A white piece of paper that reads “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services” in gold in Houston.

What You Need to Know About Family-Based Immigration

Rights and Requirements Related to Family Immigration to the U.S. 

People often seek to live permanently in the United States through family-based immigration. Family-based immigration is based on a relative sponsor who will provide an Affidavit of Support verifying that they have the financial means to support you after you immigrate. Only certain individuals may become sponsors, so it is important to know your rights if you are seeking family-based immigration for a family member.

At Fong Ilagan, our Houston immigration lawyers will fight to ensure your rights are represented. We are experienced attorneys that understand the unique challenges immigrants and their families face. If you are interested in seeking family-based immigration, contact us online or call (713) 772-2300 to schedule a consultation.

What Is Family-Based Immigration?

There are multiple ways to petition to live permanently in the United States, one of them being through family-based immigration. To achieve this, you must secure an immigrant visa or, if eligible, apply for adjustment to status to Permanant Resident in the United States. To apply for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status, you will need to be sponsored by a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident relative who is 21 years of age or older. 

Family-based immigrant visas can generally be achieved in one of two ways:

  • Immediate relatives – Individuals who hold an immediate “close family relationship” with a U.S. Citizen. U.S. Citizens may file immigrant petitions for a spouse, parents, or minor, unmarried children under the age of 21.
  • Family-sponsored preferences – U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents may sponsor other relatives under the family-sponsored preference system to live permanently in the United States. U.S. Citizens may file a preference petition for their unmarried sons and daughters 21 years of age or older, child, parent, married sons and daughters, and their siblings. Lawful Permanent Residents may only submit a petition on behalf of their minor children under the age of 21 or unmarried sons and daughters 21 years of age or older. 

Family-based immigration begins with the filing of a Petition for Alien Relative. Once the petition is filed, the case is submitted for National Visa Center (NVC) processing, and the beneficiary appears at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate for the immigrant visa interview. Or, if the beneficiary is eligible and an immigrant visa number is available, the beneficiary can apply for an adjustment of status to Permanent Resident in the United States. Immigrant visa numbers are always available to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. Wait times for immigrant visa numbers under the family preference categories vary widely and are controlled by the Visa Bulletin. Immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens who entered the U.S. lawfully may apply for adjustment of status in the U.S. An experienced Houston immigration lawyer can help you throughout the complicated process to ensure your rights are represented. 

Filing an Affidavit of Support

After paying the processing fees, your sponsor must file an Affidavit of Support. The Affidavit of Support must indicate that your relative sponsor has the financial means to support you when you arrive in the United States. They will have to provide financial documents to prove their income. For those who apply for adjustment of status in the U.S., the Affidavit of Support is typically submitted with the adjustment of status application.

What Financial Requirements Does a Sponsor Need to Meet?

A sponsor must show that they make equal to or higher than 125% of the Federal poverty level. The only exception is if a sponsor is on active duty in the armed forces and is petitioning for their spouse or child. In that case, the sponsor must only show that they make equal to or over 100% of the U.S. poverty line. The income level requirements are based on your household size.

Should I Hire an Immigration Lawyer?

Immigration is a complex legal process that requires extensive knowledge of federal law. Without a Houston immigration lawyer, you could waste significant time and money only to end up nowhere. A skilled lawyer will guide you through the process, ensuring you understand your responsibilities and are prepared for any obstacles you may encounter. 

Considering Family Immigration? Contact Our Office Today. 

Are you considering family immigration into the United States? Contact us online or call (713) 772-2300 to schedule a consultation. Our dedicated lawyers and other hardworking team members will review your case and help determine the best course of action to follow. We are an experienced, dedicated legal team that fights for our clients. We proudly serve families in Houston and throughout the surrounding communities. Call today to speak directly with a member of our firm. 

At Fong Ilagan, we work hand-in-hand with our clients to ensure they receive the best outcome possible on their cases. Our lawyers are fluent in several languages to ensure our clients feel comfortable and fully informed about their rights. Get the legal advice you need to make informed decisions. 

A person’s hand on top of a United States permanent resident card, on top of two small American flags, in Houston, Texas.

Is It Possible to Get a US Work Visa Without Sponsorship?

How to Get an Employment-Based, Non-Sponsored Visa


Many people hope to come to the United States to further their careers or to seek opportunities for growth. While some individuals are able to obtain an employer-sponsored visa, some do not have that ability. Fortunately, there are options for certain highly-qualified or high-net-worth people hoping to work or invest in the U.S. despite not having sponsorship from an employer. It is important to discuss your case with an immigration lawyer to determine the best path forward.


At Fong Ilagan in Houston, Texas, we represent individuals hoping to work in the United States. Whether you are seeking to immigrate permanently and work full-time or just need employment on a temporary basis our lawyers can help. Contact our office online or call (713) 772-2300 to discuss your rights. Call now to schedule a consultation.

