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What You Need to Know Before Traveling to the United States

If you are traveling to the United States for the first time, especially under immigrant status, there are many things you need to know about what traveling will look like for you. If you have a visa or were granted citizenship, you have completed the hardest part. Traveling with your immigrant status is not difficult, it just presents several duties that you must take care of and tend to. If you were granted a visa, you should have been given a packet that has documentation regarding your immigration file, which is to be used when you travel internationally. This is one of many things you will need to take care of during your travels. We provide a quick rundown of what to expect that way you stay aware of what the process will look like. 


Check the Expiration Date on Your Passport 


Although you might feel sure of the validity of your passport, you can never be too sure. The validity of your passport can depend on several factors. For most travelers heading to the United States, you must have at least six months remaining on your passport for it to be valid. Anything less may not pass, even if you have not approached the expiration date on it. Citizens from certain countries may only need a passport that is valid for the length of their stay. You should check the government website for your country of residence to see which rules apply to you. 


Know The Rules of Your Visa


Since there are different visas issued to immigrants, there may be different regulations and rules to follow. There is a program that travelers can apply for called the Visa Waiver Program, which allows them to travel without a visa if they are there for traveling or tourism purposes for up to ninety days. If you want to travel under this program, you can apply for authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Any travel that goes past ninety days will require a visa. 


For Traveling via Airplane


Familiarize Yourself with the Rules of International Travel 


If you are traveling by plane, you must be cleared by U.S. Customs to board your flight. This means they will also check your visa status to ensure that you fulfill it. Your first port of entry into the United States, even if it is not your final destination, is where they will ask for your visa and where you will have to go through customs and immigration. With that being said, it is best that you book a flight that provides you with enough time between planes that way you can get checked with no rush. Customs will also be going through your luggage during the process. 


Primary Inspection


The first inspection is done at the first port of entry into the United States, even if it not your final destination. Once you enter the United States, you will find a line that says “Permanent Residents” unless there is a specific line that says otherwise, but is for you. There, an officer will meet you and verify your identity. This part of the inspection does not typically take long. Once your identity has been verified, the officer will lead you to where a second inspection will be done. 


Secondary Inspection 


The secondary inspection is where an officer will open your packet (the documentation we previously mentioned) and review all of your documents. If you have a medical condition, the packet might include a clinic you can visit when you move into your new town of residence. This process, just like previous steps, can take time, sometimes several hours, so you must be mindful of this when booking flights. Some people may be denied entry to the United States, so if you see this happening during this inspection it doesn’t mean it will happen to you. Everyone’s case is different and it typically happens to those who violated their immigration status or due to a criminal conviction. 


Entry to the United States


After your inspections are completed, your passport will be stamped to indicate that your status as a lawful resident has been verified and you can enter and reside in the United States. 


Choose Fong Ilagan to Help You During Your Transition to the United States 


The lawyers at Fong Ilagan are not only here to help you achieve the immigration status you’re working towards, we are also here to help you make the most out of your travel when you have achieved status. Should you need any more information regarding your anticipated travel and your status to do so, do not hesitate to contact us

Department of State Visa Bulletin for June 2021 and Adjustment of Status Filing Charts from the Visa Bulletin

The U.S. Department of State earlier this month published their updated monthly Visa Bulletin for June 2021. The Bulletin, which can be seen in full here, details the availability of immigrant visa numbers during June 2021 for: “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications” and provides useful reference information for applicants, immigration attorneys and paralegals alike. For those who will consular process their immigrant visas at U.S. Embassies/Consulates abroad, the “Dates for Filing” chart indicates when the National Visa Center should notify immigrant visa applicants to assemble and submit their required documentation online. For further clarification of the information contained within this bulletin, please contact Fong Ilagan for assistance.


Department of State and USCIS Visa Bulletin Information

For those foreign nationals who are physically in the United States, USCIS dictates which Visa Bulletin chart to use for filing adjustment of status applications with USCIS. Here is the USCIS webpage for determining eligibility to file for adjustment of status:

USCIS has indicated to use the following charts during the month of June 2021:

Family-Sponsored Preferences:

First; (F1), Second (F2B only), Third; (F3), Fourth; (F4)


Second (F2A only):


Employment Sponsored Preferences:

First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth,


To stay posted on immigrant visa number availability under the various family-based and employment-based immigrant visa categories, you can receive a notification of each monthly Visa Bulletin published. You can subscribe to the Department of State’s email list by emailing: and in the message body include “Subscribe Visa-Bulletin.”


To understand more about these categorizations please see the full Visa Bulletin for full descriptions of each preference category. If you have any questions about the dates published in the Charts, please speak to one of our specialized immigration attorneys at Fong Ilagan by calling us at 713.772.2300 or reach out to us by filling out our online contact form.


