religious leaders. Should a person have a criminal history, she suggests finding a way to document rehabilitation efforts.
The cost of immigration varies. From applications to legal fees, it can range from $1,000 to $20,000.
“Taking care of immigration matters is not cheap,” Ramirez said. “If they do not have a case pending now, they can get ahead of the game and save, in case they will need it later on. There are also a lot of organizations that provide low-bono or free services. The local consulate might be able to help with fees as well.”