Q. What is the difference between an immigrant and a nonimmigrant visa?
A: An immigrant visa is the visa issued to persons wishing to live permanently in the United States. A nonimmigrant visa is the visa issued to persons with permanent residence outside the U.S. but who wish to be in the U.S. on a temporary basis, for example, tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work, or study.
Q. What is the difference between an immediate relative petition and a preference petition?
A: An immediate relative petition can be filed by a U.S. citizen on behalf of a spouse, parent, or child. A preference petition is filed by a U.S. citizen on behalf of a son or daughter, by a legal permanent resident on behalf of a spouse, son or daughter, or child, or by an employer on behalf of an employee.
Q. What is a green card?
A. The so-called Green Card (Permanent Resident Card) is the permanent work and residence permit for individuals who reside legally in the United States. It is no longer green-colored but still widely called the “green card.” It does not affect your citizenship, and it does not mean you are an American citizen. It will remain valid for the duration of your residence in the U.S. and will lose its validity if you take up residence outside the U.S. for more than one year. It is not a travel document and can’t be used as such. If you have a Green Card, you must carry it with you along with your passport when you re-enter the United States after a temporary visit abroad.
Q. When can I apply for U.S. citizenship?
A. Individuals who satisfy the residence, physical presence and other requirements are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship after they have been permanent residents (green card holders) for five years. If you are married to a U.S. citizen, you are eligible to apply for citizenship after three years of marriage as long as residence, physical presence and other requirements are met.
An applicant for U.S. citizenship must demonstrate good moral character, English literacy, and knowledge of U.S. history. In addition, there are U.S. residence and physical presence requirements which must be met. In brief, the applicant for naturalization must have been physically present in the U.S. for at least half of the qualifying period (5 or 3 years as described above) and must have maintained his or her primary place of abode in the U.S. for the entire qualifying period (e.g. extended absences from the U.S. may interrupt the qualifying period).
Q. How can I contact the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services?
A. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website is www.uscis.gov.
Q. I live in Europe and I am looking for an Immigration attorney who can assist me from here. Do you have any recommendations?
A. Yes, my colleague Morgan Hangartner is in Berlin, Germany, and may be able to assist you. He is licensed in California.
Social Security Law FAQs
Q. How many different types of Social Security disability benefits are there?
A. There are at least five major types of Social Security disability benefits. Disability Insurance Benefits is the most important type of Social Security disability benefits. It goes to individuals who have worked in recent years (five out of the last 10 years in most cases) who are now disabled. Disabled Widow’s and Widower’s Benefits are paid to individuals who are at least 50 and become disabled within a certain amount of time after the death of their husband or wife. The late husband or wife must have worked enough under Social Security to be insured. Disabled Adult Child Benefits go to the children of persons who are deceased or who are drawing Social Security disability or retirement benefits. The child must have become disabled before age 22. For Disability Insurance Benefits, Disabled Widow’s or Widower’s Benefits and Disabled Adult Child benefits, it does not matter whether the disabled individual is rich or poor. Benefits are paid based upon a Social Security earnings record. Supplemental Security Income benefits, however, are paid to individuals who are poor and who are disabled. It does not matter for SSI whether an individual has worked in the past or not. SSI child’s disability benefits are a variety of SSI benefits paid to children under the age of 18 who are disabled. The way in which disability is determined is a bit different for children.
Q. How long do I have to wait after becoming disabled before I can file for Social Security disability benefits?
A. Not even one day. You can file for Social Security disability benefits on the very same day that you become disabled. Many individuals make the mistake of waiting months and even years after becoming disabled before filing a Social Security disability claim. There is no reason to file a Social Security disability claim if one has only a minor illness or one which is unlikely to last a year or more. However, an individual who suffers serious illness or injury and expects to be out of work for a year or more should not delay in filing a claim for Social Security disability benefits.
Q. What can I do to improve my chances of winning my Social Security disability claim?
A. Be honest and complete in giving information to Social Security about what is disabling you. Many claimants, for instance, fail to mention their psychiatric problems to Social Security because they are embarrassed about them. In almost all cases, individuals who were slow learners in school fail to mention this fact to Social Security, even though it can have a good deal to do with whether or not the Social Security disability claim is approved. Beyond being honest and complete with Social Security, the most important thing that you can do is just keep appealing and hire an experienced person to represent you. It is important to appeal because most claims are denied at the initial level, but are approved at higher levels of review. It is important to hire an experienced person to represent you because you do not understand the way Social Security works. Statistically, claimants who employ an attorney to represent them are much more likely to win than those who go unrepresented.
Q. What are my chances of winning at a hearing?
A. Statistically, over half of the claimants who have a Social Security disability hearing win.
Q. Can I appeal a case beyond Social Security to the Federal Courts?
A. Yes. After being denied by the Appeals Council, it is possible for a claimant to file a civil action in the United States District Court, requesting review of Social Security’s decision. A Social Security disability claim can go all the way to the Supreme Court. Perhaps once every year or two years, the United States Supreme Court actually hears an appeal about a Social Security disability case.
Q. How do lawyers who represent Social Security disability claimants get paid?
A. In almost all cases, the attorney receives one-quarter of the back benefits if the claimant wins and no fee if the claimant loses.
Q. How can I contact the Social Security Administration?
A. The Social Security Administration’s website is www.ssa.gov.