A favor needed: how to become a legal resident in the U.S. from Canada?

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Fan123, Nov 30, 2011.

  1. Fan123

    Fan123 Active Member

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    Many of you have given great advice on a myriad of topics, so I hope many of you can help me.

    My younger brother and his new wife were married this past October, after dating for 1.5 years. She's a Canadian citizen, and he's a U.S. citizen. They were recently married in Philadelphia, given a marriage certificate, and we would like for her to live in the U.S. permanently.

    Can his new wife stay in the U.S. during the paperwork process for her to become a legal resident? Or would she need to return to Canada? Her last entry into the U.S. was Sept, 2011, and her passport was swiped at the U.S. border. She is not sure how long she is allowed to stay in the U.S.

    I have tried to look for info online, and have tried to call INS, but everything seem to be so complicated, so any help would be greatly appreciated.
  2. taf2002

    taf2002 Well-Known Member

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    My husband is Canadian & we live in the US. She needs to go to immigration asap & apply for a green card. She will need her birth certificate, her passport, & her marriage license. My husband had been in the US for 3 days prior to our wedding & we went to immigration right away. Even though it took about 3 months to get his green card, he was allowed to stay in the US & was given a work permit the day we went. That work permit also allowed him to get his social security card immediately.
  3. Fan123

    Fan123 Active Member

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    Thanks for getting back so quickly, taf2002! We did go to Immigration & Naturalization Services (INS) last week, and was given a bunch of forms to complete. We went again yesterday if they would review the forms, but immediately was turned away, asking if my new sister in law was given a visa to enter the U.S. To our knowledge, visas are not needed to enter the U.S. from Canada, right? Her passport was not stamped, just swiped. I just don't want her to break any laws to have married in the U.S. and may have extended her stay here. As a Canadian citizen, she has visited us many many times, it is only until recently she legally married my younger brother.

    From what you are saying, your husband was allowed to stay during the paperwork and waiting process, and was given the right to work? When the forms were filed, did he use his Canadian address or your U.S. resident address? Thanks again!
  4. soxxy

    soxxy Guest

    I don't know, other posters will have ideas. I know FSU banded together a few years ago to help a certain Canadian ice dancer become an American citizen. I suppose your sister-in-law is not in the same situation. ;)
  5. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    I am not a lawyer. So take this as it's given - in good faith, but as something you should verify via other sources, i.e., an immigration lawyer or the Canadian consulate nearest to your home.

    Visas aren't required to enter the US as a tourist from Canada. Normally, a Canadian can enter the US and stay, I believe, for six months, before having to leave.

    However, this is an unusual circumstance. Are you saying she got married in October, 2011, after entering the US in September, 2011? If so - then although she entered as a tourist (thus no visa), she is not here as a tourist - she does not plan to return to her home in Canada. She got married and plans to stay in the US. She should have entered the US on a K-1 fiance visa. This is a non-immigrant visa. http://vancouver.usconsulate.gov/visas/fiance-visas.html Once she'd entered the US and gotten married, her husband would then file the appropriate paperwork to allow her to stay.

    But that's not what happened, and it'll be quite clear to US Immigration that, based on the timing of her entry in to the US and then her marriage, she entered the US with the express purpose of marrying a US citizen and remaining in the US, and not as a tourist - thus she needed a visa. I am thinking that this could potentially be a major issue. I don't know what happens next. You may want to consult with a good immigration lawyer, very quickly. She may also want to seek advice from the nearest Canadian consulate in the US, very quickly. She needs to find out if it is it possible for her to stay now, and get this resolved. If not, can she return to Canada, file whatever paperwork is required, then return?
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2011
  6. taf2002

    taf2002 Well-Known Member

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    GarrAarghHrumph is right, you need legal advice immediately. My husband entered on a fiance visa. He came down here about a month before our wedding & filed all the paperwork. He also had to show his divorce papers to prove he was free to marry me so if she's been married before this may be necessary. Because he had done the work before we were married, afterwards everything was a breeze. Except for the endless standing in line.
  7. Fan123

    Fan123 Active Member

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    Thanks for your reply too, GarrAarghHrumph. Yeah, her situation seems to be a bit complicated, whoever knew, especially as a Canadian citizen! Her last entry to the U.S. was 9/25/11 (she is still with us), for the purpose to finally get married, and to live together in the U.S., after having had dated for 1.5 years. I'm now watching some Youtube videos, and one of them said she can still remain in the U.S. to "adjust their status to permanent status without leaving the U.S" and the guy said don't bother with K visas. Hmmm...perhaps there is some relief?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kf97TFtMUdA
  8. Aaron W

    Aaron W New Member

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  9. Vash01

    Vash01 Well-Known Member

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    I recommend consulting with an immigration attorney. You can also look up the information on the INS website (someone has already posted the link) but talking to an attorney may be more efficient. You may or may not want to use his/her services, but an initial consultation would be good.

