1. How Can I Get My OPT Expedited?
I just graduated and applied for my OPT in November, but my job is starting on January 15, and I need my OPT card by that time to begin work. If I do not have it, I am sure that the company will give me a little time, and I could even work there voluntarily, but I do not think that they will keep the offer if I do not get the OPT soon after that date. What can I do to expedite the OPT?
Mr. Lee answers:
Under the circumstances that you described, it may be difficult to obtain an expedite. Current U.S.C.I.S. standards for an expedite are severe financial loss to a company or person, provided that the need for urgent action is not the result of the petitioner or applicant’s failure to file the benefit request or the expedite request in a reasonable timeframe or to respond to any request for additional evidence in a reasonably timely manner; urgent humanitarian reasons; compelling US government interests; or clear U.S.C.I.S. error. U.S.C.I.S. states that if the expedite request relates to the need to obtain employment authorization, that will not be sufficient to warrant an expedite without any evidence of other compelling factors.
2. F-1 Visa Overstay for Three years. How Can I Fix My Status?
I came to the US in 2015 under F-1 visa, studied for one year, but dropped out because of bad grades. I want to be legal in this country, but do not know how I can go about it.
Mr. Lee answers:
U.S.C.I.S. will not “fix” your status to allow you a new F-1 status, or to extend or change your status because of your violation. If you become the immediate relative of a US citizen (spouse or parent of a child aged 21), U.S.C.I.S. will overlook the status violation to allow adjustment of status in most cases. Because you were a student, you are considered exempt from the three and 10 year time bars occasioned by unlawful stay of individuals for 180 days or one year or more respectively unless you received a denial from U.S.C.I.S. or negative decision by an immigration judge. Therefore it is possible that if you were to be sponsored for a nonimmigrant work visa or immigrant visa, you could leave the US, interview at the US consulate or embassy, and return to the US with the nonimmigrant or immigrant visa.
3. Domestic Violence Situation and I Am Applying for the Green Card. Will I Have A Problem at the Interview?
I am a J-1 exchange visitor from Taiwan who is not subject to the two-year home residence requirement. I married a US citizen, and she is sponsoring me for the green card. However, she is hotheaded and we have arguments. During one of the arguments outside, she hit me and I slapped her back, and one of the neighbors called the police, which arrested me for domestic violence. My wife did not press charges and is very sorry that this happened. I pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct only and got one year probation and a $500 fine. Will this cause me a big problem at the marriage interview? We have a good marriage and my wife is pregnant.
Mr. Lee answers:
It is possible that you may encounter a problem with the immigration interview if the immigration officer closely looks at the circumstances of your domestic violence arrest, but you should be okay on this score at the end anyway since you only pleaded to a disorderly conduct. The immigration laws are very strict where domestic violence is concerned, but requires a conviction involving domestic violence to permanently exclude someone. It would be a long stretch for U.S.C.I.S. to conclude that the disorderly conduct plea is the equivalent of a domestic violence conviction.
4. Getting Married to a Foreigner Who Is Here On a Visa Waiver.
I am a US citizen by birth and met my boyfriend in Singapore. We have corresponded extensively and visited each other in the US and Singapore. He is here on a 90 day visa waiver and we just decided that we want to get married. We’ve been living together for the past two months since he came and he has to go back in 30 days. Is it possible for him to obtain his green card when I sponsor him while he is here or should he go back to Singapore and wait there while I sponsor him?
Mr. Lee answers:
It may be possible for you to marry your boyfriend and for him to adjust status in the US without leaving, but there are risks. The first is that there is a presumption of misrepresenting the purpose of the visit when an individual shifts purpose within 90 days of entry, e.g. representing that he was only here to visit and then marrying and putting in adjustment of status papers within the 90 day period of his authorized stay. (I note that there is an argument that this provision does not apply to those marrying US citizens and that the 90 day rule only raises a presumption that can be rebutted). Marrying after 90 days and putting in papers after your boyfriend’s status expires runs the risk that an unkind immigration official may refer him to ICE for an order of expedited removal since a condition of entering the US under the visa waiver program is to give up the right to a removal hearing before an immigration court. (I note that the situation has greatly improved since USCIS came up with a 2013 guidance memo that unless there are extenuating circumstances, USCIS officers should adjudicate adjustment of status applications prior to referring cases to ICE). If you decide that you do not want to take either of these risks, you can either file a K-1 fiancé visa petition for him or marry him and file an I-130 petition for alien relative. The fiancé petition route is generally faster by a few months than the I-130 route which generally takes a little less than a year, but requires more steps after he arrives in the US. Both of these entail your boyfriend or husband leaving the US and interviewing overseas for the K-1 visa or immigrant visa.