What Are Non-Employer Sponsored Permanent Work Visas?

Individuals hoping to work or invest in the United States have three options for employment-based permanent visas: non-employer-sponsored (self-petitions) or investor visas. If you do not have an employer that will sponsor you for permanent residency, you will need to seek a self-petition. Or, if you are wealthy and meet the required capital investment threshold, you could file an immigrant investor petition for yourself.


Self-petition and investor petition (non-employer-sponsored) visa options include:


    • EB-1A Visa: Individuals of “extraordinary ability” in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics may be eligible for an “employment-based, first preference” visa. To demonstrate extraordinary ability, you must meet certain criteria or provide evidence of a major internationally-recognized award. Individuals are not required to provide proof of an offer of employment or a labor certification.
  • EB-2 Visa: Individuals with advanced degrees or exceptional ability may apply for an EB-2 visa without employer sponsorship if they can meet the requirements for a national interest waiver.

  • EB-5 Visa: The final employment-based visa for which a non-citizen can apply without employer sponsorship is an EB-5 Investor Immigrant visa. The EB-5 program enables investors who meet certain criteria to seek permanent residence.

Employment-based visas are generally faster to obtain than most family-based visas, but the process can be complicated. It is important to discuss your legal options with a skilled business immigration lawyer. An attorney can help to determine your eligibility for a non-sponsored employment visa.

Are There Non-Immigrant Self-Petition Work Visas?

No, generally, there are not. However, foreign nationals from a treaty country seeking to do substantial trade in the United States may apply for an E-1 trader visa, and those from a treaty country with a substantial amount of capital to invest in a U.S. enterprise may apply for an E-2 treaty investor visa.

Do I Need an Immigration Attorney?

In general, it is in your best interest to consult with an attorney any time you are seeking immigration to the United States. The legal process can be difficult and complex. Employment-based visas require a significant amount of documentation. 


Without the help of a Houston business immigration lawyer, you may not meet all the requirements causing delays or even a denial of your application. A lawyer can help you understand the legal process and the best course of action to achieve your goals. 

Hiring a Business Immigration Lawyer

If you need to seek an employment-based visa in the United States, contact our office online or call (713) 772-2300 to schedule an appointment. Whether you are looking to work in the U.S. temporarily or are seeking permanent residence, we may be able to help. We offer cost-effective solutions for all of your legal needs. Do not wait until it is too late. 


At Fong Ilagan, our Houston lawyers understand the importance of compassionate representation throughout the immigration process. We have a team of dedicated business immigration lawyers with the resources you need to get the best possible outcome in your case. Let us help you get the results you deserve. We pride ourselves on client communication and Texas-friendly service. Call our office today to get started. 

A close-up of an immigration form next to a fountain pen.

Why You Need to Work with a Business Immigration Lawyer in Houston

When it comes to business immigration, individuals and businesses alike must contend with many specific processes if they are seeking a green card, visa, citizenship, or another legal status. If you find yourself in this situation, you must make sure to follow these processes accurately in order to be compliant with United States law. 


A Houston business immigration lawyer from Fong Ilagan can make the process much more streamlined. We offer a wide range of services—including citizenship, employment-based Visas, family immigration, green cards, and more. These services are foundational to the legal system and help many families or corporations navigate the frustrating process of obtaining legal status. Keep reading to learn more!


Call our Houston immigration law firm to speak with one of our world-class immigration attorneys — (713) 772-2300!

What is a Business Immigration Lawyer?

Business immigration lawyers represent individuals, families, and/or businesses in front of a variety of legal departments. Some of these can include the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), The Board of Immigration Appeals, Immigration courts, or federal circuit courts. Business immigration lawyers often help corporations and their noncitizen employees from foreign offices to the United States. 

What do Business Immigration Lawyers Do?

Work visas require sponsorship to complete work for a United State employer. There is a long list of sponsor-based employment visas for the United States, including the E-1 visa, h1-b, and O-1 visa. Each of these classifications has its own requirements for eligibility, which is where a business immigration lawyer can help. 


Some examples of these classifications include: 

  • EB-5: For investors that are investing one million USD in a new commercial enterprise or 500,000 if the enterprise is in a rural or economically-depressed area 
  • First Preference EB-1: Multinational executive level individuals or companies, outstanding professors and researchers, or those who are highly recognized in their field
  • E-3: Applies to nationals of Australia who are coming to the United States to perform a specialty service 
  • H2-A: Allows United States agents or employers to bring in foreign nationals to assist with agricultural roles 

What is Required for Sponsors? 

Sponsors or employers must sign the correct forms to attest to the required visa. They will have to pay fees associated with the filing and return of the employee if there is termination. They must also report any changes in employment to the USCIS. They must confirm that the individual is eligible for employment in the United States by completing an I-9 form. Depending on the category of the visa, they may also need to maintain a Public Access File. 