    US/Canada citizens can enter each other's country legally, so I don't think staying in the USA and working here would be an issue.
  10. Fan123

    Fan123 Active Member

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    Aaron, I have just tried to call one of the numbers listed on the website, but got only a recording, tried to call the Consulate in Philly, was referred to the one in Buffalo, NY...she then referred me back to the INS in Philly, lol. So frustrating. I will let my sister in law and brother know...perhaps it's worth to get a lawyer, despite their limited income. I heard the application fees, lawyer fee, etc can total $2,500! We already paid $40 to a nonprofit immigration organization for a consultation this morning...they would charge us $1,800 if we are assigned to one of their lawyers.

    Thanks though for all your quick replies!
  11. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    I don't know if what he's saying will apply to her. What I understand is that, if she'd entered the US a few months ago, stayed, then got married, it wouldn't be seen as if she'd entered the US under false pretenses, as it were. But due to the timing in your case - she entered and got married within about a month - based on the timing of her entry, and then her marriage, she will be seen as having entered the US under false pretenses. She entered the US basically saying she was here temporarily as a tourist, when she knew full well her intention was to get married, and remain. Big difference.

    In the first case, she'd enter as a tourist, and let's say... her relationship with her guy would turn serious while she was here, and they'd decide to get married - but when she entered, she'd have had no intention of getting married to a US citizen and trying to make the US her home. However, that's not what happened in her case - she quite obviously entered with the intention of getting married. That's why I think there's an issue.

    Even the guy on the video, in his "do it right" section toward the end, says that you need to wait until you've been in the US for at least two months before you get married. That's due to the issue I mentioned.

    Thus her need to consult an immigration attorney, and when I say immediately, I mean that this is a matter of utmost urgency.
  12. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    Since the alternative is potentially deportation with no future chance of entry into the US, this $1,800 will be a relative, if painful, bargain. I feel that her situation is now a complicated one, and an immigration attorney is needed.

    I have every hope that they can resolve this situation, and she can stay in the US and be happy! But they need someone who knows what they are up against.
  13. taf2002

    taf2002 Well-Known Member

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    I can't remember what the permanent resident status ultimately cost us. It was over 26 years ago. My husband recently got his green card reissued & it cost about $700 I think. He has to do the same every 10 years.

    Why didn't she go to the INS in that month before she got married? She knew she would eventually need legal status. INS is very touchy...she may really have a problem now. I hope not. Good luck.

    BTW we also looked into me immigrating to Canada before we got married. It was just as complicated & annoying as him coming to the US.
  14. Fan123

    Fan123 Active Member

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    Thanks for the advice and caution again, GarrAarghHrumph! Kayla (sister in law) and Johnny (younger brother) met over 2 yrs ago through mutual friends when Kayla visited the U.S. It wasn't until 1.5 years ago when both of them decided to date, despite the long distance relationship. No one expected the relationship to have blossomed, so after many visits back and forth to the U.S., they have finally decided to get married. It was perhaps Kayla's 15th visit was when both families decided to give it a go. So to answer your concern, the initial visits had no intention of marriage and permanent residence, but the last one, Sept 2011...yes. So we should still be concerned?
  15. milanessa

    milanessa engaged to dupa

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    Yes. All those prior visits just confirm (to the INS) that her purpose for this trip was to get married.

    You may not like these answers but they went about it the wrong way and now they need legal help.
  16. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    Yes, very. The problem is that Kayla entered the US in September with the intention of settling in the US permanently, via getting married, without the appropriate entry permissions. She entered as a tourist, when she actually had planned to get married and settle here permanently. She should be very concerned. But a skilled immigration attorney may be able to untangle all this, and based on my friends' experiences with being in the US illegally - which Kayla now basically is - the lawyer may be able to arrange for her to stay in the US while all this is being resolved. She may/may not be given permission to work while she's going through all this.
  17. mon125

    mon125 New Member

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    I agree with GarrAarghHrumph opinion. I think your brother and his bride should be concerned. But, I am not an expert in the subject.

