What Are Immigration Benefits?
Am I Eligible to Stay in the United States?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) exists to award immigration benefits to eligible people and to manage their immigration cases while they live and work in the United States. If you’re applying for immigration benefits or want to understand whether a family member is eligible for immigration benefits, here’s what you should know.
What Are Examples of Immigration Benefits?
An immigration benefit is any decision awarded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the USCIS regarding the status of noncitizens. If you’re granted an immigrant visa, a green card, a travel permit, a re-entry permit, or a work permit, you’re receiving an immigration benefit.
Receiving special status or utilizing an immigration program is also an immigration benefit. Recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Special Juvenile Immigrant Status (SJIS), Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) are all recipients of an immigration benefit.
Are Immigration Benefits a Right?
Immigration benefits are not a right. Immigrants do not have all of the same rights as U.S. citizens unless they pass the citizenship exam, take the Oath of Allegiance, and become naturalized citizens of the United States. At that point, you’re no longer seen as an immigrant in the eyes of the law. You’re treated exactly like any other American citizen.
Permanent residents have more rights than people visiting or living in the United States on a visa nonimmigrant visa, but their green card status can still be revoked.
Are You Guaranteed Immigration Benefits If You Marry a U.S. Citizen?
TV and movies give the wrong impression regarding marriage-based green cards. They make it seem like when someone’s work visa is about to expire or when they want to permanently move to the United States, all an individual needs to do is marry a United States citizen to receive immigration benefits. That’s simply not the case.
USCIS and the Department of State review all marriage-based green cards on a case-by-case basis. It’s possible to marry a United States citizen and still be denied green cards or permanent resident statuses. Your marriage or engagement to a United States citizen only gives you the right to request an immigration status in the United States. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be granted that status.
USCIS makes an effort to investigate relationships they feel may be fraudulent in nature in an effort to stop immigration based on sham marriages. They’re also looking to make sure that criminals or people wanted by authorities in other countries don’t attempt to move to the United States to avoid prosecution.
If there’s anything from your past that may arise during your marriage visa case, you need the help of a lawyer. It’s best to get a lawyer skilled in immigration law involved before you file any paperwork with USCIS. A lawyer will be able to tell you what you should do first and how you should answer specific questions on the forms.
If you’re denied a visa or a green card, a lawyer can also work with you to appeal the USCIS denial decision.
Can Immigrants Receive Government Benefits?
Immigrants technically aren’t allowed to receive benefits from the U.S. government. Many immigrants become residents with a financial sponsor.
The person who sponsors the immigrant affirms that the immigrant won’t become a public charge. This means the immigrant won’t use public benefits programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP), public health care or health insurance like Medicaid, or welfare benefits. Public charges also include things like unpaid medical bills.
The cost is passed on to their sponsor if an immigrant requests these benefits and qualifies for them. Their sponsor is responsible for reimbursing the government for any debts the immigrant acquires or the payouts of benefits they use.
There are some exceptions. Permanent residents and people on student-related visas may be able to utilize educational grants or student loan programs that are usually only available to United States citizens.
People who are victims of crimes, like VAWA recipients or U-Visa holders, may be entitled to temporary benefit assistance for the duration of their status.
How Do You Apply for Immigration Benefits?
If you’re interested in applying for immigration benefits in the United States, you need to have a valid reason. Most people with eligibility for immigration benefits in the United States will fall into one of the following categories.
You Need a Valid Reason for Immigration
You cannot seek an immigrant visa simply because you would prefer to live in the United States. You need to have a valid reason to live in the United States. Many people immigrate to the United States after receiving a job offer from a United States employer. People looking to invest in United States businesses can also immigrate to the U.S.
Qualifying for a Special Immigration Status
Temporary Protected Status, asylum, and refugee status can be awarded to citizens of other countries who cannot safely remain in their home country. USCIS keeps a list of qualifying countries and situations for Temporary Protected Status. Asylee and other special statuses are granted on a case-by-case basis.
Obtaining a Green Card Through a Family Member
Family members of green card holders, native United States citizens, and naturalized United States citizens may be eligible to apply for a green card. This is the same route spouses of United States citizens take to apply for immigration benefits.
Immediate family members, like parents, spouses, and unmarried children under the age of 21, take priority. There is a longer wait for family members like siblings. Processing can take as long as ten years, and there is no guarantee that lawful permanent resident (LPRs) status will be granted.
If your family member is a skilled professional, it may be worthwhile to help them find a job as an immigrant worker in the United States. Legal immigration is much easier as an educated professional looking for employment-based immigration or specialty worker in a field where there is more of a demand for workers than a supply of workers.
Can You Lose Your Immigration Benefits?
If you’ve been awarded immigration benefits, you need to satisfy the criteria USCIS has given you for compliance. You cannot commit a crime while you’re in the United States on a visa, and you cannot commit any serious crimes when you’re in the United States on a green card. USCIS overlooks small infractions like parking tickets or minor traffic incidents as long as the situation is handled properly and no one is seriously hurt. All others may result in your immigration benefits being taken away and even deportation.
Failing to respond to USCIS, overstaying your visa, committing a serious crime, misrepresenting information, or not providing enough additional information when requested by USCIS can lead to your immigration benefits being taken away. You may not be eligible for future immigration benefits.
What Should You Do If You Want To Receive Immigration Benefits?
If you want to receive immigration benefits, there are several ways you can request them. The first way is to have an immediate family member (including a spouse) request benefits on your behalf. The second way is to have a learning institution or employer request benefits on your behalf if you’ll be working or studying with them. These are the most common ways people obtain immigration benefits in the United States.
If you need to apply for asylum or refugee status, USCIS requests that you use a smartphone app managed by the United States Department of Customs and Border Protection if planning to cross the southern border. The CBP One app allows you to file before reaching the border. If your application is approved, you’ll be granted an interview at the border.
If your circumstances are unique or if you aren’t sure which immigration petition is relevant to your situation, you can contact an immigration attorney to discuss your situation.
What Should You Do If You Lose Immigration Benefits?
If you lose immigration benefits and you feel that the decision to revoke your benefits was unfair, you may have the opportunity to appeal the decision. The process of an appeal can be very difficult and take a long time. You need an experienced immigration attorney to help you appeal a USCIS decision.
Schedule a consultation with an experienced immigration attorney to discuss your case. If your attorney feels that you have a valid reason to appeal the decision to revoke your immigration benefits, your case can move forward. You and your attorney will work together to develop a strategy for your appeal.
In Conclusion: There Are Many Types of Immigration Benefits
Immigration benefits is a broad term that encompasses almost every service USCIS offers to undocumented immigrants or those seeking a pathway to immigration, permanent residency, or naturalized citizenship in the United States.
No one is guaranteed to receive immigration benefits, even if they’re eligible. People who do receive immigration benefits can lose those benefits by failing to comply with the law or with USCIS requirements.