Texas Immigration Attorney Providing Legal Representation for USCIS MattersUSCIS-Attorney-In-Texas

What is the USCIS?

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, also known as USCIS, is the federal agency in charge of granting immigration benefits. As part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the USCIS handles all administrative processes related to immigration and naturalization. No matter what type of immigration issue you are facing — whether it’s seeking an extension or change of status, asylum, a work or family based visa or U.S citizenship, you will inevitably be forced to deal with the USCIS at some point.

To increase the likelihood of a successful outcome in your case, it’s critical to retain the counsel of a competent immigration lawyer who is intimately familiar with how the USCIS works. The U.S. policy on immigration has become increasingly harsh, making it more more important than ever to have someone on your side who is willing to fight for you and protect your rights. There’s far too much at stake for you to tackle this on your own. It’s simply not worth the risk!

You’ll be in great hands with the Zavala Law Firm, PLLC. We help you during all your interactions with USCIS including completing the application forms correctly, gathering documents and necessary evidence, and preparing and accompanying you to your final immigration interview. Call today at 713-766-6720 to schedule a free consultation with our dedicated immigration attorney Eliud Zavala.

Services Provided by the USCIS

Working in the U.S. – The USCIS is involved in any application process that provides non-U.S. citizens the right to work in the U.S including for Permanent Resident Cards (green cards), Employment Authorization Cards (work permits), and employment-related visas for specific employers.

Citizenship – USCIS manages the naturalization process to become a U.S. citizen. They review and process Form N-400 Application for Naturalization, conduct a citizenship interview, administer a citizenship test, and schedule a Naturalization ceremony.

Immigration of Family Members – USCIS oversees the process that allows current U.S. citizens and permanent residents to bring close relatives to live and work in the U.S.

Humanitarian Programs – USCIS has several humanitarian programs that provide protection for individuals facing adverse circumstances. Those who may qualify for assistance may include refugees, asylum seekers, a battered spouse, child or parent, victims of human trafficking, victims of natural catastrophes, etc.

 

Filing UCSIS Forms

The preparation and filing of USCIS forms can be confusing and frustrating. These documents contain detailed legal language and instructions that can be difficult to understand, especially if you are a non-English speaker. If you make just one procedural error, your application could be returned, delayed, or rejected. Immigration lawyer Eliud Zavala can guide you through the application process. He can make sure you have the most up to date version of the form you need and can assist you with providing all relevant supporting documentation. Mr. Zavala has extensive knowledge of the streamlined systems used to prepare applications efficiently.

Have You Received a Notice for an USCIS Interview?

The USCIS requires all adjustment of status applicants seeking permanent residence through a green card to participate in an in-person interview with a USCIS officer. This interview serves as a vetting or screening mechanism to verify the information in your application, uncover new information that may prove valuable to the adjudication process, and assess your overall credibility.

In years past, the USCIS was given the discretion to waive the interview on a case by case basis – mostly in situations where an applicant had passed their background check, had no signs of criminal history or prior immigration violations. However, that policy changed when President Trump signed an executive order (“Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”) which expanded mandatory interviews across the board for persons seeking permanent residence or green card status.

The new policy went into effect on Oct 2, 2017 and began to phase-in interviews for those with employment-based applications including:

  • Adjustment of status/green card applications filed on or after March 6, 2017 (Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) in the following categories:
    • EB-1, employment based first preference
    • EB-2, employment based second preference
    • EB-3, employment based third preference
  • Refugee/asylee relative petitions (Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition) for beneficiaries who are in the United States and are petitioning to join a principal asylee/refugee applicant. 

The Role of an Immigration Attorney During USCIS Interview 

Your interview with the USCIS will most likely take place at a local USCIS Field Office in the jurisdiction where you reside. Participants will include a USCIS officer, an interpreter if necessary, and you and your attorney. If you are applying based on marriage, your spouse will also need to attend. If you initially prepared and filed an application or petition without the help of an attorney, you are still permitted to have an attorney present at the interview. Mr. Zavala will make sure to submit a Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative (Form G-28) to the USCIS officer.

Benefits of Having an Attorney Represent You at USCIS Interview

Having an immigration attorney by your side does not imply that you have something to hide. On the contrary, it showcases your professionalism and dedication to protecting your rights. It also sends a signal to the USCIS officer that you won’t be pushed around. At the Zavala Law Firm, PLLC, we strongly advise that you call our office to secure counsel for the interview at least two weeks in advance.

The importance of having credible representation at your interview cannot be overstated. Any misstep during the final stage in the vetting process could jeopardize your entire case.  While it’s true that an attorney’s role is somewhat limited during the interview, there are several significant ways Mr. Zavala can improve your chances of getting approved, such as:

  • prepare you in advance for the interview by explaining the process in detail and reviewing potential questions you may be asked and issues that are likely to arise
  • advise you on how to raise objections to inappropriate questions
  • make sure you have all relevant documents for interview
  • monitor the discussion and take informative notes on questions asked and answers given
  • ask the officer to clarify vague or unclear questions
  • help you avoid misrepresenting material facts

What to Expect at Your USCIS Interview

For a marriage-based green card interview (Form I-130, Form I-485) the USCIS wants proof that you have a bona fide marriage. You should expect to be asked specific questions about your relationship with your spouse including how you met, how long you were engaged, when you got married, etc. Mr. Zavala can help you gather documents as evidence of a shared life such as marriage certificate, a joint lease or mortgage, joint bank account or credit card statements, childrens’ birth certificates, and more.

