Houston Immigration Lawyer Eliud Zavala
Eliud Zavala is the founder and managing member of Zavala Law Firm, PLLC – an immigration law firm based in Houston. As an immigrant himself, Mr. Zavala knows the difficulties of going through the complexities of the U.S. immigration system. As an experienced immigration attorney, Mr. Zavala provides the most attentive, caring, and efficient representation to help his clients navigate the immigration system with ease and success. Mr. Zavala is a former associate immigration attorney of FosterQuan, LLP later Foster, LLP – the nation’s largest minority-owned and preeminent global immigration law firm.
He has assisted in the preparation and filing of cases before the Executive Office for Immigration Review, Board of Immigration Appeals, Administrative Appeals Office, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and U.S. consulates throughout the world.
Immigration attorney Zavala can help you with family petitions, permanent residence, K-1 fiance(e) visas, K-3 spouse visas, and consular process as well as the permanent residence through consulates throughout the world.
Mr. Zavala can also help you with permanent residence through employment-based preferences such as outstanding researchers and professors, for people with extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics, for multinational managers or executives. Immigration lawyer Zavala has also guided those seeking a national interest waiver, skilled workers, professionals, religious workers and immigrant investor petitions pertaining to EB-5 investments.Mr. Zavala also represents clients seeking no-immigrant visas such as TN; E1 and E2; L-1A and L-1B; H-1B; and R-1.
Mr. Zavala graduated from the University of Houston-Downtown with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. He is a graduate of South Texas College of Law where he participated in the law school’s Immigration/Human Trafficking clinic representing underprivileged individuals and victims of human trafficking.
Immigration lawyer Zavala has also been a panelist for the American Immigration Lawyer Association Texas Chapter Conference and has appeared in local and statewide newscast with Univision to speak about the immigration-related news. Mr. Zavala is a member of the State Bar of Texas, American Immigration Lawyers Association and the American Bar Association.
As the U.S. policy on immigration continues to change, it’s more important than ever to join forces with an experienced immigration attorney who will protect your rights. At the Zavala Law Firm, PLLC, we offer compassionate counsel and superior legal services for individuals, families, and businesses dealing with immigration matters.
Our comprehensive practice focuses on:
- Immigration for Families
- Immigration for Businesses and Employees
- Waivers of Inadmissibility
- Military Parole in Place
- Citizenship and Naturalization
Bring Your Loved Ones to the U.S. with a Family-Based Visa
Nothing is harder than being separated from the ones you love. Some of the most meaningful work we do at the Zavala Immigration Law Firm involves reuniting families. Immigration attorney Eliud Zavala has helped countless individuals successfully obtain permanent residence in the U.S. through family-based petitions.
If you are a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) or U.S. citizen who wants to petition a family relative for an immigrant visa, you need to file an I-130 visa petition for Alien Relative with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices. But before starting this family-based immigration process, it’s important to define which relatives are eligible based on your immigration status.
As a green card holder or lawful permanent resident, you can petition for the following family members
- unmarried child(ren)
As a U.S. citizen, you can petition for your
- Unmarried children under 21
- Married children over 21
- Parents (if you are 21 or over)
- Brother/Sister (if you are 21 or over)
Immediate Relatives vs. Family Preference Visa Categories
Under the provisions of United States immigration law, specifically the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), there are two groups of family based immigrant visa categories: immediate relatives and family preference. Immediate relatives are considered close family relationships as follows:
- IR-1: Spouse of a U.S. Citizen
- IR-2: Unmarried Child Under 21 Years of Age of a U.S. Citizen
- IR-3: Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. Citizen
- IR-4: Orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen
- IR-5: Parent of a U.S. Citizen who is at least 21 years old
Immediate relatives are given special priority and are not subject to annual immigration visa quotas, which means they generally do not have to endure a long waiting period to file for a green card. Family preference relatives apply to those family members who are not immediate relatives. Unfortunately, there are annual limits on the number of Family Preference Visas that can be approved.
Your family member’s preference category will determine how long they will have to wait for an immigrant visa number:
- First Preference (F1): Unmarried children of U.S. citizens (adult means 21 or older.)
