Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP’s Global Immigration & Mobility practice provides corporations and their people with strategic legal support and solutions.
Recognizing the ever increasing opportunities for non-U.S. based companies to establish operations here, as well as the continuing push for U.S. companies to expand globally, we have tailored our practice and its resources to offer expertise in all manner of inbound immigration, outbound immigration, and transnational immigration – the movement of a company’s personnel and talent across the globe efficiently, legally and cost-effectively. A key to the success of a business is to have the right talent and best people on board, no matter where in the world they currently are – we get that – and make it happen.
Our Global Immigration & Mobility Practice Group works with businesses to provide strategic guidance and solutions on domestic immigration and global migration needs for their workers, executives and critical employees. We are a small team led by dedicated attorneys and support staff, and we provide a high level of service, responsiveness and attention to detail for cases where time is always critical. Further, we all have personal experiences with U.S. immigration. Allow us to show you our commitment and serve your immigration law needs.
A Global Immigration Resource With a Local Touch
We manage, oversee and advise U.S.-based and multinational companies on the mobilization of key personnel around the globe, including executive transfers and outsourcings, as well as on the implementation and ramifications of global reorganizations. Our focus is on developing global solutions that are locally compliant. We ensure this by partnering with tried and tested local immigration professionals throughout the world.
We also advise, represent and strategize with individuals in complex issues involving family-based immigrant visa and U.S. citizenship/nationality matters, as well as removal defense representation before the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (Immigration Court). This part of our practice includes processing of I-130 immigrant visa petitions and permanent residence application through USCIS, immigrant visa applications through U.S. Embassies/Consulates, and various forms of relief from deportation including cancellation of removal, asylum and withholding of deportation, hardship waivers, and negotiations with Immigration & Customs Enforcement for prosecutorial discretion.
Our Professionals – Experienced & Resourceful
The vast majority of our practice’s immigration professionals (attorneys and paralegals) are immigrants themselves or first generation Americans with years of experience working on immigration matters. That and our particular attention to customer (client) service give us an advantage – we’ve been there and we are committed to finding immigration solutions to the complete satisfaction of our clients – corporations and their representatives, and foreign national employees and individuals.
Using Technology to Work Efficiently & Communicate Effectively
Efficiency and client service is important to SGR. Therefore, we have invested in immigration case management software with employer and employee portals, on-line immigration research tools, electronic client alerts and newsletters, and social media – to ensure that our practice group is operating efficiently and to ensure the highest level of communications with our clients.
Temporary Visa Overview
The non-immigrant visa classifications cover a broad range of visas used to enter the United States temporarily for work, pleasure or study. Some visas are considered “dual intent” ones where you may also attempt to obtain U.S. permanent residence (a “green card”) while under that classification. Most non-immigrant visas, however, require you to demonstrate a non-immigrant intent. Thus, you should be prepared to prove that you have a permanent residence in your home country that you have no intention of abandoning. The duration of time you may spend in the U.S. can range from a few days to several years, depending on the visa category. In most situations, your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may accompany you on a derivative visa.
Permanent Visa Overview
Permanent immigration is the ultimate goal of many people entering or planning to enter the United States. Lawful permanent residency offers individuals a multitude of benefits, including the freedom to live and work permanently in the U.S. Potential immigrants should be as informed about the laws as possible. That’s why our firm is dedicated to providing you with a complete on-line database of immigration information. Immigrants to the United States are divided into two categories:
- Individuals who may acquire permanent residency without numerical limitation.
- Individuals subject to a yearly limitation. There are three divisions of this category: family-based; employment-based; and diversity immigrants. Please use the links in the right column to broaden your knowledge on the different paths to permanent residency in the United States.
Employment Based Immigration
One of the most widely used methods to obtain permanent resident status in the United States is through employment. There are five classifications for employment-based immigration. Please click on the category that best suits your situation.
EB-1 Priority Workers
- Individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education,
business or athletics.
- Outstanding professors and researchers
- Multinational managers and executives transferred to the U.S.
EB-2 Advanced Degree Professionals/Exceptional Ability
- Individuals with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business
- Professionals with advanced degrees
EB-3 Professionals, Skilled Workers, and Other Workers
- Professionals with bachelor’s degree or foreign equivalent
- Skilled workers with at least two years experience, training or
- Other workers with less than two years of training or experience.
EB-4 Special Immigrants
- Religious workers
- Persons seeking reacquisition of U.S. citizenship, or returning residents who have been outside the U.S. for an extended period of time.
EB-5 Immigrants Investors
Foreign investors who purchase or create a new US enterprise:
- Invest or be actively in the process of investing US$1 million (may be as
little as US $500,000 for investment in a targeted employment area)
- Create at least 10 new full-time positions for US citizen or immigrant
workers within 2 years
Family Based Immigration
One method to obtaining lawful permanent resident status in the United States is through certain relatives who are either a citizen of the U.S. or a lawful permanent resident. It is important to note that Lawful Permanent Residence does not automatically grant U.S. citizenship. Also permanent residence can be considered abandoned if the individual spends an extended time outside the U.S., and permanent residents can be deported if subject to a specific ground of deportation such as the commission of a drug offense.
There are two categories of unlimited family-based immigration:
- Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens (IR): A parent, spouse, widow or unmarried child under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen.
- Returning Residents (SB): Immigrants who previously lived in the U.S. under lawful permanent resident status. These individuals should be returning to live in the U.S. after being abroad for more than one year.
The K-1 Visa
is for the fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen who seeks to enter the U.S. for the sole purpose of marrying the U.S. citizen petitioner. Upon entry, the couple must marry within 90 days. The foreign national may then apply for adjustment of status to U.S. permanent resident. Minor children of the fiancé(e) may accompany him or her with a K-2 visa. Both K-1 and K-2 nonimmigrants are authorized to work in the U.S.