You can also find more information about Fong Ilagan’s specialist immigration services in each practice area on the following pages of our website:



Everything You Need to Know About U.S Immigration Status

Passport of USA (United states of America) next to a Guide for new Immigrants - Welcome to the United states and American Flag. Wooden Background.

Applying for residency or for citizenship in the United States is typically a long process. There’s so much to know about applying for residency and citizenship that you might not know exactly where to start. There are four different categories of citizenship status in the United States, so whatever category it is that you fall into, certain circumstances may affect you differently. 


Taking in all the information and doing your own research can be overwhelming, but with experienced immigration lawyers by your side, we can help you familiarize yourself with the process. Let’s discuss the different kinds of status in the U.S. and look into some questions surrounding the categories. 


U.S. Citizens


You are granted U.S. citizenship if you were born within the country. You may also have U.S. citizenship if you were naturalized through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Those who are naturalized must live in the United States for a number of years before being granted U.S. citizenship. You are able to work and exercise any rights you have as a U.S. citizen.


Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs)


LPRs are granted green cards, which authorize them to legally reside in the United States. Through a green card, they are also able to legally work in addition to living in the country. There are also conditional residents. Conditional residents can change to permanent status by filing Form I-751, with supporting evidence before their conditional residency expires. 


Temporary Visitor 


Temporary visitors, much like LPRs, are in the country legally, but they are here on a limited-time basis. Most temporary visitors come into the United States to enroll in college, for business or work, with their fiancees, or through temporary protected status. Those who apply for temporary visitorship typically are not seeking immigration to the United States. 




Those who are living and/or working in the country illegally are undocumented. This ultimately means that they were not given permission to reside or work in the United States and be deported back to their home country. If they are undocumented, they have no access to public benefits and do not have the rights that a U.S. citizen has. 




How can I apply for U.S citizenship if I am a lawful permanent resident?


Eligibility for citizenship depends on a number of things. USCIS requires that LPRs lived in the United States for anywhere from 3-5 years before applying for citizenship. It may be different if you are married to a United States citizen. 


What can I do if I would like to sponsor my spouse who is a foreign national?


It is best if you have your spouse with you in the United States under permanent residency so that they can apply for citizenship or simply change their status. Additionally, you must be in a solid financial standing that shows you can support you and your spouse should they be sponsored into the country. 


What can I do if I would like to sponsor a family member to come to the United States?


Similar to how spouses are sponsored, family members can be here either on permanent residency or temporary visitation in order to change their citizenship status in the United States. Oftentimes, the process works best for relatives who are close to the citizen, “immediate relatives” they are known as. It is important to be aware that being granted a visa can take several months and even years. 


If I am afraid to return to my country of nationality, what are my options here in the United States?


It is best to consult with an immigration lawyer so that they can determine the best path to take for relief. You may also be eligible to apply for asylum by providing substantial evidence that you are in danger if you go back to your home country. 


How can a criminal charge or conviction affect my immigration status? 


A criminal charge can be detrimental to your immigration status. Some people may even face the risk of being deported, depending on their status. If you are facing charges and are at risk of benign deported, contact a lawyer right away. 


Learn More with the Attorneys at Fong Ilagan 


We’re here to help those who are seeking immigration into the United States. Whether you are applying for citizenship or aim to sponsor your family, we want to be there to support you through the process. Contact us today to learn more about how you can get started with Fong Ilagan.

How to Adapt to Life in the U.S.

Friends Gathered On Rooftop Terrace For Party With City Skyline In BackgroundImmigrating to the U.S. is a battle alone. It can be even harder to establish a life in a country you’re unfamiliar with. The United States, considered the land of opportunity and freedom, is a melting pot, where people of all backgrounds can make their aspirations come true. Immigrants will naturally create a strong connection to the country of their origin while living in the United States. While that is completely understandable, it is important for immigrants to maintain a balance with their home country and with their new home in order to lead a successful life. The professionals here at Fong Ilagan understand the difficulty accompanied by traveling to a new country. Thankfully, we know a thing or two about being accustomed to the U.S. economy and society. 


Create a Timeline and Stay Organized 


The first and most important thing you should do (even before settling in the U.S) is to create a timeline. In this timeline, you should include when and how you’ll be settling, job opportunities to keep an eye out for, and support groups you can meet with. By creating a timeline, you can adjust your schedule accordingly to check off all of your important tasks. Even better, a timeline helps you know what you have to have done months from the time you create a plan. This can help you feel more in control once you have traveled into the U.S.