- Second Preference (F2A): Spouses of Green Card holders, unmarried children (under 21) of permanent residents
- Second Preference (F2B): Unmarried adult children of permanent residents
- Third Preference (F3): Married children of any age
- Fourth Preference (F4): Siblings of U.S. citizens
K3 Spouse Visa
If you have a foreign national spouse that you wish to bring to the U.S., one option is for them to apply for a K-3 visa. A K3 visa allows your spouse to come to the U.S. while the visa is pending. Upon entry, he/she can apply to adjust their status to a lawful permanent residence. The K3 must be filed and issued by a US consulate in the country where the marriage took place.
K1 Fiancé(e) visa
If you are a U.S. citizen engaged to a non-citizen who is living abroad, there are options available to help them obtain permanent residence here in the U.S.
- Apply for a Fiancé visa (K-1) — this allows your fiancé to enter the U.S. for 90 days, during which time you must get married
- This method requires you to file a Form I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)
- After you marry, your spouse can apply for permanent residence by filing a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status
- If your fiance works, they can apply for permission to work with a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
Obtaining Permanent Residence: Adjustment of Status vs. Consular Processing
An application for permanent residence or green card application is the second step which follows the family relative petition. There are two paths to complete the permanent residence process. One is to file Form I-485 and adjust your permanent residence while living in the United States. The second path is to apply for an immigrant visa at a consulate in your home country and gain entry into the United States after an interview at the U.S. consulate in your country.
It is imperative to consult with an experienced immigration attorney, such as Attorney Zavala, to correctly identify your eligibility for permanent residence in the United States. The wrong help can land you in deportation proceedings or can make you lose thousands of dollars in government application fees.
Parole in Place: Green Card for Military Families
If you entered the U.S. without a visa but are the spouse, child, or parent of someone in the U.S. military, you may qualify for a program called parole in place (PIP) which allows you to adjust your status and obtain a green card while remaining in the U.S.
Denied Entry to the U.S.? Apply for a Waiver
There are a number of grounds by which Citizenship and Immigration Services can declare you inadmissible to the U.S. The most common include:
- Criminal activity
- Misrepresentations to the U.S. government in previous immigration applications
- Prior immigration violations
Being considered inadmissible means you will likely not be issued a visa to come to the U.S. or might be refused admission to the U.S. at a port of entry. If you currently reside in the U.S., you may have been denied an adjustment of status due to a violation of an immigrant or criminal law. The good news is that the law provides an opportunity for you to apply for legal “forgiveness” and obtain a waiver.
I-601A Waiver for Unlawful Presence
If you have accrued an unlawful presence in the U.S. and are not eligible for adjustment status, you may be hesitant to depart for your consular interview for fear that you would be denied re-entry. Fortunately, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has created a new process that allows immediate relatives of U.S. citizens to apply for a provisional unlawful presence waiver while still in the U.S. and before departing for their immigrant visa interview abroad.
I-601A Eligibility Requirements
- Be an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen (spouse, child, parent)
- Be the beneficiary of an approved relative petition
- Be 17 years or older
- Be present in the U.S. at time provisional waiver is filed
- Show extreme hardship to a U.S. citizen, spouse, or parent if denied
- Cannot be in removal proceedings
Waiver for Criminal Grounds
If you were denied entry into the U.S. because you have a criminal history, you may be eligible to file for a waiver application.
If you were convicted of any of the following, you can apply for the waiver:
- A crime involving moral turpitude
- A single offense of possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana
- Involvement in serious criminal activity where immunity from prosecution was asserted;
- Conviction of two or more offenses of any kind with an aggregate sentence imposed of at least 5 years; or
- Asserting immunity against prosecution of a serious crime
You must also show that:
- At least 15 years have passed since the criminal act and you can prove rehabilitation;
- An immediate family member needs you and would suffer extreme hardship if you were denied entry
212 Waiver of Inadmissibility for Fraud or Misrepresentation
If you willfully misrepresented a material fact on a past immigration application, you can be permanently barred from immigrating to U.S. and becoming a permanent resident unless you qualify for a waiver of fraud and willful misrepresentation.
This 212 waiver is available if you can prove that a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent would face extreme hardship if you are denied or removed from the U.S.
Temporary/Non-Immigrant Work Visas
If you want to work in the U.S. for a fixed period of time, we can assist you and/or your prospective employer with securing a temporary work visa that matches your needs and qualifications.
The most popular temporary work visa is the H-1B. The H-1B program allows workers in specialty occupations to work in the U.S. for up to a total of six years. An H-1B requires a higher education degree or equivalent experience.