    One thing for sure, you do not want her green card application to be denied. One thing that they can do is to have an initial consultation with an immigration lawyers. Many times, this consultations are given for free or for a discount price. If the lawyer tells them that they are ok, then they can file themselves.

    Having applied for a green card myself through marriage, I can tell you that the process it complicated enough with all your papers in order. Also, be careful with information that you may find on immigration forums as it can be confusing and contradictory.
  18. Allskate

    Allskate Well-Known Member

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    Although an immigration attorney may be helfpul, they should be very, very careful about the one they choose. In the immigration field, there are a lot of scam artists who are either unethical and incompetent immigration lawyers or just pretending to be lawyers. Your SIL should find a reputable attorney who specializes in this kind of immigration issue for Canadians.
  19. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

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    I second what Allskate says. The rules are very, very tricky. (And idiotic, imo.) Years ago my b-i-l's US work visa was pulled for 3 months because he married my sister (who was a US citizen) in Canada. It was a mess. They had no idea that getting married would cause such immigration problems.

    The only other option that might be feasible is if you contact your brother's congressman or senator, and ask for the staff member who assists with INS. They have some very useful back-door access to INS -- in the end, this is what helped my b-i-l get his visa back. But, the senator in question was very senior and served on some committee that had oversight over what was then the Immigration office. YMMV.
  20. mon125

    mon125 New Member

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    They can also get an Infopass, just search for infopass at the USCIS website (INS is now USCIS), so you can get a consultation with an USCIS official. Although going this route may cause more damage to your sil situation. I still think your brother and sil may need a lawyer; a good one of of course!
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2011
  21. WindSpirit

    WindSpirit OmnipresentAdmeanistrator

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    Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think she's going to be in any big trouble. I do agree with those saying she'll need an immigration lawyer, though. I've seen immigration lawyers being able to solve much trickier stuff than that. This sounds like nothing in comparison.

    I assume he doesn't want to become a citizen?
  22. Vash01

    Vash01 Well-Known Member

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    I could be wrong, but I thought a US citizen could sponsor an immediate family member (in this case his wife) for a green card? I also thought that Canadian citizens could stay here (USA) any length of time and work too, even without a green card or a work visa. After working/living here for 3 years your brother could sponsor her for US citizenship, if she is interested in becoming a citizen. However, as I wrote in my earlier post, an immigration attorney should be able to answer those questions quite easily. I don't know how easy/difficult it would be to get those answered by the INS if they are contacted by phone. Like most govt agencies they may be short handed, which means long wait periods on phone.
  23. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

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    You can't work in the US without a SSN, and you can't get a SSN without documentation of citizenship or a visa that allows you to work. And anyone who works in the US must pay taxes there, and possibly in their home country as well, depending on the type of visa they have.

    I strongly, strongly recommend getting a reputable immigration lawyer. The INS is not an organization you want to mess with, and you could easily pay for missteps made now for years to come. Even when you have a visa, they can yank it at any time, not to mention make it difficult to travel in and out of the country.
  24. Fan123

    Fan123 Active Member

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    So I was introduced to a friend of a friend on the phone yesterday; he's an immigration professor at the University of Pennsylvania; I will meet him on 12/15/11 to go over the paperwork before submission. He said there's really no need to be alarmed cuz of the special agreement (sorry, forgot the term he used) between the U.S. and Canada, that is different with other countries. At any rate, he said Kayla could still remain in the states while Johnny petitions her, and she should use the same U.S. address, not Canada's, as her primary residence. Kayla would be applying for "adjustment for permanent resident status" since she is now in the U.S., and has entered the U.S. legally. Needless to say, I'm now very confused, and will bring some of the concerns posted here when I meet with the professor on 12/15. Again, thanks for everyone's input. :)
  25. taf2002

    taf2002 Well-Known Member

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    He didn't when we got married but it took us almost a year to get the new green card, which costs about the same as citizenship, & now he's sorry that he didn't go that route. He will probably file for citizenship between now & the time he'll need a new green card. Or maybe right away. He gets pissed every election because he can't vote.