The U.S. citizen files an I-129F petition with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services with proof that they have a bona fide intention to marry within 90 days of the fiancé(e)’s entry; that there are no legal impediments to the marriage; and that the couple has previously met in person within two years of filing the petition. The criminal record, if any, of the USC petitioner must also be submitted where he or she was convicted of any of the following crimes:
- Domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and neglect, dating violence, elder abuse, and stalking.
- Homicide, murder, manslaughter, rape, abusive sexual assault, sexual exploitation, incest, torture, trafficking, peonage, holding hostage, involuntary servitude, slave trade, kidnapping, abduction, unlawful criminal restraint, false imprisonment, or an attempt to commit any of these crimes.
- Crimes relating to a controlled substance or alcohol where the petitioner has been convicted on at least three occasions and where such crimes did not arise from a single act.
Once the petition is approved by USCIS, it is valid for four months, and can be re-validated for 4-month periods. The approved petition is first sent to the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center in the U.S., and then on to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the foreign national is scheduled to appear for interview and issuance of the visa.
The K-3 Visa
is for a foreign national who has a valid marriage to a U.S. citizen who has filed an I-130 immigrant petition with USCIS on the foreign national’s behalf, and the foreign national seeks to enter the U.S. to await the approval of the immigrant petition. The minor child/ren of the foreign national spouse may be issued a K-4 visa. K-3/K-4 nonimmigrants are admitted for two years initially (with one extension possible) and are eligible to apply for employment authorization. Once the I-130 is approved, the foreign national beneficiary may apply for adjustment of status with USCIS or for an immigrant visa with the U.S. Embassy/Consulate.
The U.S. citizen files an I-129F petition with USCIS, along with proof that the I-130 has been filed with USCIS. The same criminal record documents mentioned above must also be submitted if applicable. Once approved, the petition is sent to the National Visa Center for processing of the criminal background check on the foreign national, and then to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate for processing of the K-3 visa. However, if the I-130 has already been approved and sent to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate, then the K-3 will not be issued and instead the immigrant visa will be processed there.
There are four preference categories for limited family-based immigration:
- First Preference — Unmarried sons and daughters (children who are 21 years
or older) of U.S. citizens.
- Second Preference — (A) Spouses and unmarried children (under the age of
21 years) of lawful permanent residents of the U.S.; and (B) unmarried sons
and daughters (21+ year old children) of U.S. lawful permanent residents.
- Third Preference — Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
- Fourth Preference — Brothers and Sisters of U.S. citizens. The U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative will first submit an I-130 Immigrant Petition with the immigration’s Regional Service Center with jurisdiction over the petitioner’s residence. The petition packet must include proof of the petitioner’s status as a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, along with proof of the claimed relationship to the beneficiary.
Upon approval of this petition, the file will be sent to the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center, who will determine if an immigrant visa is currently available for the beneficiary based on the preference category and priority date assigned (date that the petition was received by the immigration service). When a number becomes available, the NVC will initiate the immigrant visa application process for the beneficiary through the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Certain immediate relatives who are already in the U.S. may apply for adjustment of their status to permanent residence concurrently with the filing of the immigrant petition.
The Diversity Lottery Program allocates up to 55,000 new immigrant visas each year for individuals from underrepresented or low admission nations. A nation is considered underrepresented if less than 50,000 people from that nation immigrated to the U.S. in the past five years.
To be eligible for the Diversity Lottery Program, the foreign national must have either a high school diploma or its equivalent, or two years of work experience within the last five years in a job which demands two years training or experience. The foreign national or his/her spouse must be a native of a nation eligible for the Diversity Lottery Program. In some instances eligibility may be had if the applicant’s parent was born in a country eligible to participate in the lottery. The Diversity Lottery Program randomly picks 110,000 visa candidates, although only approximately 1/2 of those selected will actually get the immigrant visa. Individuals are chosen to receive the visa by chance, not by merit.
Each year, the Department of State publishes specific instructions on how to apply for the Diversity Visa, which may be found on their web site at http://dvlottery.state.gov. These instructions are typically made available in August, and the registration period usually begins in early October.
Do NOT retain the services of any organization that says they can improve your chances of being selected due to their connections or secret processing strategies. They are trying to steal your money. Applying under the lottery program is generally something you can do yourself. But if you want assistance, you should contact a qualified immigration attorney.
Asylum and Refugee Status
Under U.S. law a refugee is defined as any person outside their country of nationality, or in the case of a person having no nationality, their last habitual residence, who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country because of persecution or a “well founded fear” of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Spouses and children of refugees are admitted as refugees even if they would not qualify as such on their own.
An asylee is a person who meets the definition of refugee, but who is either physically present in the U.S. or is at a land border or port of entry of the U.S. at the time they seek refuge.
A person who presents themselves at the border and requests asylum or expresses a fear of persecution if returned home is referred to an Asylum Officer who determines whether the person has a credible fear of persecution. If so, then the person is referred to an Immigration Judge to present their asylum claim.
A person may also file an affirmative application for asylum after entry to the U.S. with the Asylum Office. However, the application must be filed within one year of arrival in the U.S., unless there were changed circumstances or extraordinary circumstances. The Asylum Office may grant, deny or refer an applicant to a removal hearing before an Immigration Judge where the applicant can renew their asylum claim.
Finally, a person placed in removal proceedings may file, defensively, an application for asylum with the Immigration Judge.
To read more about SGR’s Global Immigration Practice, click here.
- U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services
- U.S. Customs & Border Protection
- U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement