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Welcome to Sound Immigration’s resource center. Our firm is committed to making the legal system accessible and transparent. Below you will find many resources that answer common questions about U.S. immigration law. If you do not find the topic you are looking for, please use the form at the top of this page to submit your subject and we will do our best to provide you an answer.

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About the U.S. immigration system

Advising LPRs on foreign travel

Whew – your client has finally made it through the lengthy immigrant visa process. Or she’s nailed the adjustment interview and at long last has her green card in hand. What’s the first thing the client wants to do? Often, they want to pack their bags and go on a…

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Green card

Green card. It's a term that is used often. But people don't use the term very carefully. What does "green card" actually mean under the United State's Immigration and Nationality Act? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. "Green card" simply has no legal meaning whatsoever. Instead, it's basically immigration slang. The problem is…

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Understanding “administrative processing”

The following materials are provided from a webinar hosted March 29, 2017 featuring guest speaker, Jay Gairson. Jay is an immigration and national security attorney in Seattle, Washington.  His clients are primarily from the Middle East, East Africa, and South Asia.  He regularly handles cases that receive additional fraud detection…

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Understanding immigrant intent

A U.S. immigration officer presumes that all persons travelling to the U.S. have “immigrant intent.” Immigrant intent means the person has the intention to stay permanently in the U.S.. If you are traveling to the U.S. on a temporary visa, you are required to prove that you do not plan…

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USCIS fees go up (a lot) on Dec. 23, 2016

On December 23, 2016 USCIS filing fees are going to increase. In some cases, they will increase a lot. This post highlights the changes that will most impact our clients. A table below gives a full list of all new fees, and shows by how much a fee increased. When…

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Does USCIS require original documents, or are copies okay?

When you are preparing an application for US Citizenship and Immigration Services do you need to provide original documents? The short answer is generally no - under current rules you are allowed to provide copies with your initial packet. If you provide copies with your original packet, however, you may be…

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Can I enter on a visitor’s visa (B-2) and then adjust status to permanent resident?

Several time per week I get a question that comes something like this: I'm a U.S. citizen and my wife is from China [or insert any other country. She has a visitor's visa and is planning to come to the U.S. later this month. Will we be able to adjust…

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INA to USC Conversion Table

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is the primary authority for U.S. immigration law, codified at Title 8 United States Code. Immigration practitioners customarily cite directly to the INA rather than to its code counterpart and do not provide parallel citations. Use the table below to find see how INA…

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I got my greencard – now what?

Congratulations! You've been through the long process, and now you finally have your greencard. You're a lawful permanent resident... but now what? This post describes some important information you need to understand about your new legal status. Conditional residence. (2-year card). Look at your greencard. Is it valid for two…

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If you were victimized by a noatario publico you may be eligible for financial damages and even a U-Visa

It is a violation of Washington State law to advertise services as a notario publico. If you paid a notario for immigration services you may be entitled to recover money from that individual or his business. A notario's victim may also qualify for a crime victim U-Visa. Who is a notario?…

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Where can I find USCIS immigration forms?

Where can you find USCIS immigration forms? Right here! All immigration forms are freely available for download from the official USCIS website (www.uscis.gov). You should never pay anyone for a blank USCIS form since they can be downloaded for free. All official USCIS forms are listed below for easy access.  Here…

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Do I need an immigration lawyer? (Maybe not)

What do immigration lawyers actually do? If you're going through the immigration process, do you need one? These are completely fair questions, so let's start with two important points: You are never required to use an immigration lawyer. The immigration statute gives you the right to have an immigration attorney if…

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What is the permanent bar under Section 212(a)(9)(C)(i)?

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) there is a long list of grounds of inadmissibility. Basically, these are things about you, or about your circumstances, that would prevent you from being allowed into the U.S. They can also prevent you from successfully adjusting status to a green card holder…

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A brief overview of U.S. immigration law

The following material comes from a draft chapter of a book I am preparing for the American Bar Association. Immigration Law for the Family Practitioner will help family law attorneys understand how immigration law may impact their cases and clients. I am publishing draft versions of the chapters from the…

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I got an invoice from the National Visa Center (NVC), what do I do next?

The National Visa Center (NVC) is where immigration cases can start to get really, really complicated. This post walks you through how to take care of paying your visa fee once you receive an invoice from the NVC.  We assume you're working on a family-based case for this discussion. Before…

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How do I check USCIS processing times?

How long will it take for USCIS to decide a case? There is no simple way to find the answer to this. That is, you can't just go to a USCIS webpage that will give you a definitive answer for a particular case type. With that caveat, though, there are…

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How do I check my USCIS case status?

You've filed your immigration case... but nothing has happened. Is there a problem? Did the case fall through the cracks? It is easy (and free) to check the status of your USCIS case online. First, navigate to the official USCIS online case status system at https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus. Here's what the webpage…

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What are the immigration consequences of suicidal and self-harming behavior?

