All posts by Fong Ilagan, LLP

Attorney Gary Ilagan Named the 2024 Immigration Lawyer of the Year in Houston, Texas, by Best Lawyers in America

Houston, Texas – [8/18/2024] – Attorney Gary Ilagan has been honored as the 2024 Immigration Lawyer of the Year in Houston, Texas, by Best Lawyers in America, recognizing his exceptional dedication, expertise, and success in the field of immigration law. This prestigious award based totally on peer-review is the second time Attorney Ilagan has been recognized as the Lawyer of the Year. This award highlights his exceptional work with companies and the profound impact on the lives of individuals and families navigating complex immigration challenges.


With an illustrious career spanning over twenty-seven years, Attorney Ilagan has solidified his reputation as the “go to” attorney for clients in the healthcare industry. His remarkable ability to combine legal acumen with genuine compassion has not only achieved favorable outcomes for his clients but has also set a standard of excellence within the legal profession.


“I am truly humbled and honored to receive this recognition as the 2024 Immigration Lawyer of the Year,” said Attorney Ilagan. “Immigration law is not just a practice area for me – it’s a passion and a commitment to upholding the values of justice and equality. This award is a testament to the hard work of my dedicated team and the trust that our clients have placed in us.”


Attorney Ilagan’s dedication to immigration law goes beyond his client representation. He is a frequent speaker at legal conferences and Filipino community events, sharing his expertise and insights to help others better understand the intricacies of immigration law. His contributions have been instrumental in shaping public discourse and fostering a more informed and empathetic perspective on immigration matters.


Attorney Ilagan’s recognition as the 2024 Immigration Lawyer of the Year serves as a reminder of the vital role that legal professionals play in shaping the lives of immigrants and their families. His dedication to upholding the principles of justice, fairness, and equality makes him a true champion in the field of immigration law.


For more information about Attorney Gary Ilagan and his practice, please visit

About Attorney Gary Ilagan: Attorney Gary Ilagan is a seasoned immigration lawyer with over 27 years of experience representing individuals and families in navigating the intricate landscape of immigration law. His commitment to the field, coupled with his deep understanding of the legal system, has earned him a reputation of a trusted advocate.

An American flag painted on the ground in Houston.

The Journey to Citizenship: How a Naturalization Attorney Can Help

Are you an immigrant looking for citizenship in the United States? If so, seeking out a naturalization attorney to assist you in your journey is essential. We will explain the benefits of hiring a naturalization attorney and how they can help.


Fong Ilagan in Houston strives to be a dependable source of legal assistance. We will provide answers to any questions you may have to ensure you that we are here to help. If you need a naturalization attorney, give us a call at (713) 772-2300 or contact us online


The Benefits of Hiring a Naturalization Attorney

 Whether you’re immigrating for business or family purposes, hiring a naturalization attorney can benefit you in a multitude of ways. At Fong Ilagan, we believe we are defined by how we go about assisting our clients. Some of the benefits of working with a naturalization attorney are:


  • Peace of Mind- Going through the process of immigration can be a stressful experience for anyone. Hiring a naturalization attorney can take away a lot of the burden of the process and give you more confidence. 


  • Better Chance of Success- A small mistake in an immigration application can cause an immediate rejection. An attorney will ensure your application is correct and can increase your chances of approval.


  • Your Rights are Protected- Your Houston naturalization attorney is there to help YOU. They will make sure you are being treated fairly and protect you against any discrimination. 


  • Representation and Advocacy- At Fong Ilagan, we will represent you at all interviews. We will also communicate with all immigration authorities on your behalf. 


  • Assistance with the Procedures- The immigration process calls for a lot of paperwork and documentation, which can become stressful. A naturalization attorney in Houston will ensure your paperwork is submitted in order and on time. 


  • Personalized Guidance- We make sure to develop close-knit relationships with our clients to provide a more personalized experience. Each immigration case is different. Therefore, the methods need to be catered to the individual client. 


  • Legal Experts- It doesn’t help that immigration laws keep changing. A naturalization attorney is up to date on all the policy changes and regulations. We will apply our knowledge of the law to assist you properly. 

Naturalization Attorneys of Houston

Here at Fong Ilagan in Houston, we value the reward of aiding individuals and families through the immigration process. We have helped thousands of people seeking citizenship and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. We are ready to help; call (713) 772-2300!

