Watch out for these immigration mistakes in all naturalization, citizenship and visa issues. There are several government departments and agencies involved; the main ones are U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of State.
- Don’t use outdated forms or pay the wrong fees. USCIS changes forms and fees frequently.If you submit the wrong form or fee, they’ll mail your carefully-completed forms right back to you. You can check on updates at their website. The Department of State uses mostly online forms and fees so it’s easier to get it right.
- Don’t leave out information in hopes the government won’t find out about it. Tell the truth – all the facts they ask for, and nothing but the truth. This is good advice on paper and online applications, and at in-person interviews. I often see clients who leave things out for one reason or another. That can get you into a lot more trouble with the government than the truth would have. In many countries, officials are corrupt and it’s often better not to tell the truth – but that’s not the case here.
- Don’t procrastinate. Here’s a real-life, real sad example of what can happen. A Chinese client of mine got a green card through his parents several years ago. That made him eligible to apply for citizenship 5 years later. But a friend gave him bad advice, and he decided not to apply (this was years before his family contacted me). A couple years later he was convicted of a felony. His crime wasn’t nearly as bad as it sounded on paper, but the police made it sound very bad. That conviction made him eligible to be deported. He could no longer apply for citizenship or even stay in the U.S. People used to think they could wait to apply for citizenship, a green card, or whatever. Trump’s election motivated many people to act, or at least to find out their options. That’s one of the very few good things about Trump’s election.
- Do tell the government of address or email changes. After you submit an application or petition, you need to tell USCIS, NVC, etc. if you change your mail or email address. I used to work at the National Visa Center (NVC) which processes green cards for foreign consulates. I saw cases take years longer than they should have, or even be terminated, because the NVC couldn’t contact the parties. Some cases, such as sibling or adult children, take many years, and you might forget to keep the information up-to-date. Here are links for USCIS and the NVC.
- Don’t assume you can do it all yourself. And don’t assume it costs too much to hire an immigration attorney. Many people contact us after they’ve acted on their own – or with the help of their cousin, friend, brother, etc. – and run into problems. Applying for visas involves far more than just filling in forms; there’s a lot of law behind those forms. It’s much easier to do it right from the beginning than to straighten out mistakes later. Mistakes can be huge and lead to deportation or other life-changing consequences (see #3 above). Or they can be relatively small – maybe your application takes a lot longer than it should. You should get advice from an attorney that focuses on immigration law, not a lawyer who represents people with all sorts of issues. Click here to request a consultation; which will answer your questions or at least get you started on the right path.