Frequently Asked Immigration Questions

1. Can my attorney's office call the INS Service Center regarding my case? Can my attorney get the INS to expedite my case?

2. I heard that if I contact my senator, they can get the INS to expedite my case; is this true?

3. How can I get my case expedited?

4. Why is it taking longer than the processing time listed on my notice of receipt to process my case?

5. Can I travel on my current nonimmigrant visa or do I need to get advanced parole?

6. When my six years of H-1B time expires, can I then remain in the U.S. by changing my status to that of an H-4 dependent based upon my spouse's H-1B status?

7. Why did I get a Request for Evidence on my case?

8. I am a Canadian "Landed Immigrant" (a permanent resident of Canada). Can I apply for consular processing of U.S. permanent residency at a U.S. consul in Canada?

9. My EAD is going to expire in a few months. What is the procedure for renewing it? Should the application be filed at the local INS or through the Service Center?

10. If my H-1B status is due to expire before my I-140 is approved, what options do I have? Can I change to F-1 (student) status in order to remain lawfully present until I am able to file my I-485 to adjust my status to that of a permanent resident?

11. Can I work for my employer before I receive my H-1B approval if I am not paid for my services? Can I be reimbursed for services rendered after the H-1B approval comes through?

12. Can I "recapture" time I spent outside of the U.S. during my H-1B eligibility to buy more time in that status after the end of my six years?

13. Do I have to get my medical exam done in the state where I live and work or can it be done by any designated "civil surgeon"? How long do the medical exam results remain valid?

14. What will happen to my status and employment authorization if my F-1 Practical Training expires before I have an H-1B approval?

15. I've heard there is something called a "yellow sheet" which, if sent to the Service Center, will expedite my I-485 processing. What is a yellow sheet?

16. My friend's case is progressing more quickly than mine. Why?

17. Does my spouse automatically have H-4 status if I am granted H-1B status?

18. If I marry a U.S. citizen, do I automatically obtain permanent resident or U.S. citizen status?

19. If I marry a permanent resident, can I stay in the United States while my spouse's petition on my behalf is pending?

Q. Can my attorney's office call the INS Service Center regarding my case? Can my attorney get the INS to expedite my case?

A. It is very difficult to speak with an immigration officer at the INS. We can only speak to an immigration officer regarding your case after the processing time indicated on your receipt notice has passed, and even then it may take us several days to get through to an officer. Prior to the expiration of the processing time indicated on your receipt notice, we can only make inquiries on the INS's automated information line.

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Q.I heard that if I contact my senator, they can get the INS to expedite my case; is this true?

A. Your senator cannot usually intervene to expedite your case. If significantly more time than the estimated processing time listed on your notice of receipt has lapsed, a Senator may be able to make an inquiry regarding the status of your case if there is a compelling reason to do so, but he/she cannot influence the outcome of your case.

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Q.How can I get my case expedited?

A.The INS will grant requests to expedite cases only under very limited circumstances. When the immigration benefit is urgently needed in a time frame that is less than the INS's normal processing time and the need for expedited processing was not the fault of the applicant or petitioner (e.g., the filing was made late), or when there is a great humanitarian basis to consider, the INS will consider requests for expeditious handling. Under all other circumstances, requests to expedite will not be considered and may even delay processing. Please note that the arrival of an alien's six-year limit in H-1B status is not a basis for seeking expedited adjudication of an I-140.

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Q.Why is it taking longer than the processing time listed on my notice of receipt to process my case?

A.The processing times indicated by the INS on your notice of receipt are estimated processing times only. They do not guarantee that your case will be adjudicated by a certain date and they are subject to change by the INS at any time without notice.

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Q.Can I travel on my current nonimmigrant visa or do I need to get advanced parole?

A. Adjustment of status (I-485) applicants who maintain valid H-1 and L-1 nonimmigrant status do not need to obtain advance parole prior to traveling outside the U.S. if they travel in possession of a valid H-1 or L-1 nonimmigrant visa and the original I-797 receipt notice for the adjustment of status application. All other nonimmigrants with pending adjustment applications must still obtain advance parole before traveling outside the U.S.

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Q.When my six years of H-1B time expires, can I then remain in the U.S. by changing my status to that of an H-4 dependent based upon my spouse's H-1B status?

A.The regulations permit an alien to spend a maximum of six years in the U.S. in H status, without differentiating between H-1B and H-4 classifications. The law does not therefore seem to allow a change of status from H-1B to H-4 after the six years have been expended.

