Marriage Visas

“MY second cousin Ireland is a widow. She is 42 and has a nine year old daughter. Her husband died three years ago. For the past six months she has been corresponding with an American man who has visited her a few times. He seems very nice, and they are talking about starting a life in the U.S. They are not engaged, but my cousin is planning on spending some time here in the summer to investigate the lifestyle and schools. Do they need a special visa for this? Also, I’m sure as an American my cousin’s boyfriend would be able to sponsor her for a green card, but what about the daughter?”

Your cousin and her daughter will not require a particular visa to spend some time here in the summer. They are coming to investigate possibilities and see what life is like here, and as such they can enter the U.S. for up to 90 days as part of the visa waiver program which Ireland is a part of. In order to avail of this, they will need biometric Irish passports.

As far as legal status for your cousin’s child should she marry her American partner, he will be able to sponsor the daughter for a green card. Step-parents can confer the same immigration benefits on step-children as natural ones, provided that the marriage that created the “step” relationship took place before the child turned 18 years old.

The applications for your cousin and her daughter can be filed at the same time after the marriage, and both would be considered immediate relatives under immigration law, which means that that waiting time for visa processing is significantly less than those being processed in accordance with other family-based categories.

Employment Green Cards

“MUST a green card recipient via employment stay with the employer for good, or at least for a certain period of time? I am in a big city working for a nice employer who would offer to sponsor me for a green card, but while I like the job I hate the city and would prefer to move elsewhere, or even home. What do you suggest?”

Being happy in your surroundings is of paramount importance, so if you’re not satisfied living where you are it’s obviously a big problem, green card or not.

Your letter leaves out some important detail. Are you working for your employer as a legal U.S. resident, or are you undocumented? If it is the latter then employment-based sponsorship would not work for you, as you would have to be processed for permanent resident status abroad. This would trigger a ban of three or 10 years from returning to the U.S., depending on the amount of time spent here undocumented.

Presuming you are legal, are you employed here as a skilled (i.e., college degree minimum) or technically “unskilled” (i.e., waiter) worker? The greater your skill level the more options you’ll have at your disposal for permanent residency. (There is a category for unskilled workers, but are there only a few thousands visas available annually, and the processing time is several years.)

As far as employment-based green cards go, once the status has been issued the holder is free to seek employment anywhere. There is no minimum amount of time that must pass before the employee can leave and seek a job elsewhere – though a sponsoring employer might not take kindly if an employee ups and leaves after the status has been granted.

The employment-based green card is good for employment anywhere. The holder is also free to pursue U.S. citizenship after five years of continuous residence.

But again, if you are undocumented, don’t proceed with any kind of employment-based application.