Common Business Immigration Concerns

With reforms and legal information constantly adapting and changing, it can be challenging for many businesses to keep up. There are also difficulties in understanding how policy works with spouses, dependents, or those who are considered self-employed. Documentation may also be a hurdle, as it can be time-consuming and extensive. 

Why Work with a Business Immigration Lawyer?

As a corporation or business, you want to make sure you do things right when it comes to the legal system. This is especially true if you are working with a highly valued employee who is willing and eager to commit. We can assist in helping your executives with getting visas or reorganizations and guide you through the process. 

Business Immigration Law Firm in Houston

At Fong Ilgan, our Houston, Texas, immigration lawyers are skilled in how businesses can most effectively get legal services. We have decades of experience that provides us with detailed knowledge of how the process works most effectively. This can save you time, money, and frustration. 


We have helped a variety of different industries, such as oil, gas, technology, health, research, import, and finance companies. Our core values are being honest, cost-effective, and offering insight as to what legal road would be best for your company. Contact us by calling (713) 772-2300 to get started! 


Differences Between Permanent Residency vs. Citizenship

The American passport is one of the most influential ones to own worldwide. U.S. Immigration statistics show that nearly 860,000 green card holders apply for U.S. citizenship.

Considering the number of people who travel to the U.S. for business or personal reasons every year, many want to apply for citizenship. Becoming a permanent resident is a dream for many visitors.

Fortunately, there’s a wide range of different legal statuses that people may have in the U.S. The most common ones include permanent residence and citizenship.

Most people think these two legal statuses are the same in regions like Huston, TX, and other areas of the United States. However, there’s a profound difference between the two that we will mention in this article.

Permanent Residency vs. Citizenship: Differences To Consider

There’s a wide range of differences between having a permanent residency and being a citizen of the United States. Here are a few things you should keep in mind.

What is a Legal Permanent Resident?

A permanent resident is a person who holds the right to stay in the United States for an indefinite period. These residents have the same rights as citizens (more or less) along with most privileges.

For example, you can work in the U.S. as a permanent resident without legal issues. Depending on your niche, you can run a personal business or work with a company.

Most permanent residents get an “alien registration card” known as a green card earlier. The card used to be green, which is why people called it such.

However, a green card is powerful enough to prove your eligibility for a job. You can apply for employment opportunities with a green card or an alien registration card.

Can Permanent Residents Travel Out Of The U.S.?

The U.S. allows residents to travel to any area outside of the United States. However, all travelers should have a valid “alien registration card” when re-entering the U.S.  

Additionally, all residents should ensure their passports do not expire before returning to the U.S. They can apply for a passport renewal in the American Embassy and have an unexpired passport for a secondary country.

Permanent residents must meet all the admission criteria back into the U.S. they met when first applying for permanent resident status. It can include certain law violations, such as health concerns, criminal records, false claims of U.S. citizenship, etc. Other severe offenses may include instances of terrorism, public charges, etc.

What Can A Permanent Resident Not Do?

There are a few things that permanent residents cannot do. One such example is the ability to vote. Individuals with permanent residency status cannot participate in the elections. Additionally, people with U.S. legal citizenship can vote in the presidential elections.

Is Permanent Residency Valid Forever?

The permanent residency makes the immigrants legal in the United States as long as they do not commit serious crimes or other legislative violations. People who violate these rules can be deported and banned from the U.S. permanently and may lose their residency status.

Additionally, some traveling scenarios may have the same result for the immigrants. For example, some people may lose their permanent residency status because of staying out of the U.S. for more than their designated period. The allotted period is six months at a time.  

The immigration department authorities will assess your situation and determine your status. There are two scenarios in this case:

  • The permanent resident has abandoned their permanent residency in the United States.
  • The individual cannot return to the U.S. on time for personal reasons.

Additionally, individuals who remain out of the U.S. for a year or more no longer hold a permanent residency. They need to re-apply for permanent residence and meet the requirements again.

However, a legal attorney can present your case to the American Embassy and defend it against the immigration authorities.

What Responsibility Does a Permanent Resident Have?

A person with a permanent residence has some responsibilities they will need to uphold. 

These include:

  • Filing the U.S. tax returns as a permanent resident in the U.S.
  • Abide by all the laws and regulations the government sets in their state.
  • Sign up for the Selective Service (applicable for males and females between the ages of 18 and 25)
  • Support the government by all means.
  • Notify the USCIS about any changes in residential address.

Get Information with the Best,  Contact Fong Ilagan

There’s a profound difference between a citizen and a permanent resident in the U.S. Understanding your rights and responsibilities depend on your immigration status in the U.S. Individuals facing immigration problems should reach out to a professional law firm.

Our immigration lawyers at Fong Ilagan are more than happy to help people looking to apply for permanent residence or defend their case against embassy authorities. We have an expert team who will assess and resolve your situation to protect your U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status.

Reach out to us today!


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. 

Articles - News