With the 2016 Presidential Election coming, there has been a lot of news lately about presidential candidates such as Donald Trump and Governor Jeb Bush and their stances on Immigration Law.
At the Los Angeles Immigration Center, we urge those who are currently eligible for a Green Card or U.S. Citizenship to act now in case there are changes to Immigration Law in the coming years that may affect your ability to apply later. No one can predict if and how the laws will change so it is best to act sooner rather than later.
In addition to possible changes in Immigration Law, here are some other reasons to act now versus waiting:
Waiting to Apply for a Green Card? Don’t!
A common misconception is that the only way to get a Green Card in the U.S. is to marry a U.S. Citizen. However, there are many other ways to obtain a Green Card such as through an employer willing to sponsor you or through an immediate relative. See our Green Card page for more information.
While the wait time for some of Green Card pathways can take years, it is still best to apply as soon as you can. Once your application is filed, you will be given a Priority Date and whether a Green Card is available for you or not is based on if your Priority Date meets the cut-off period. Some Green Card categories have cut-off periods that are years behind, but the cut-off periods can sometimes move ahead quicker than usual.
For example, the cut-off period for an Employment-Based Green Card in EB-3 category for most countries in October 2014 was October 2011, a difference of 3 years. The cut-off period for an EB-3 for most countries in August 2015 is now July 2015, a difference of one month. In less than a year, the cut-off period jumped almost three years!
The downside, though is that cut-off periods can also move backwards. For example, the Employment-Based Green Card in EB-2 for China in September 2015 is going to move back eight years! Anyone who was eligible for that category and waited to apply because they thought they did not need to wait too long for the Green Card is now looking at an extra eight year wait. But this can change again.
This is why it is very important to act now if you are eligible for a Green Card so you have a priority date and can get your Green Card when the cut-off periods move in your favor. If you are waiting for the cut-off periods to get closer, you may miss out because by the time your application is filed and you receive a priority date, the cut-off periods moved back and your wait time will be increased.
Waiting to Naturalize? Don’t!
If you are currently a Green Card holder, you are generally eligible to naturalize after five years of living in the U.S. If you are married to a U.S. Citizen, you are generally eligible after three years. See our Naturalization page for more information.
In 2013, the Department of Homeland Security released a report finding that more than 8.5 million Green Card holders in the U.S. at the time were eligible for Naturalization. Out of those 8.5 million, 2.4 million lived in California. In another report, they found that only 779,929 Green Card holders went through the Naturalization process in 2013. That means in 2013 more than 8 million people did not go through the Naturalization process even though they were eligible!
If you are one of those Green Card holders eligible for Naturalization, you should act as soon as possible. As a Green Card holder, you are:
- Not allowed to vote in the U.S.
- Not allowed to leave the U.S. for long periods of time (or risk losing your Green Card and possibly being refused re-entry to the U.S.)
- Can be deported from the U.S. Read more about deportation
Once you are naturalized and a U.S. Citizen, these do not apply to you anymore and you can enjoy all the rights that U.S. Citizens have.
In the past, one commonly cited reason for not naturalizing has been that the government only accepted cash or checks for the fees (which are currently at $680). Last year, President Obama made it so that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services now has to accept credit cards for the Naturalization process, which removes a potential barrier for a lot of Green Card holders that not everyone may know about.
Contact Los Angeles Immigration Center for More Information
If you believe you are eligible for a Green Card or Citizenship and would like more information, it is best to contact the Los Angeles Immigration Center to discuss your case.
To schedule a consultation with a Los Angeles Immigration Attorney, please call (310) 933-4455 or fill out our online form with a brief description of your situation.