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American Mumsnetters - Green Card Help Appreciated

(21 Posts)
LtEveDallas Tue 27-Oct-09 10:20:37

Morning all,

SIL (british) moved to USA in 2002. Her DS went with her. She married an American in 2003.

She's not been back since because she's never got a green card. Her DS is naturalised (is that the right expression? I mean he can come and go from US as he pleases) but SIL has never sorted it out - always said it costed too much. Said she couldn't leave America because she wouldn't get back in!

Now it wasn't really ever a problem and MIL used to go over for a month every year, but the last 2 years has been very ill, so hasn't been able to go. Obvs means she is missing her DD and DGS terribly. We cant see her ever being able to travel again.

SIL has now been in touch and wants to come over to see her mum. However, she has asked for some financial assistance as she says it is going to cost her $6000 to get a green card.

Now we are very happy to help, and can, if only to see MIL happy but that seems like a hell of a lot of money.

Would this be about right? Other complication is that SIL doesn't have a bank account so has asked that the money goes to her DH. My DH doesnt trust her or her DH so has said that we should do it through solicitors (ie get one here that would deal with one over there). Is that a good idea?

Any advice you could give would be appreciated - if $6K is right (or in the ballpark) that's cool, but we dont want to be taken for a ride if it isn't (SIL and BIL have had lots of money troubles in the past - hopefully that is all behind them, but we want to be sure before we fork out).

Is there anyone there in the know regarding Green Cards who could offer any advice?

Thanks smile

lljkk Tue 27-Oct-09 11:16:15

I reckon most American MNers won't be able to help you... we never had to apply for one .

My cousin is an immigration lawyer in CA, I can put you onto him if you want. Might be worth trying to get a relevant book or download online, ie here. Looks like an outline of the process is here (official USCIS site).

TuppyGlossop Tue 27-Oct-09 15:25:34

This does not seem right. Even if she does not have a green card she surely has some sort of visa if she married an American citizen. It is horribly complicated and I don't understand it but it really seems odd that the only way to get back in is with a green card - there are many, many types of visa that would allow her re-entry. Maybe contact the US embassy in London and ask them for advice?

LtEveDallas Tue 27-Oct-09 20:48:24

Bumping for time difference grin

Thank you both. Am looking at the USCIS site now - SIL said Green Card, but at first look it seems there are other options - and so far I cant quite see how it is going to cost 6k

Any more suggestions gratefully received smile

kickassangel Wed 28-Oct-09 03:29:14

i'm UK citizen but living inUS & just looking into green cards. most GOOD attorneys would give her quite a bit of help on the phone to tell her how to get this sorted out. I know very little about it, but from what i am learning -

somewhere things aren't right - either she is living legally in the US (which should be quite striaght forward if married to a US with a son by him) or she's an illegal alien.

IF legal, she can come & go as much as she wants & is quite easy to get a green card (would still cost a few thousand dollars though).
if illegal, well .....

whatever the true legal situation is (she may have married & not bothered to get the paperwork sorted, which they will back date for her if she's genuine), it would cost a LOT in legal fees & cost of filing the paperwork (I was quoted $1,500 for getting an outline of how to get a green card).

It also is v v slow - quicker if she's married, but for me & dh we're hoping that the process would be less than 3 years.

sorry, but it sound like she's messed up the system somewhere & that's why it will cost her so much.

and she WILL need an attorney, as filling in the forms wrong could lead to her being exported for life!

mathanxiety Wed 28-Oct-09 04:20:14

If she entered illegally in the first place, or entered legally and then outstayed her visitor visa or whatever visa she had, then she'll need an attorney to sort it all out and that's where the money would come in. It doesn't cost anywhere near that much in fees directly to USCIS if her situation is straightforward. I know they deport illegal Mexicans back to Mexico while they await processing for green cards under the amnesty programmes some of them qualify under, but I don't know if marrying a citizen (naturalised is as good as born there) would affect the situation; possibly not, because many Mexicans have USA-born children who are citizens, and they separate parents and children while the wheels grind away ever so slowly.