For an employment-based visa interview you will likely be questioned about your job, your employer, and your qualifications. You will have to provide documentation such as a recently dated Confirmation of Permanent Job Offer from your employer, certifying the offered position, offered wage, offered job duties, and other employment terms and conditions.

For a naturalization or citizenship interview, the USCIS officer will test your ability to read, write, and speak English as well as your knowledge of U.S. history.

For an asylum interview (Form I-589 Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal)the officer will ask you about your experience in your home country and why you need asylum in the United States. You will have to demonstrate a credible fear of persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Mr. Zavala can assist in assembling evidence to support your claim such as updated Human Rights Watch reports. The USCIS is currently experiencing a significant backlog and has decided to review the most recent application filings first.

Will I Be Arrested at My Green Card Interview?

Unfortunately, there have been reports of applicants who have been arrested and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during their interviews with ICSIS. In many of these cases however, the applicants had outstanding deportation or removal orders and remained in the country unlawfully. Immigration attorney Eliud Zavala can review your criminal record and immigration history to evaluate the risks of attending the interview.

Dealing with USCIS Processing Delays

Are you experiencing delays with your immigration case? The USCIS is unfortunately notorious for its bureaucratic red tape which can cause long processing times and delays. The situation has only gotten worse under President Trump. The current administration has mandated that the USCIS implement more extreme vetting and enforcement procedures, including the new interview requirement for employment-based visas. These policy changes have increased the agency’s total workload by 17{f37c4f09dc85e18e6e41e9de706c8098644dbcc089aee1dc0ee2d14408c2f28c} with no corresponding staffing increases to help with the growing backlog.

In previous years, fiancé and spouse visas were processed within 2-3 months and green card and naturalization applications took 6-9 months. Today, these timeframes have expanded to 5-7 months for family visas and over a year for green cards.

Despite these delays, there are things immigration attorney Eliud Zavala can do to help move the process along. For instance, if you have an urgent employment situation, medical concern, or humanitarian issue that requires an immediate decision from the USCIS, Mr. Zavala can request that your case be expedited. Even if you don’t have an urgent need, steps can be taken to facilitate actions such as scheduling an infopass appointment at your local USCIS office, making an inquiry with the USCIS Ombudsman, or contacting your state Senator’s office to notify them of the delay. If all of these attempts fail to produce a response, Mr. Zavala can file a Writ of Mandamus lawsuit in federal court to compel USCIS to make a decision.

Were You Denied entry into the U.S.?

If you applied for an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa and were approved by the USCIS but denied by the U.S. Consulate, you may be thinking, what now? First, it’s important to understand the difference between how the two entities operate. The USCIS is responsible for determining whether you qualify for a particular benefit whereas the U.S. Consulate is tasked with determining whether you are admissible to the U.S.

The consular officer should provide you with the reason for the denial. Potential grounds for inadmissibility are listed in Section 221 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and include:

  • history of criminal or terrorist activities
  • drug abuse
  • infectious medical problems
  • fraud or misrepresentation (USCIS made a mistake in approving initial
  • unlawful presence, and
  • crime involving moral turpitude

If your visa was denied pursuant to 221(g), Mr. Zavala can help you pursue a strategy that best fits your situation. Based on his expertise in consular processing, he may:

  • File Motion to Reconsider (available for immigrant visa applicants within one year of refusal): submit new evidence or arguments to challenge the visa refusal.
  • Resubmit immigrant petition
  • Apply for Inadmissibility Waiver (request for forgiveness)
  • Request for Supervisorial Review At The Consular Post the supervisor has three options: (1) affirm denial,(2) request an advisory opinion from the State Department; or (3) assume responsibility and readjudicate the case

How Do I Respond to Requests and Notices From the USCIS?

If you file an immigration petition or application with the USCIS and they do not find it legally sufficient or approvable, you may receive a request or notice from them. If this happens, don’t panic.

Request for Evidence (RFE) e.g. H-1B, N-400, I-130, I-129F, I-485, I-751, I-601 and I-601A

If you have received a Request for Evidence, this means the USCIS has evaluated your application but has determined that either there is not sufficient evidence to make a decision or that the materials submitted have left them with questions they need answered. Immigration attorney Eliud Zavala can help you provide the missing documentation, clarify any confusion and correct any discrepancies in a clear and well-organized format. You generally have a maximum of 84 days to respond.

 Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID)

If you have received a Notice of Intent to Deny, it means the USCIS has identified some critical factor that makes you ineligible to receive your requested benefit. Even though they have informed you that they intend to deny your application, you are given 30 days to cure the defect. Mr. Zavala can assist in gathering and submitting evidence to show why your application should not be denied.

*Important Note: Effective September 11, 2018, the USCIS has the authority to deny an application, petition or request filed with USCIS without first issuing an RFE or NOID. 

Given this new policy, it is absolutely vital to join forces with an immigration attorney who can oversee the filing of your application from the very beginning to ensure that sufficient evidence is provided and your eligibility for the benefit is clearly established.