Immigration FAQs

Who is deciding my immigration case?

One reason immigration law is so complex, is because a multitude of agencies and organizations are responsible for implementing and enforcing US immigration law and policy. The United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Department the of State’s (DOS) National Visa Center (NVC) are responsible for affirmative applications to enter or stay in the United States. The agencies responsible for enforcement (including prosecution and deportation) are the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), while the Department of Justice (DOJ) oversees the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), more commonly known as the immigration court, and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decide cases and controversies surrounding the implementation of immigration laws.


Immigration violations, as well as criminal convictions, can result in deportation, ineligibility for relief from removal, and being barred from naturalization. The grounds for deportation/removal fall into one of the following categories:

  • Entering the country without proper authority
  • Entering the country with authority but violating the terms of the admission, such as overstaying a visa or working without permission
  • Being convicted of a crime
  • Becoming a member of a prohibited organizations
  • Becoming a “public charge” within five years of entering the U.S.
  • Asylum applicants who have been denied or referred to an Immigration Judge
  • Removal proceedings begin with a Notice to Appear at a Master Calendar Hearing in immigration court at which DHS will list the reasons that you
  • are removable from the United States. At the MCH, you have the option to ask for more time to find an attorney, and eventually, you will enter your
  • plea to the DHS charges and any grounds for relief that you may have.

Asylum is based on the inability to stay in or return to one’s own country, because of a well-founded fear persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The persecutor must be the government or a group or individual(s) that the government is unwilling or unable to control.

Asylum must be applied for within one year of entering the United States. If approved, asylee’s may: receive authorization to work in the United States, receive a social security card, receive possible permission to travel overseas, and can petition to bring family members to the United States. They may also be eligible for federal or Office of Refugee Resettlement benefits, such as Medicaid or Refugee Medical Assistance, and, after one year, may apply for lawful permanent resident (LPR) status (i.e., a green card).

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

Any unmarried person under the age of 21, in the United States without permission, may qualify for SIJS if they have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or more parents. SIJS is a two part process, starting in the state family court which decides whether the minor has been abused abandoned or neglected. If that order is obtained, the federal immigration court will decide whether or not to grant immigration status.

Family Based Immigration

U.S. citizens and Legal Permanent Residence may bring certain family members to the United States either as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or through the family preference system. Immediate relatives are spouses of US Citizens, Unmarried Minor (under 21) Children of US Citizens, and parents of US Citizens if the citizen is over 21. Other relatives, or relatives of an LPR, are subject to a numerical cap per year.


Becoming a Legal Permanent Resident (getting a green card) is the first step to becoming a US Citizen. Eligibility for naturalization to a US Citizen is gained after five years of LPR status, or three years if legal residency was obtained through a U.S.-citizen spouse or through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). There are exceptions to this rule, including members of the U.S. military who serve in a time of war.

Other Options for Relief

Certain individuals may be eligible for other relief such as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) among other options. Consult with an immigration attorney to determine whether you qualify for any form of immigration relief.