A wooden gavel with an American flag in the background in Houston.

What Is a Fiancé Visa?

How to Obtain a Fiancé Visa for Entry into the U.S.


If you are a fiancé(e) of a United States citizen, you may be able to apply for a K-1 nonimmigrant visa. The visa, commonly referred to as a fiancé visa, permits you to enter the U.S. in order to marry your future spouse within 90 days. There are several requirements that you must meet to obtain a fiancé visa. To ensure your eligibility, you should speak with a Houston immigration lawyer.


At Fong Ilagan, we have decades of experience helping individuals immigrate to the United States. We know how difficult the journey can be for some people, which is why we strive to make it as easy and convenient as possible. Our lawyers are well-versed in handling complex cases and will not rest until our clients receive the best possible outcome in their cases.


Contact us online or call (713) 772-2300 to learn more about applying for and receiving a fiancé visa for entrance to the United States.


What Is a Fiancé Visa?

A fiancé visa is a K-1 nonimmigrant visa available to foreign-citizen fiancé(e)s of United States citizens. The visa allows a foreign citizen fiancé(e) to enter the United States with the help of a sponsor (their intended U.S. citizen spouse). 


However, they must marry their future spouse within 90 days of arriving in the country. Once the foreign citizen is legally married to their spouse, they can apply for adjustment of status to permanent resident.


What Are the Requirements for a Fiancé Visa?

In order to qualify for a fiancé visa, both you and your U.S. citizen spouse “must have been legally free to marry at the time the petition was filed.” You must also remain free to marry, and the marriage must be legally possible under state law.


Additionally, you must have met your future spouse in person within the past two years. There are exceptions to this rule, including that you were unable to meet due to extreme hardship or cultural reasons. 


What Will Prevent Someone from Being Eligible for a Fiancé Visa?

According to the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs, there are several conditions that may prevent you from being eligible for a fiancé visa.


Conditions that may prevent you from eligibility include but are not limited to:


  • Drug trafficking
  • Violating a prior visa 
  • Health-related grounds (i.e., having a communicable disease)
  • Committing a crime involving moral turpitude
  • Not having proper documentation
  • Submitting fraudulent identification or documents


If you believe that you will be denied a fiancé visa because of ineligibility, you may be able to submit a waiver. It is in your best interest to consult with an immigration lawyer about your rights prior to applying for a visa or waiver.


Should I Hire an Immigration Lawyer?

If you are hoping to immigrate to the United States via a fiancé visa, you need to speak to an immigration lawyer. Without the help of a lawyer, your application can be denied. A simple error in paperwork can cost you significant amounts of time and money. 


A Houston immigration lawyer can help ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible. They can assist in making sure that your documents are filed promptly and that your rights are not violated. It is important to consult with a lawyer early to ensure that you do not waste your resources. 


Filing a Fiancé Visa? Contact Our Houston Office.

Are you hoping to file an application for a fiancé visa? Contact us online or call (713) 772-2300 to speak directly with a knowledgeable member of our legal team. We can help you understand the process and ensure that your documents and proof of eligibility are filed correctly. Do not wait. Call our office today to get started.

A man smiling, holding a small American flag in Houston.

How to Become a Naturalized Citizen in the U.S.

Understanding the Steps Necessary to Become a Citizen through Naturalization


There are two basic ways to become a citizen of the United States. You can become one at birth, which means that you were born here or born to a parent or parents who were citizens at the time of your birth, or you can become one through naturalization. Naturalization is the process individuals born outside of the U.S. use to become citizens. 


At Fong Ilagan, we are experienced naturalization attorneys. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive the best possible outcome in their cases. We know the naturalization process can be challenging, but we are here to help. 


If you or a loved one are seeking to become a naturalized citizen in the U.S., contact our office online or call (713) 772-2300 to schedule a confidential consultation. 


How Do I Know If I Am Eligible to Become a Naturalized Citizen?


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides a 15-question eligibility worksheet to help individuals determine whether they should apply for naturalization.


To be eligible for naturalization, you must meet the following criteria:


  • Be at least 18 years old;
  • Be a Permanent Resident of the U.S. and have been issued a Permanent Resident Card;
  • Have been a permanent resident for at least three or five years (depending on which naturalization category you are applying under);
  • Have the ability to read, write, and speak basic English;
  • Know the fundamentals of U.S. history and government; and
  • Be of good moral character.