Before you can apply for a temporary worker visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate, your employer must file a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129 on your behalf and it must be approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In most cases, an H-1B requires proof of a job offer and duration of employment.
These visas go quickly as Congress has set the current annual cap for H-1B visas at 65,000.
Employment Based Visas
Every year between October 1 and September 30, there are roughly 140,000 employment-based immigration visas made available to foreign workers. To be considered for a work visa, your prospective employer must first obtain a labor certification approval from the Department of Labor.
Once received, the employer files an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for the appropriate employment-based preference category.
Worker Visa Preference Categories
Once approval has been granted, your employer will file an I-140 form or Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for the employment-based preference category that matches.
EB1 for Priority Workers:
People with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.
- Do not need specific job offer to enter the U.S. just proof of continuing their work
- Can file own Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, I-140 Form
Outstanding Professors and Researchers
- Three years experience in teaching or research, internationally recognized
- Must be pursuing tenure, tenure track teaching, or comparable research position at institution of higher learning
- Must provide proof of job offer and file an I-140 Form
Multinational Managers or Executives
- Employment outside of U.S. must have been in a managerial or executive capacity and must be continuing that same line of work
- Must have been employed for one of the last three years by an overseas affiliate, parent, subsidiary, or branch of U.S. based employer
- Must provide proof of job offer and file an I-140 form with USCIS
EB2 for Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability
- Required job offer and labor certification approved by Department of Labor
- Employer must file I-140 form
- Must be professional with advanced degree and have exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business
EB3 for Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers (Other Workers)
- Skilled workers with minimum of two years training or work experience in roles not considered temporary or seasonal
- Professionals whose jobs require at least a baccalaureate degree from a U.S. university or college or its foreign equivalent degree.
- Unskilled worker capable of working in a role that requires less than two years training or experience that is not temporary or seasonal
EB4 for Religious workers
- Ministers and non-ministers in religious vocations and occupations who will perform religious work in a full-time compensated position
- Cap of 5,000 workers who may be issued a special immigrant non-minister religious worker visa during each fiscal year
EB-5 for Immigrant Investors
- Required to make either a $500,000 or $1 million capital investment amount into a U.S. commercial enterprise
- Investments must result in the creation of 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers. These jobs must be created within a two year period after you receive your conditional permanent residency.
The threat of deportation is an extremely traumatic and frightening ordeal. The thought of being torn away from your family and the life you’ve grown accustomed to is unimaginable. The Houston immigration lawyers at The Zavala Law Office understands the fear and uncertainty you’re dealing with and can help you find a form of relief or defense to prevent the worst from happening.
With so much at stake, take decisive action now. Call us.
Here are just some of the defense strategies or relief from removal options we can explore
- Asylum and Withholding of Removal
- Cancellation of Removal
- Prosecutorial Discretion
- Temporary Protective Status
- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA
- Voluntary Departure
Common Grounds for Deportation Proceedings
The deportation process is initiated when the Department of Homeland Security issues a Notice to Appear charging you inadmissible to or deportable from U.S. We defend individuals threatened with deportation or removal because of:
- A criminal conviction
- Overstaying a visa
- Immigration fraud or violation
- Employment violations
- Entering the country illegally
- Unlawful presence
- Final Order of Removal/Deportation after a denial of asylum
- Failing to depart after a grant of voluntary departure; or
- Being arrested and convicted of a serious crime such as domestic violence, illegal possession of a firearm or drug possession.
Asylum or Withholding of Removal
If you cannot return to your home country due to a well-founded fear that you may be persecuted due to your race, religion, nationality, social status, or political beliefs, you may qualify for relief from removal through a petition for asylum, withholding or removal, or Convention Against Torture (CAT).
- Asylum gives you authorized protection from the U.S. government. Form I-589
- Withholding of removal has a higher legal standard than asylum and prohibits deportation if there is a clear probability or more than a 50% chance that you will be persecuted in your home country
- Convention Against Torture – “more likely than not” that you would be tortured
We can assist you whether you have fled your country seeking asylum or are in the U.S. illegally and have a real fear of being persecuted if deported back.
Cancellation of Removal: If you have a green card but have a criminal conviction on your record and have been placed into removal proceedings, you may qualify for cancellation of removal.
