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Immigration and Citizenship

1. I came to the United States on a visa that expired, but I am now married to a U.S. citizen. Can I file for a work permit or green card?

Yes. You and your spouse can file an adjustment of status for a "green card." The adjustment of status application is filed at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services national processing center in Chicago, Illinois. By law, the employment authorization document ("EAD") must be granted, within 90 days, or an interim card will be issued. Roughly seven to ten months after filing the application package, you and your spouse will be interviewed together at the local district office.

2. I have had a green card for over five years and want to apply for U.S. citizenship, but I was convicted of a DWI two years ago. Am I eligible to become a US citizen?

Not yet. You must wait until five years have elapsed since the DWI conviction to be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. Under the law, you must show at least five years of good moral character prior to applying for U.S. citizenship. Because you have been a legal permanent resident for over five years, you would be eligible for U.S. citizenship if you had not been convicted of the DWI.

3. I am a U.S. citizen and my parents are in my birth country. Can I apply for them to come here to live permanently?

Yes, you can file a visa petition at a USCIS Service Center. Once the petition is approved, it is sent to the consulate of your birth country to determine status adjustment. Your parents will then be interviewed, and, if approved, they would receive their green cards once they have arrived in the United States.

4. I am not legal in the United States and I cannot obtain a Social Security number. What can I do?

You can apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). An ITIN is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It is a nine-digit number that always begins with the number nine and has a seven or eight in the fourth digit (e.g. 9XX-7X-XXXX). IRS issues ITINs to individuals who are required to have a U.S. taxpayer identification number but who are not eligible to obtain a Social Security number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration (SSA). ITINs are issued regardless of your immigration status because both resident and non-resident aliens may have U.S. tax return and payment responsibilities under the Internal Revenue Code. Individuals must have a filing requirement and file a valid federal income tax return to receive an ITIN. Obtaining an ITIN for immigration purposes is important  because all income earned, even without an employment authorization document, must be reported to the IRS. An ITIN permits such reporting, and in many instances can help someone attempting to gain an immigration benefit before USCIS or before an immigration judge. It should be noted that an ITIN must never be used as if it were an SSN. This could cause severe problems.

5. My friend told me that there is an amnesty program I can sign up for. Is that true?

No, not yet. The Senate recently passed a bill that would permit specified people unlawfully present in the United States to become legal guest workers. But the Senate bill was not an amnesty program since it would take an individual 11 years to become a U.S. citizen.

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