I wonder how she and her DH got a marriage licence if she had no papers. Courthouses are supposed to check on this, I think. Are they really married? If not, could she return to the UK, apply for a fiancee visa (if they still exist), get a good story together with her dh about meeting online, corresponding, etc., and getting engaged? Then return and get married, file the green card papers and wait for the process to start. Or are there any amnesty programmes that she might qualify under? There are many interviews during the green card process no matter which way they choose to tackle it. It's essential to get their stories straight.

She is in a very vulnerable situation without a green card, social security card, driver's licence, ability to get a job legally, bank account or presumably credit card. And so is her child. They are both completely at the mercy of her alleged DH, really, and I hope she is ok. She sounds like a person who is pretty irresponsible, and I would absolutely not send money, even to a lawyer, until your solicitor has thoroughly vetted someone. There are plenty of shady lawyers in the US, and some of them make their living ripping off desperate people.

nooka Wed 28-Oct-09 05:15:53

Try asking on BritishExpats: They have a marriage based visa section, so I am sure someone there would know (or try a search). Visas for the States are not easy or cheap (or quick), but should be possible as she has married a US citizen.

wicked Wed 28-Oct-09 05:27:24

Something doesn't add up. If her DS is a minor he cannot naturalise on his own 0 - she would have to as well, and you can't start that process until you have had a green card for 3/5 years.

If she is illegal in the US, which sounds possible, then $6000 is cheap.

If she is legal, but on a non-immigrant visa (which seems unlikely after 7 years), she can apply for Advance Parole.

The key thing to know is exactly what visa did she enter the US on .

LtEveDallas Wed 28-Oct-09 17:08:02

Thank you all.

It seems from asking MIL that she went over on a tourist visa originally.

We're not sure if she has done anything else since - and as none of us were at the wedding we cant say for certain that she is actually married!

Her DS is not her DH's child. He was 5 when they went over and is now quite happy, well adjusted and at school etc. I'm saying that he is naturalised, because I remember SIL saying that he had to swear an oath of allegience before he could start school (he took a test or something, sorry, was a long time ago when she told me).

MIL is certain that if she comes over she wont be able to go back again as a tourist, so I suppose that must mean she is illegal (I also remember MIL telling me about some panic when SIL and BIL took them to Niagra Falls - something about accidentally crossing into Canada and SIL having to hide because she didnt have any papers).

Thank you for all your answers. MIL is going to speak to SIL and try to dig deeper. I suppose we cant really go much further without knowing what her status is right now. She obvs needs an attorney before she does anything else. (hells bells this could be expensive!)

(Oh and MathsAnx.. The story you suggested is actually what happened! She met her DH online in the summer, went to see him without DS at Xmas on a tourist visa, came back then went again about a month later on another tourist visa (?? not sure about this) this time with DS and married him in New Year....she hasn't been back to UK since)

Oh and something we found out today - SIL told MIL that she has got an attourney and she said it was only going to take about 3 months to sort out - could that be true?

nooka Thu 29-Oct-09 04:53:50

Most schools only check local residency and vaccinations. I think there are rules that they have to admit if children are in the catchment area, although that might just have been the state we were in. It all sounds quite fishy, but that's not to say that a good lawyer couldn't get a visa sorted out and that might not take forever - she'd need a proper visa in order to apply for a Green Card, but that should allow her to visit the UK.

wicked Thu 29-Oct-09 05:35:51

all schoolkids swear a pledge of allegiance every day at school. It is not the same as naturalisation.

Your sil needs to see an immigration lawyer asap. If she approaches the authorities herself she is at risk of being deported forever.

If she isn't actually married, she needs to see a lawyer before marrying. She should not do anything rash. Nor should she leave the US as she will certainly not be allowed back in.

If she entered on a visa waiver and married shortly afterwards, she may be able to get everything sorted but it will take several years. She could file an Adjustment of Status alongside her hubby filing a I-130 petition for her. While this is being processed, she can apply for a social security number and work permit. She could also file for Advance Parole which would allow her to leave the US but this probably would not be wise given how long she has overstayed her visa.

There is no way it will take only three months to sort out. It will take years. Maybe the three months is to get AP, but I would consult another lawyer before going down that path.

You can't accidentally cross into Canada at Niagara Falls, btw. It is all very obvious and intentional.

mathanxiety Thu 29-Oct-09 14:32:40

The Pledge of Allegiance thing is just as Wicked explains. Children do this at school every day, first thing. The DS could get into any school as long as he lived in the school district (catchment area). They are very strict about residency in the district, but all you have to prove is that you reside within the area; it is not in the remit of the school to check whether you are living illegally in the US. And being an English-speaking child, no-one would be suspicious that he was illegal, in all likelihood.