Have an Open Mind 


It can be easy to assume the worst and give up right then and there, but if you were able to make it into the U.S., there is nothing you can’t tackle! The change in culture can be drastic and overwhelming, but the negativity shouldn’t start there. Moving into a new country is the perfect time to leave bad habits behind and start looking into the future. This change can bring you more fortune and opportunity, more than you might have ever imagined. Maintaining a positive and welcoming outlook is essential throughout the process. 


Establish a Strong Work Ethic


Employers will hire candidates that radiate dedication, skillful, and most importantly, those who prioritize their work. A major American value surrounds those who commit to their work. You have to show your potential employers how much of a hard worker you are. No one can have anything for free, especially when it comes to the job market. With that being said, don’t be afraid to speak highly of yourself, showing your potential employers how well you’ll fit within their work environment and their professional team. 


Network as Much as Possible


Most jobs are handed to people through mutual friends, coworkers, business partners, anything of that sort. Where exactly can you meet these people? There are plenty of programs online and there might even be job fairs held within your community. It is crucial that you stay active within these environments in order to land interviews back to back, and most importantly, a job that can support you. Networking is the best and most effective way when it comes to finding job openings, being referred for positions, and securing job interviews. 


Promote Your Skills


Once you created a professional profile or have landed a job interview, this is where you have to highlight your skills. If you’re a bilingual speaker, make this evident as you are going through your skills. Some jobs tend to pay more if they can find a bilingual candidate for the job position. You have to let potential employers know about what you can do, especially the skills that are hard to find in employee candidates. If you can really dive into the facts and logically prove why you’re a good fit, it’s likely that you’ll be able to land a professional opportunity. 


Inquire About Services that Can Help


Maybe you haven’t found a job fast enough or maybe you’re still having a hard time finding a home you can settle in for a good while. Immigration services are vast. These services not only aim to help people travel into the U.S. but they are also intended on helping these individuals establish a successful life. Immigration services can be found almost anywhere in the U.S. Do your research, go online, and make several calls to receive some additional support. It is guaranteed that you’ll find a program that offers the support you’re looking for. 


Contact Our Immigration Law Firm 


The professionals at Fong Ilagan have been able to assist immigrants throughout the arduous process of traveling into the U.S. We want to provide as much help as possible for the sake of your journey. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help. 


How Immigration Trends are Changing in the United States 

Group of students near wall with USA flagThe state of immigration is everchanging, especially here in the United States. Ever since its commence, no one has been able to perfectly predict how rates may decrease or increase. These trends usually depend on a number of factors, including the time of year, what events are occurring on an international level, and the current president’s policies regarding immigration. Almost every day, new reports are being sent out to cover which foreigners are coming into the country and the numbers by which they are coming in. More than halfway into 2020, there is much to be said about these immigration trends. We discuss them. 


More Latin Americans, Fewer European and Asians 


In the year 2018, the United States witnessed the least amount of green cards issued to people from Europe and Asia. The numbers had not been so low since 2010.  The numbers have risen for Latin Americans, based on specific countries and regions. The Caribbean contributed a 30% increase, Central Americans contributed a 34% increase, Venezuelans are a reported 17%, and Mexico is approximately 16% up, all from 2010. 


Different Gateways for Immigrants to Come In 


New York and California have always been the hotspots where a vast majority of immigrants come into the United States. The same goes for other states such as Florida, Illinois, and Texas. In recent years, immigrants have found other hubs to enter into the United States, such as regions in the Southeast and the Pacific Northwest. This may be due to where exactly the majority of these foreigners are coming from. 


Population Growth in the South and West


Immigration is one of the key factors in the boom of the population in areas such as the Sun Belt (Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Carolina, Texas, two-thirds of California, and parts of North Carolina, Nevada, and Utah), the Pacific Northwest, and the Mountain States. With more immigrants coming in and residing in these parts of the United States, the overall growth has been driven mostly in the Southern and Western regions. 


Population Declines in Central America


As more foreigners are coming into the United States and establishing family life here, fewer families have been populating in Central American countries. Native-born populations are declining in certain areas of these countries due to the fact that most families and individuals do not return to their homelands, much less do they raise families in their home countries. 


Traveling in Families


Out of 1.1 million people who became green card holders in 2018, 63% of this number obtained permanent resident status due to family connections to a U.S. citizen or a green card holder they are related to. With this in mind, foreigners are less likely to travel into the United States if they do not already have family there or if they are not traveling with a family. 


Longer Wait Times for Permanent Residency Applicants 


Wait times are already a soaring burden for those who apply for permanent residency. Due to the fact that so many people are applying, the wait times have been extended. Only a small percentage of applicants were able to obtain permanent residency the same year they applied, in the past two years. As of recent, applicants are informed that the process could take up to (at a maximum) of two years for their application to be filed. 