It is surprisingly common for individuals to engage in self-harming behavior, such as cutting. Under  U.S. immigration law, when this behavior is linked to a mental illness and is likely to recur, the person is barred from the country. This article offers advice to immigration attorneys, who are likely to…

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9 Mistaken Beliefs About Immigrants & The Law

A version of this article was published by the King County Bar Association, co-authored by Greg McLawsen and Gutavo Cueva Immigration law is often viewed as a niche practice area. Perhaps for this reason there are a number of common misperceptions about immigration law and immigrants in the Bar at…

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Inside SeaTac airport; behinds the scene Customs and Border Protection

I was lucky to join a behind-the-scene’s tour of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) operation at SeaTac International Airport. (The tour was organized for local members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association). We spent about two hours going through the airport with senior supervisors from the port. Here are a few…

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Where Can I Find Immigration Law?

With so many sources of information on immigration law on the web, it is extremely important to verify that the information is accurate and that the source of the information is reliable. Most of the information found online or elsewhere may be incorrect or outdated because immigration law is complex…

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What are the immigration rights of American Indians (ABCs) born in Canada?

Certain American Indians born in Canada enjoy access to the United States unrestricted by the Immigration and Nationality Act, a right stemming from the Jay Treaty of 1794. An examination of this right, reflected by codification as § 289 of the INA, reveals qualifying ABCs are entitled to privileges unparalleled…

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Citizenship

How to complete Part 2 of the N-400 (Information about you)

Part 2 begins by asking you to list every name you have ever used since the time of your birth. Your Current Legal Name will normally be the same as the name used on your Permanent Resident Card. Typically, the only reason it will be different is if you were…

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What is “Good Moral Character?”

An individual applying for naturalization is required to show that she has good moral character – referred to by immigration attorneys as “GMC.” This is a technical legal term that includes much more than just criminal conduct. Let’s look at how USCIS examines good moral character. The “look-back” period. Generally,…

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Preparing for the US citizenship tests

As you have probably heard, an N-400 applicant must pass two tests at the time she is interviewed for her application: an English language test and a test about the United States government (“Civics”). If you are able to read this Guide, chances are good that the English language test…

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Am I eligible to file the N-400?

The most important step of the naturalization process is determining whether you are eligible to apply in the first place. It is critical to recognize that the risk is not simply that your N-400 could be denied, and the filing fee wasted. It is possible for a permanent resident to…

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How to complete the N-400, Application for Naturalization

Download our free guide

Learn about the requirements for filing the N-400 application for naturalization, and read step-by-step instructions for completing the form. This free 24-page Guide includes:

  • Discussion of the seven eligibility requirements.
  • Step-by-step instructions for completing the N-400 Form.
  • Tips for preparing your N-400 packet.

Study for the civics test

Use our free flash cards

Use our flash cards on your computer or mobile device to quiz yourself for the civics test.

Greencard/lawful permanent residence

May I visit the U.S. on a B-1/B-2 (or ESTA) after filing an I-130 or I-129F?

It's just a fact - marriage and fiancé(e) visas take a long time. The process starts when the U.S. petitioner files an I-130 (marriage) or I-129F (fiancé(e)) petition. After the petition is filed, all you can do is wait for its approval. Recently, processing times have been between two and…

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What forms/documents do I file for a marriage-based adjustment of status?

There are a lot of items that go into a marriage-based adjustment of status application - also called a green card application. If you are handling the process yourself it can be very stressful to ensure that you are including all of the required items. We have created the instructions…

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Proving a bona fide (valid) marriage

In important part of the marriage-based immigration process is proving that you are in a genuine relationship. What sort of evidence should you submit? How much should you submit? These are questions that almost everyone has. The bottom line that I always tell my clients is this: if you are…

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Marriage visa (IR-1/CR-1) versus fiancé(e) visa (K-1)

It is common to have the choice of pursuing either a marriage-based visa or fiancé(e) (I-129F, K-1) visa. Let's look at the advantages and disadvantages of each. But first we'll start with an overview of what the two processes look like, since they're importantly different from each other. Marriage-based visa…

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How do I file an I-751 waiver?

If your U.S. citizen/resident spouse will not cooperate with your I-751 petition, you need to seek a waiver of the joint-filing requirement. There are three waiver possible strategies available. You are allowed to pursue one or more than of these strategies simultaneously. 1. Marriage termination + good-faith marriage. An I-751…

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How can I report marriage immigration fraud?

There are two main ways to file a report of marriage immigration fraud: Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE is the enforcement arm of the immigration agencies - think of them as the immigration police. Their investigations office, HIS, has a marriage fraud tip…

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How does divorce impact my immigration status?