    He can. Her problem is that she didn't do the correct paperwork when she entered the US, not that she doesn't have a sponsor. When we got married, my husband drove down here & he stopped at the border & got an entry paper with statement of intent which was used on subsequent paperwork. She doesn't have this entry paper.
  26. Angelskates

    Angelskates Active Member

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    It doesn't sound like she did enter the US legally. Waitiing another two weeks without a lawyer sounds a bit iffy to me. Especially since nothing will happen over the Christmas season and it all stretches back to September...

    The professor is just a professor, he's not a lawyer is he? I think meeting a lawyer, soon, would be far more useful.
  27. my little pony

    my little pony snarking for AZE

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    it sounds like you are doing all of the work to get her status changed. are they doing anything on their own?
  28. Fan123

    Fan123 Active Member

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    I believe Kayla did enter the U.S. legally, I mean the same way she has always in the past with her Canadian passport and Driver's License, no problem. If it was not legal, the patrol person at Buffalo, NY would had rejected her. The professor is not a lawyer, so perhaps we should get one?

    I have always been the big brother in the family; when it comes to big family matters, mom always ask me to intervene, despite my obvious limited knowledge on the matter. As in some of the things we do, it is about trial and error, and some hand-holding along the way. This issue is however much above my head, so I'm trying to seek help from all avenues without the need to pay a lot of money.
  29. milanessa

    milanessa engaged to dupa

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    What was illegal about Kayla's entry into the US was her intent and border security wouldn't have been able to identify that. The INS can certainly infer it from her subsequent action, though. Yes you need to talk to a real immigration lawyer and soon. Often lawyers will give an initial consult for free or at minimum cost so they can at least find out what they need to do.

    This is not an insurmountable problem and should be fairly easy to solve but the longer they wait the more complicated it becomes.


    You've been given the best help here, over and over. The advice to get a lawyer. If they'd done this by the rules in the first place they wouldn't be in this mess. It costs what it costs.
  30. Gazpacho

    Gazpacho Well-Known Member

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    Is the $1800 just the lawyer fee, or is it for the whole thing? If it's for the whole thing, that's a real bargain. Just processing the forms is $1500 or more (required INS fees), so you'd be paying only a few hundred dollars for the lawyer. A good lawyer's office will also make sure all the forms are good to go before submitting. If a form isn't properly and completely filled, it will be sent back, taking another few months. Low-fee lawyers are probably overwhelmed with cases, though, so they may have to wait a very long time. When (not if!) they meet with a lawyer, they need to be completely honest. It won't be used against them because it's protected by attorney-client confidentiality. Since this case isn't straightforward, you need to be prepared to spend maybe $1000 or more for just the lawyer. It sounds like a lot now, but it's actually a small price to pay to ensure the best chance of getting a good outcome quickly. The longer you wait, the more likely a bad outcome is. And the longer you wait, the more complicated the case becomes, and the higher the lawyer fees will be.

    In addition, with all the talk of changing immigration laws, if they wait, there's a real chance the laws will tighten.

    While the professor can give you advice, he can't take care of the legal details. In fact, he'll probably tell you to speak with a lawyer! I would definitely ask the professor for lawyer recommendations. When you interview potential lawyers--many of them provide free consultations--it's essential to ask how much experience they've had with Canadian immigrants because Canadians may get special privileges that citizens of other countries don't.

    By the way, you're doing a lot of the legwork for your brother and sister-in-law, but once they hire a lawyer, if you still want to be involved, you'll need them to write a statement allowing their lawyer to talk to you. Many lawyers, for good reason, will only speak with their clients, not their clients' family members, without explicit written permission. You often will be allowed to accompany them to the initial meeting though.

    I've heard that the INS makes the fees so high because they don't want people applying who have little to no personal funds to support themselves in the US.
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2011
  31. jlai

    jlai Title-less

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    I agree.
  32. Fan123

    Fan123 Active Member

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    Thought I update everyone on my younger brother and his new wife's status to stay and live in the U.S. Johnny and Kayla got interviewed from an INS official last week, and they just got approval in the mail that her petition to be a legal permanent resident was approved! Her green card will arrive in 3 wks. All this was done while she remained in the U.S., with the help from the law professor to review the completed forms and you guys. Thanks again! :)
  33. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

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    Glad it worked out. I was nervous -- my b-i-l was excluded from the U.S. for several months because he married my sister after getting a visa to come to the US as a post-doc but before entering the country. It was a mess. Luckily, my folks had a pretty good congressman.
  34. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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  35. Wiery

    Wiery Well-Known Member

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    Congratulations, glad this worked out to everyone's benefit!