Guide to Sponsoring Parents to the US – Part 2

Ame Coats: Hi everyone.  My name is Ame Coats.  I’m an immigration attorney with Bashyam Global .  We are a full service immigration law firm, and we serve clients throughout the United States.  I’m here today with our managing partner, Murali Bashyam.

Murali Bashyam: Hello Ame.

Ame Coats: And we’re going to be talking about how a U.S. citizen can sponsor their parents for lawful permanent residence status in the United States.  This webinar is divided into three sections.  We’re now going to move into part two of our webinar, which is about how you go about the process whereby the parents would get their visa in their home country at the embassy.  So this is one way to bring your parents to the United States.  Again, this is a situation where your parent is not in the United States.

They’re not going to be applying for adjustment of status here.  They’re back at home.  And your first step starts with filing an I-130, immediate relative petition with a USCIS office here in the United States.  I put it right here on the slide, because the number one issue that comes up at this first stage is birth certificate evidence.  We have many clients from India, and this comes up a lot where either the parents don’t have birth certificates, or even the U.S. citizen doesn’t have a birth certificate.  Or maybe their name isn’t on the birth certificate.  That happens a lot as well.

Murali Bashyam: It’s usually because they’re born in these very small villages, you know. There are a number of countries this really applies to.  But they’re born in a very small village where they just didn’t have good record keeping back in the day.  And so yeah, we definitely have to find a way of getting past that with the USCIS.

Ame Coats: Right.  And I also think that – I mean I use India as an example because we do have a lot of clients from India, so I see this over and over again.  But yeah, it happens all over the world.  And so what I have to do is I have to look up – and you can do this as well.  I have to look up on the Department of State website to see what documents are available for a certain country.  So if someone comes in and they’re from a country that I’m not familiar with, there are rules.  And then I will look this up and see what it says.

And so what I’ve done here on this slide is I’ve pasted, copied and pasted for you what it says about India.  And so if you were born in India prior to 1970 and you don’t have a birth certificate, that’s completely acceptable.  I mean that’s the general rule – that’s not uncommon at all.  And in this situation, you have to provide two affidavits – it says here by the parents that are living – but in many situations the parents are not living.  And in that situation, then I would ask other close relatives who are older than the person who doesn’t have the birth certificate to do an affidavit.  And we usually do those for our clients, but you can see here what elements are required in the affidavit.

But the worst part about this is this non-availability certificate that’s required.  Now this certificate is not required for all countries, so I want to point that out.  But it is required if you are from India and you don’t have a birth certificate on file.  The certificate is not – it’s not from any one particular government agency.  You have to get it to the state or the town where you were born, wherever they keep birth records, and then you ask for a certificate of non-availability.  And I have a lot of clients who will tell me that they have such a hard time getting the certificate.  But ultimately, I think in all cases they’re able to get –


Murali Bashyam: They get them.  Yeah.

Ame Coats: It’s just a matter of if you have someone who can do the footwork in India for you, or you may have to hire a lawyer to get it for you.  But clients are able to get it, but it’s a huge hassle.  The second step, and it doesn’t have a two there, it just has a bullet point, but it is a number two, it’s supposed to be, is that the I-130 petition is approved, and then it’s sent to the National Visa Center.  The National Visa Center is a sort of – you can consider that to be the go-between office between the USCIS here in the U.S. and the U.S. embassy that ultimately is ging to be interviewing your parent.

So the National Visa Center is responsible for collecting the visa fees, and then they collect all of the required forms for the interview and all of the original documents.  So basically the National Visa Center makes sure that the file is what they consider to be perfect order for an interview, and they will not send it to the embassy until they think it’s ready for an interview.  So this is different than how the process used to be like ten years ago.  Ten years ago, the visa applicant would take all of their documents and forms to the embassy, but they don’t do it that way anymore.