These are only a few of the requirements to be considered for naturalization. There are several things that may make you ineligible for naturalization, such as if you have deserted the Armed Forces, if you are unwilling to take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States, or if you have spent too much time outside of the United States since becoming a Permanent Resident. 


Because the path to citizenship can be difficult, it is important to discuss your case with a Houston naturalization attorney as early in the process as possible. 


What Are the Steps to Naturalization?


There are multiple steps to naturalization. Foremost, you need to determine if you are already a U.S. citizen. Next, you will need to see if you are eligible for naturalization. If you are eligible, you can prepare and submit your application for naturalization (N-400), but you need to pay your fees.


In most cases, you will need to go for a biometric screening before completing a formal interview. The interview is the final step in your naturalization process before a decision is made. It is important that you prepare for your interview to increase the chances that your request is granted.


If your N-400 is granted, you will receive a notice of where and when to take your Oath of Allegiance. The Oath of Allegiance will take place at a naturalization ceremony. You are not considered a U.S. citizen until you have taken the oath, turned in your Permanent Resident Card, and received your Certificate of Naturalization. Naturalization attorneys are here to assist with this process.


Do I Need a Naturalization Attorney?


It is strongly recommended that you consult with a naturalization attorney before submitting an application for naturalization. Even a simple error in the paperwork can result in lengthy delays or a denial of your application. An attorney can help ensure that all deadlines are met and that your request is filed timely following the right procedures.


Hoping to Become a U.S. Citizen? Contact Our Office Today.


If you are hoping to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization, contact our office online or call (713) 772-2300 to schedule a no-obligation consultation. All immigration case evaluations are confidential. 

Your path to citizenship begins here. At Fong Ilagan, we can help you understand your rights and ensure that your naturalization application is filed on time and in the right jurisdiction. Call now to get started.




Tips and Preparation for a US Visa Interview

Applying for a visa in the United States is rather similar to applying for citizenship. The process can be lengthy and arduous. Just like applying for citizenship, visa applicants will undergo an interview when they arrive at the consulate. If you are new to the process, it is important to familiarize yourself with this part of the application. To help you prepare, we put together some important tips that are guaranteed to help you in your interview. 

Clearly Explain Your Ties To Your Home Country 

When applying for a United States visa, a consular officer will likely question your reasons for returning to your home country. In this case, you have to make your reasons clear and show that they are stronger than remaining in the United States, where you would be considering an intending immigrant. Strong ties to your home country can include family, financial prospects, investments, and similar reasons. 

Come With All The Necessary Documents 

Even if you have sent over documentation when you applied, a consular officer will still expect you to come with important written documents. These written documents should be clear to the officer and you must quickly explain what they signify. You should even come prepared with copies in case they are requested or needed when reviewing your application. 

Expect The Interview To Be Conducted In English 

Even if the consulate is located in your home country, you should come prepared and anticipate that they will be communicating with you in English. Officials recommend that you practice speaking in English or holding a conversation in English with a native English speaker prior to your interview. If you are coming to the United States solely to study English, be able to explain how speaking the language will be useful in your native country. 

Be Ready To Discuss Credentials 

While it may seem odd to be questioned heavily on credentials, applications for visas are very dependent on one’s credentials and qualifications. When answering these questions, focus on explaining that your credentials meet the legal standards for admission into the visa program you are applying for. It is also recommended to not become too technical as consular officers will not know everything about the institution or work you are going into. 

Know What You Are Applying For 

If you cannot explain how a visa program benefits you and your professional goals, you will most likely fail at being able to move forward with your application. You must be able to explain how either working or studying in the United States directly benefits your future professional career, whether you plan on pursuing it in your home country or in the United States. 

Be Straightforward And Concise 

You won’t have too much time when being interviewed. Oftentimes, consular officers have many other applicants to meet in one day, so you need to be straight to the point and concise with your responses. With that being said, you have to also be able to make a good impression during the first couple of minutes of your interview. 