   Many individuals get their immigration status in the U.S. through marriage. What happens if such a person gets divorced from their spouse? The consequences depend on the situation.   What happens if I get divorced when my spouse is petitioning for my permanent residence?  If parties divorce during the immigration…

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My petition was approved by USCIS – how long does it take to transfer to the NVC?

After a petition (I-129F or I-130) is approved by USCIS it will then be transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC). (For an overview of the process, follow this link). But how long does that take? Historically we've seen this process take between 30 and 60 days. But recently we've…

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I haven’t filed last year’s taxes – what income do I report on the I-864?

Tax season makes filing out the I-864 even more complicated. Here's a common situation that we see often. It's February or March. You haven't yet filed last year's income taxes. But you also got a bit of a raise, so your "current income" is different than previous tax years. As…

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Tips for Preparing for a I-751 Application to Remove Conditions on Your Green Card

If you get a green card through marriage to a US citizen or legal permanent resident, and you have been married for less than two years, then you will be issued a conditional green card. A conditional green card expires two years after it is issued. In the 90 days…

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What is the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support?

U.S. immigration law is an invitation-based system. For someone wishing to move permanently to the country there is no general “line” to get in. Rather, the path to permanent residency (a “green card”) usually begins with a U.S. business or individual petitioning for the foreign national – think of this…

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Immigration interviews in Seattle

Going for your interview at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is usually a stressful experience. If nothing else, you have probably never been through an immigration interview before, so it is hard to know what to expect. To reduce the stress of the event, here is a general description…

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5 fun ways to ruin a marriage-based visa case

There is a lot of guidance on the Internet – some good, lots bad – about how to apply for and acquire a marriage-based green card. But rather than repeat what’s been said before, let’s talk about what you can do to completely screw up your marriage-based immigration case, cause…

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I came to the U.S. on ESTA/VWP – can I adjust status?

Under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) nationals of certain "low risk" countries are allowed to travel to the U.S. without a visa. These individuals register with the online Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before traveling to the U.S. Most people use the terms ESTA and VWP interchangeably. When someone…

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Understanding marriage-related immigration

There are five basic ways in which marriage may facilitate a foreign national’s immigration to the United States. The first three are strategies available to a U.S. petitioner  who wishes to gain legal status for his spouse or fiancé(e). The fourth is available to a foreign spouse who finds herself…

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How to Complete the Form I-864

Download this free Guide in .pdf format here   This Guide has been prepared for the purpose of providing general instructions for completing the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. By using this Guide you agree that no attorney-client relationship exists between you and Sound Immigration nor any of its attorneys.…

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The I-864, Affidavit of Support

May I visit the U.S. on a B-1/B-2 (or ESTA) after filing an I-130 or I-129F?

It's just a fact - marriage and fiancé(e) visas take a long time. The process…

read more

What forms/documents do I file for a marriage-based adjustment of status?

There are a lot of items that go into a marriage-based adjustment of status application…

read more

Proving a bona fide (valid) marriage

In important part of the marriage-based immigration process is proving that you are in a…

read more

Marriage visa (IR-1/CR-1) versus fiancé(e) visa (K-1)

It is common to have the choice of pursuing either a marriage-based visa or fiancé(e)…

read more

How do I file an I-751 waiver?

If your U.S. citizen/resident spouse will not cooperate with your I-751 petition, you need to…

read more

How can I report marriage immigration fraud?

There are two main ways to file a report of marriage immigration fraud: Homeland Security…

read more

How does divorce impact my immigration status?

   Many individuals get their immigration status in the U.S. through marriage. What happens if…

read more

My petition was approved by USCIS – how long does it take to transfer to the NVC?

After a petition (I-129F or I-130) is approved by USCIS it will then be transferred…

read more

I haven’t filed last year’s taxes – what income do I report on the I-864?

Tax season makes filing out the I-864 even more complicated. Here's a common situation that…

read more

Tips for Preparing for a I-751 Application to Remove Conditions on Your Green Card

If you get a green card through marriage to a US citizen or legal permanent…

read more

What is the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support?

U.S. immigration law is an invitation-based system. For someone wishing to move permanently to the…

read more

Immigration interviews in Seattle

Going for your interview at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is usually a stressful…

read more

5 fun ways to ruin a marriage-based visa case

There is a lot of guidance on the Internet – some good, lots bad –…

read more

I came to the U.S. on ESTA/VWP – can I adjust status?

Under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) nationals of certain "low risk" countries are allowed to…

read more

Understanding marriage-related immigration

There are five basic ways in which marriage may facilitate a foreign national’s immigration to…

read more

How to Complete the Form I-864

Download this free Guide in .pdf format here   This Guide has been prepared for…

read more

How to complete the I-864, Affidavit of Support

Download our free guide

This free 15-page Guide provides step-by-step instructions for completing the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. Learn about the consequences of signing the form, and how to properly draft this technical document.

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