Cancellation of Removal for Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR)
- You have spent 7 years of continuous residence in U.S. after having been lawfully admitted
- You had a green card for 5 years before committing crime or getting into removal proceedings,
- Never been convicted of aggravated felony
- Shown rehabilitation or remorse
Cancellation of Removal for Non-Residents
If you are an undocumented immigrant and do not have a green card, there may be a way to avoid deportation if you:
- Have been physically present in the US for no less than 10 years
- Have not been convicted of certain crimes
- Your deportation would cause “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” to a spouse, child, or parent who is the United States Citizen or permanent resident
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is a federal program created in 2012 to protect undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors from deportation proceedings. DACA allows eligible applicants to defer removal for two years. During this time you will be able to obtain a social security number and seek employment.
You can request consideration for DACA if you meet the following guidelines:
- Arrived in the U.S. before 16th bday
- Continuously resided since June 15, 2007, up to present time
- Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
- Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
- Entered the U.S. without inspection before June 15, 2012, or had lawful status expire on June 15, 2012
- Currently in school or have already obtained a high school diploma or GED, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States
- Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety
Temporary Protected Status
If the conditions in your home country are deemed to be unsafe, you may be eligible to receive Temporary Protected Status. This allows you to live and work in the U.S. and travel back and forth without fear of being placed in deportation proceedings.
The Department of Homeland Security classifies the following conditions as unsafe:
- Ongoing armed conflict (such as civil war)
- An environmental disaster (such as earthquake or hurricane), or an epidemic
- Other extraordinary and temporary conditions
Countries eligible for TPS: El Salvador, Guinea, Haití, Honduras, Liberia, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Yemen, and Syria.
Immigration Relief for Victims of Crimes
U.S. Immigration Law provides three different visas for victims of crimes who want to stay in or come to the U.S.
- VAWA visa: If you are an immigrant woman and a victim of domestic violence, child abuse, or elder abuse, you can “self-petition” for lawful permanent residence status under the Violence Against Women Act
- The “U” visa for victims of serious crimes (10,000 given out per year) that have suffered serious and ongoing harm and cooperated with law enforcement to bring perpetrator to justice
- The “T” visa for victims of human trafficking, allowing them to remain in the U.S. to assist in an investigation or prosecution of human trafficking
Emergency Stay of Removal
If you have received a final order of deportation and are in danger of being immediately deported, we can file an emergency motion for stay of removal with either the Board of Immigration Appeals or a Federal Court. This order can suspend the authority of the Department of Homeland Security to execute the order of deportation. A request for an administrative stay of removal requires the filing of an official form I-246 and a filing fee of $155. A stay can be granted for three months up to one year.
ICE may grant a stay for sympathetic family, social, health or economic factors.
If you are in removal proceedings and have no legal means of staying in the U.S., you may qualify for a form of discretionary relief known as “voluntary departure.” This essentially means you would leave voluntarily versus waiting to be deported. You can leave on your own terms without the stigma of being “deported.”
Whereas individuals who are being deported must leave the country within 30 days, you will be given 60-120 days to get your “affairs in order” and to make living arrangements in your home country. The main benefit of a voluntary departure is that you won’t be automatically barred from returning to the U.S. at a later time.
A few key requirements:
- Have been present in the U.S. for at least one year
- Have been a person of good moral character for the previous five years
- Withdraw any other applications for relief, such as for cancellation of removal
- Admit that the DHS allegations regarding your removability are true
- Waive your right to appeal the judge’s decision on your case
Citizenship through Naturalization
If you have been living in the U.S. as a lawful permanent citizen or on a green card and are ready to pursue obtaining citizenship, we can help you take this exciting next step.
Qualifications for Naturalization
- Been a lawful permanent resident for five years (or three years for spouses of United States Citizens)
- 18 years old or older
- Good moral character
- Can speak, read, and write English
- Pass a test on U.S. history and government
- Physically present in the U.S. at least half the requisite time
- Maintained lawful permanent residence continuously
- Swears loyalty to the U.S. by taking an oath of allegiance
The naturalization process can be complex but we can save you valuable time, effort and expense in preparing your application and making sure it’s free from costly errors.
Benefits of Citizenship
Once granted citizenship, you will have the right to vote, the right to government jobs, the right to apply for resident status for family members and the freedom to travel with an American passport which provides entry without a visa into many countries.