I agree with everyone here who warns against going it alone with the immigration authorities. She needs that lawyer. And she needs to be a lot more sensible than she has been up to now. I hope it does get sorted out in months rather than years. Her DS needs papers too or he won't be able to qualify for any financial aid for any college in his future, despite the fact he will have lived almost his whole life in the US and gone to school there. And education beyond high school is very important in the US if you want to get ahead.

wicked Thu 29-Oct-09 16:50:40

Reading some of the threads on British Expats, it seems likely that she will spend a few days in jail followed by deportation and a minimum 10 year ban.

She may be in a more favourable position if she voluntarily left the US (following a recommendation from her attorney), and then apply for an immigrant visa in London. This would be denied but a lawyer can file a waiver (which is a type of appeal). A 7 year overstay is a long time, so the process will be hard.

She should also consider moving back to the UK permanently with her husband and child.

Any lawyer who says he can fix this in three months is lying.

mananny Thu 29-Oct-09 16:59:02

My advice: do not mess with USCIS. I could not stay in the USA as I could no longer afford to maintain my status (F1) so I left. She should seek legal advice asap but in all likelihood the lawyer will advise her to leave voluntarily whilst she has a choice in the matter. Visa's are extremely hard to get these days and if she has been out of status for 7 years the authorities are not exactly going to welcome her with open arms unfortunately.

mananny Thu 29-Oct-09 17:00:10

Edited to add: IF she married in 2003 why did she not get a Green Card then through the marriage??? hmm

mathanxiety Thu 29-Oct-09 18:24:37

If she had a gap between her visa's expiration and her marriage she could not automatically get a green card. If you overstay your visa you are illegal, even if you marry a citizen after the expiry date. If she married before the visa expired, then she might have some hope (WARNING I'm not a lawyer so this is not a qualified opinion) of getting the mess sorted without waiting too long.

LOL Mananny, I know you didn't mean to be funny, but "Do not mess with USCIS" should be their motto grin. They are very scary. They do not deal with voters and therefore treat people with absolutely no respect.

wicked Thu 29-Oct-09 19:23:12

Don't mess with them and never, ever lie to them.

Looking deeper into this case, there is no way she can be eligible for AOS. Her EWI puts paid to that.

I would imagine that it is difficult to live as an illegal immigrant without breaking a whole host of other laws.

wicked Sun 01-Nov-09 13:35:25

Any news, LED?

LtEveDallas Tue 03-Nov-09 09:07:04

Well her mam has asked her loads of questions, but we haven't got any answers yet. I'm worried that she hasn't looked into this properly and doesn't realise the implications.

We are still happy to help her, but want to be sure she is doing this right. The whole move over there was very rushed (knee-jerk) and I cannot believe she got anything in place before she left.

I know she has been working 'cash in hand' and that her DH either has lots of work or none at all, but I assume she hasn't been able to save which is why she is asking for help now - but it seems from what you have all said that 6K may be a drop in the ocean.

God, I dont know, we are just going to have to wait to speak to her - We cant even get her on the internet.

Thanks for all your advice, I may need more later on!

wicked Tue 03-Nov-09 12:34:59

I think she needs to prepare for the worst. From what you have said, the road to legality isn't going to be an easy one for her.

One of her options should be to voluntarily return to the UK to live here permanently.

Kiwinyc Thu 05-Nov-09 17:29:17

From my experience of living in the US on an F1 (student) and then 2 H1B's (work visa's) and knowing other 'aliens' marrying US citizens (including just recently my DH's cousin) I would totally agree with having to lawyer up with an extremely experienced immigration expert. Its also going to be a long and protracted process to obtain the correct residency status, it takes years even if you were completely legit from the get go and if you make a mistake (like writing the chq out for the wrong amount) you're set back months. Its probably easier (and cheaper) for her and her husband to move to the UK establish themselves properly and then return after a few years with the proper paperwork.

TBH they both sound very naive if not very irresponsible. Also agree that anybody that says they can sort them out in 3 months is completely ripping them off.

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