Gaining Citizenship Has Become More Rigorous 


Similar to obtaining permanent residency, gaining citizenship is also taking up more time and the process has become much more difficult. This difficulty is due to more requirements and officials have made exams to be much more strict. Immigrants are expected to live in the United States for a certain amount of time (an increase from 2011 policies) before they can be naturalized. 


Immigrants Make a Grand Economic Contribution


The many immigrants that do become naturalized or obtain their green cards become employed. In fact, 70% of new green card holders in 2018 had jobs and only 1 out of 8 people were unemployed, with most of them being retired or working as home or caretakers. Many of these foreigners who are working in the U.S. provide a vital economic counterbalance to the portion of the U.S. population that is growing older and unable to work. 


Get Connected with Dedicated Professionals 


The experts at Fong Ilagan closely examine trends and changes in policies in order to better help our clients in the process of moving into the U.S. Whenever you may need us, we are here to answer all of your questions. Contact us today to get started. 


Common Issues Immigrants Face In Detention Centers

Lock on a wire security fence in fron of an industrial style building

Caryl Stern, president of the USCIS, once said, “Detention for any length of time, with or without families, is bad for children.” If the conditions are detrimental for children, it’s without a doubt that it affects adults, just the same. Immigration lawyers not only work to keep immigrant families from being held in detention centers but they also work in efforts to remove them if they have been ordered to reside in a center, temporarily. But what exactly makes these centers a chaotic experience for most? We take an inside look at some of the conditions that migrants typically have to tolerate in detention centers all across the country. 

Limited Resources 


Families, all too often, have complained about not having enough soap to bathe themselves with, inaccessible places to go to the restroom, even inadequate amounts of toothpaste. What makes matters worse is that most detainees are forced to undergo and work with limited resources for months on end. Furthermore, most of these centers fail to provide materials for first-time parents such as diapers, formula, and much more. It doesn’t help that parents usually can’t wash their own materials due to the lack of water and cleaning solutions as well.  


Unsanitary Conditions 


What makes these centers often an unhealthy environment to reside is the lack of cleaning supplies. Since soap is scarce, there is not much cleaning that can be done. Detainees are also limited to the amount of water they can use. Due to these minimal efforts, many detainees have complained about how dirty the centers can be and how fast residue builds. Although cleaning staff are usually assigned to clean these centers, it can be hard to keep up with so many families being held. 


Lack of Medical Care and Staff 


In these conditions, detainees are much more susceptible to becoming sick or injured. Detention centers are ordered to contact medical experts and assistants when it is necessary. Although, some of these doctors are usually far out of reach and may come at a time when it is already too late. By not having immediate care, death rates have gone up in these facilities. For more fatality rates, more lawsuits are being held against these centers, all of which obtain numbers that they can’t pay. 


High Infection Rates 


Where there are unsanitary living conditions, there are high infection rates. Temperatures are usually extremely cold with lights on twenty fours hours a day, as doctors and pediatricians have witnessed. Some of the most common infections that spread within these facilities include flu, lice, chickenpox, and scabies. These infections usually start out with symptoms such as fever, cough, diarrhea, and vomiting. The children in these detention centers are more prone to catching these infections as opposed to the adults, nonetheless, the rates are high. 


Invasion of Privacy


Families in detention centers usually request space to themselves, but this is not offered nor given. Most of these migrants are undergoing harsh times, therefore it can be hard to cope with what they dealing with when they are forced to share rooms and facilities with other migrants. Even worse, when migrants are patted down to be checked for prohibited items, some have reported being groped and inappropriately touched. Lack of respect is especially prevalent in these detrimental situations. 


Tight Space


Most detention facilities barely have enough beds. Some reports have emerged in the news regarding children who have had to sleep on concrete floors or tough slabs. Some of the adults have had to sacrifice laying down at all, having to stand up for days due to inefficient space. Furthermore, reports have come up stating that detention centers usually attempt to cram 900 people into a space that is designed to accommodate 125 at most. It’s evident that there isn’t much comfort, much less room, for these migrants to adapt to. 


Who Exactly Is Being Held In These Detention Centers? 


The vast majority of migrants that are ordered to stay in these detention centers are seeking to flee from violence in Northern Triangle countries including El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Currently, more than 50,000 people are currently being held and detained in ICE facilities, in which half a fifth of this number is comprised of children. 


Fight the Battles of Immigration with the Experts at Fong Ilagan 

Here at Fong Ilagan, we believe it is our duty to serve justice where it is deemed necessary. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you in your case and help you manifest a smooth transition into the U.S.

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