Why my answer to your quick immigration question is usually “it depends”

“Can I apply for green card? Yes or no?”
“I just have a quick question”
“My immigration case is easy. What should I do?”

When potential immigration clients call me and ask me these sorts of questions, they want to hear my snap advice on their immigration cases. My usual answer is “it depends.” And for potential immigration clients, “it depends” can be frustrating and disappointing response.
Why is it that my off-the-cuff answer to your immigration questions is “it depends”? Is this just my way of luring you into taking the time and incurring the needless expense of coming into my Boston immigration office for a full consultation. Of course not!
The truth is that immigration law is extremely complicated. And the immigration laws are constantly changing. When I say “it depends” what I mean is that your particular immigration options depend on the specific facts of your case. My job is to figuring out how the fact pattern of your case fits into the framework of U.S. immigration laws.
Let me give you an example. If someone were to say, “Hey Josh, I have just have a quick question. Can I you apply for a green card if you enter the United States without inspection?” The answer, in general, would be no. That is because under Section 245 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, you can’t file an I-485 to apply for adjustment of status in the United States unless you can prove entry with inspection and admission.
But that quick, simple answer is misleading and inaccurate because the following 3 exceptions exist:

  1. Beneficiaries of 245(i)-eligible visa petitions, i.e., I-130 or I-140 applications filed on or before April 30, 2001, may be able to file for adjustment of status even if they have no proof of how they entered the U.S.
  2. Those who are applying for immigration benefits under the Violence Against Women Act or VAWA may file for adjustment of status even if they entered the U.S. without inspection.
  3. If you were granted asylum, CAT (Convention Against Torture) or withholding of removal, you may be able to file an I-485 even if you initially came into the U.S. without inspection. In part, this is because asylum and asylum-related applicants apply for adjustment of status under Section 209–not Section 245–of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Would one of these specific exception apply in your immigration case and allow you to apply for a green card even if you entered the U.S. without inspection? The answer is–you guessed it–it depends! My advice would depend on a whole series of follow-up questions. I’d also want to review your passport, USCIS receipt notices and other documentation. And I wouldn’t be doing my job if I were to give you legal advice about your immigration situation without asking you if you have ever been arrested or been to court for a criminal case, whether you ever overstayed a visa, given false or misleading information to USCIS, etc.
The bottom line is that if you need immigration advice, there is no such thing as a simple question or a simple immigration case. And the only way I can give you any more advice than “it depends” is if you come see me in person in my Boston office and allow me to methodically analyze your case.
If you need advice or immigration help or representation in Immigration Court in Boston or before USCIS, call me at 617-722-0005 today.