They make sure everything is ready to go here in the U.S. first.  One of the documents that has to be submitted at this stage is an I-864 affidavit of support, and we did a webinar on this topic last week, which eventually will be posted on our website.  But the petitioner has to show that they make a certain income or they have certain assets so that the parent is not going to become a public charge when they get to the United States.  The other thing that’s a little bit unusual that people don’t expect is that you actually have to mail in original documents, and trust that you’re going to get those back at the interview.  And you will get those back at the interview, but it is hard to let go of your original birth certificate if that’s the only one you’ve got.  But you do have to send in those sorts of documents at this stage.

Murali Bashyam: Regarding the I-864, what if the son or daughter who’s sponsoring the parents, they do not have – I know we went over this in the last –

Ame Coats: Sure.

Murali Bashyam: But just real quick, what if they don’t have the adequate income to meet the poverty guidelines?

Ame Coats: Well, if they don’t have enough income today, at the moment we’re filing the form, the first thing I look at is the petitioner’s assets to see if they have enough equity in their home or something like that to qualify.  And if not, then they can get a joint sponsor who’s any other U.S. citizen or permanent resident who’s willing to sign onto the case financially.

Murali Bashyam: And also Ame, with cases like this, I mean do they have to be concerned about priority base and visa availability or anything like that?

Ame Coats: No.  No.  There’s no visa availability or priority issues here at all.  There’s an unlimited number of visas available for this category.

Murali Bashyam: So basically all they have to worry about is getting it done right from the very beginning, and just regular USCIS and National Visa Center consular processing times.

Ame Coats: Right.  Just the normal backlog that every embassy has, because as you see in the next step here, the embassy contacts the parent for an interview, I have no idea how long that’s gonna take.  I mean if you’re talking about London, contacting a parent, well that might take only two months after you apply, turn in all the documents they’ve requested.  But if you’re talking about Dominican Republic or Mongolia or who knows, that can take a lot longer.  It really just depends on the backlog of that embassy.

Murali Bashyam: Yeah, each embassy is different depending on what they’ve got going.

Ame Coats: Exactly.  So what they do is, after the National Visa Center has accepted all the documents and they feel that the filer is ready to be interviewed, they’ll forward it to the U.S. embassy and you’ll be contacted by the National Visa Center or by the embassy for the actual interview date, so you get a medical exam done.  And then when the parents go for the interview, the embassy has the right to look over all the documentation again.  As far as the interview goes, really what I’ve seen are officers who just start at the beginning of the paperwork and look through it.

There’s not any kind of trick questions to be asked here because it’s not like they’re trying to figure out whether or not the marriage is bona fide.  If they have any questions as to whether or not the relationship is legitimate, they can schedule a DNA test.  But I rarely see that happen.  Okay, so assuming the visa application is approved, then your parent’s gonna get a visa stamp in their passport that’s valid for six months.  I mean they don’t have to come right away.  They have time to wrap up their affairs and do whatever they need to do to come, but they do have to come within six months.

On the day they step foot on U.S. soil, that’s the day that they’re considered to be a lawful permanent resident.  At the airport, there’s a process that they have to go through. They’re actually escorted to another area at the airport called secondary inspection, and the officer will go through a brown envelope that the embassy has given your parent to present at the Port of Entry.   Then the parent is allowed entry into the United States.  They’re given a passport, a stamp and a passport to show they’re a permanent resident, and the actual card will come in the mail probably one to two months after that, and it should be valid for ten years.

Murali Bashyam: One last quick question related to this topic, which is generally what the I-130 process, you know, that first process you were talking about filing with the USCIS, which is the immigration service in the United States.  I mean how long does the USCIS take to process that?

Ame Coats: I’d say about four months right now.  And that really varies wildly.  If you’d asked me that question three years ago, I might have told you eight, nine months.

Murali Bashyam: Yeah.  It’s gotten a lot better over the years, hasn’t it?

Ame Coats: Right.  But as of today, which – let’s be specific for those who might be listening to this later.  We’re in August 2010.


Murali Bashyam: August 2010.

Ame Coats: It’s about four months.  But then after that, you’ve got to tack on a couple of months for the National Visa Center process, and then tack on maybe four months for the immigrant visa interview process.

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