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Q.Why did I get a Request for Evidence on my case?

A.Requests for Evidence are becoming more and more common in all types of cases with the current atmosphere at the INS. Many times they may ask for items which you have already submitted or which may not be legally required for your case. Your attorney can help you deal with these requests effectively. They are not an indication that your case will be rejected; they are merely a request for further documentation.

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Q. I am a Canadian "Landed Immigrant" (a permanent resident of Canada). Can I apply for consular processing of U.S. permanent residency at a U.S. consul in Canada?

A.Generally Canadian consuls will allow Landed Immigrants to process for permanent residency. It is always a good idea to contact the consulate in question to determine their specific procedures.

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Q. My EAD is going to expire in a few months. What is the procedure for renewing it? Should the application be filed at the local INS or through the Service Center?

A.Routine EAD applications should be processed through the Service Centers. Emergency applications will be accepted by INS District Offices. The District Office has discretion to determine whether the presented circumstances constitute an emergency.

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Q. If my H-1B status is due to expire before my I-140 is approved, what options do I have? Can I change to F-1 (student) status in order to remain lawfully present until I am able to file my I-485 to adjust my status to that of a permanent resident?

A.You may change status to F-1 or any other nonimmigrant classification for which you are qualified. You may also leave the country and pursue consular processing rather than adjusting your status within the U.S.

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Q. Can I work for my employer before I receive my H-1B approval if I am not paid for my services? Can I be reimbursed for services rendered after the H-1B approval comes through?

A.Volunteer services for a prospective employer may constitute unauthorized employment if the alien will ultimately derive some benefit from the work. If the alien expects future compensation or benefits, volunteer work may violate the alien's current status. Working on an employment-prohibited visa can permanently bar an alien from adjustment of status in the future.

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Q. Can I "recapture" time I spent outside of the U.S. during my H-1B eligibility to buy more time in that status after the end of my six years?

A.In some circumstances, aliens who have reached the end of their six year H-1B eligibility, but who have spent significant periods of time outside of the U.S. during that time, may be able recapture time spent outside the U.S. The INS requires that the time spent outside the U.S. be "meaningfully interruptive" of the alien's H-1B employment (e.g., sick leave but not vacations). The burden of proof lies with the petitioning employer and the INS is granted wide discretion in determining whether there was meaningful interruption of employment.

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Q. Do I have to get my medical exam done in the state where I live and work or can it be done by any designated "civil surgeon"? How long do the medical exam results remain valid?

A.All applicants for adjustment of status are required to have a medical examination performed by any civil surgeon who has been designated by the INS. Medical exam results are valid for one year.

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Q. What will happen to my status and employment authorization if my F-1 Practical Training expires before I have an H-1B approval?

A.You must retain valid employment authorization at all times in order to work in the U.S. If your F-1 practical training expires before you have H-1B approval, you must be removed from your company's payroll and cease working; however, if you maintained valid nonimmigrant status through the filing of your H-1B petition, you may remain physically in the U.S. while that petition is pending, even if your time in F-1 status expires before you receive a decision from the INS.

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Q. I've heard there is something called a "yellow sheet" which, if sent to the Service Center, will expedite my I-485 processing. What is a yellow sheet?

A.The INS is issuing a yellow sheet to some I-485 applicants late in the processing procedure which requests a letter from the alien's employer indicating that he/she is still employed there and that the terms of employment stated in the I-140 continue to exist. We do not recommend submitting such a letter unless the INS requests it.

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Q. My friend's case is progressing more quickly than mine. Why?

A.It is not generally useful to compare the progress of your case with that of a friend's case. Various factors influence the rate of progression of a case, including cooperation of all parties (employer and alien) in getting information and documents turned around quickly, and (most importantly) changing government processing times. Processing times with the INS and other agencies frequently change quickly, drastically, and without warning.

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Q.Does my spouse automatically have H-4 status if I am granted H-1B status?

A.No. Your spouse must apply for H-4 status.

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Q.If I marry a U.S. citizen, do I automatically obtain permanent resident or U.S. citizen status?

A.No. After you marry a U.S. citizen, your spouse must file a Petition for Alien Relative and you must make an application for adjustment of status in order for you to be granted permanent residency status.

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Q.If I marry a permanent resident, can I stay in the United States while my spouse's petition on my behalf is pending?

A.No. Your permanent resident spouse's filing of a Petition for Alien Relative does not preserve your status in the U.S. You must maintain some other immigration status in order to remain in the U.S. lawfully for the several years it may take for a visa to be available under this family category.

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