Keep Documents Short, As Well 

When explaining and going over your documents, you also have to be short and straight to the point. Similar to when an employer is scanning a potential employee’s resume, you must be able to explain each document between a sentence or two. You may have, at most, three minutes of interview time, so you should keep this part of the interview as short as possible. 

Be Prepared To Discuss Dependents 

Discussing your dependents can very much support your reasons for returning to the United States after your visa. Additionally, you must explain how dependents remaining at home will be able to support themselves. This can be a tricky area in the process of applying for a visa, especially if you are the primary source of income for your family. If your family decides to join you later, this can help your application for a visa. 

Keep A Positive, Professional Attitude 

Even if the interview doesn’t go as planned, it is always best to keep your cool and maintain a positive attitude. You never want to engage in an argument with a consular officer, much less instigate one. If you are denied a visa, you can ask the officer for a list of documents you can use to overcome the refusal and request the reason you were denied in writing. 

Prepare With The Best, Contact Fong Ilagan

At Fong Ilagan, we provide comprehensive services to support you in your endeavors in the United States. To get started with our services, you can contact us today and schedule a consultation with an attorney. 

US citizenship exam test and USA flag.

The Citizenship Exam: How to Prepare and What to Study 

As part of the United States naturalization process, applicants must pass a citizenship test. The test is broken up into four different components. It may sound overwhelming, but by being wise with your time and studying every moment you can, you’ll be able to pass the test. We discuss many ways you can prepare and what exactly you can expect to see on the test. 


Find Helpful Study Materials and Resources 


On the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) website, you can find plenty of resources to practice for the civics portion of the test. The website also has resources to strengthen your English skills and to practice the oath of allegiance. There are many other websites online that provide free programs and study materials for you to use and prepare with. 


Take Practice Tests 


Just like we mentioned, you can find plenty of practice tests online. One thing to be aware of is that some of these games may be a bit outdated, but they are still good practice. On many websites, you will be able to find common questions that are guaranteed to be on the test. You can practice with any method that best helps you. 


Divide Your Studies by Subject 


The naturalization test has several portions to it, one of which is civics. The civics portion itself is then divided into different categories which consist of history, government, geography, symbols, and holidays. You should treat each of these categories as a different subject when you are studying for your test. This helps your brain to organize this knowledge and make it easier to remember during the test. 


Use Different Kinds of Media to Retain Important Information 


Even if you are studying the same content, using different mediums of practice materials will better train your brain to retain the information. For example, you could listen to audiobooks, watch video lessons, or read all the same information if it means helping you to remember what you will need to know for the test. 


What Will Be on the Test


As we mentioned previously, there are different categories to the test. There is plenty of content that you will be tested on, which is why it is important that you take the time to study. Not only do you want to study, but you want to make sure you feel confident enough to take and complete the test. We briefly discuss the different components that you must complete on your test. 


Speaking Test


For this part of the test, you will be asked questions regarding your citizenship application and eligibility. The purpose of this test is to evaluate your English-speaking and comprehension skills. So in addition to learning U.S. history and geography, you have to know English just enough to be naturalized. Although, you will not be expected to understand every word or phrase on your application. 


Reading Test 


For this portion of the test, you will be given a tablet. Sentences will appear on the tablet and you will be asked to read them out loud. You will be asked to read a total of three sentences aloud. You may be asked more until you’ve read three successfully. The USCIS website provides a complete list of vocabulary words that are used on the reading test. You can look through the vocabulary as you prepare for your test. 


Writing Test 


To complete this portion of the test, you must write one of three sentences correctly. You will be asked to write the three sentences as an officer reads them out loud to you. You will use a digital tablet to write the sentences on. The USCIS also provides a list of vocabulary that will be used for this part of the test. 


Civics Component 


During the last component of the test, you will need to demonstrate sufficient knowledge and a basic understanding of U.S. history and government. There is a total of ten questions, but of those ten, you must be able to answer six of them correctly. An officer will randomly select questions, read them aloud to you, and stop the test once you have been able to answer six questions successfully. You will be allowed to phrase your answers in any way as long as they are correct. 


Team Up with an Immigration Lawyer to Get Started on the Naturalization Process 


One of the best ways to prepare for a citizenship test is to work with an immigration lawyer. An immigration lawyer will guide you from start to finish. If you want to start the process of naturalization, you can contact the professionals at Fong Ilagan and schedule a consultation, today. 

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