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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. 

FAQs About Naturalization Answered!

Year after year, the U.S. receives millions of applications for naturalization from all over the globe. There are myriad reasons for why people seek citizenship and naturalization, but many of those seeking will naturally have many questions. At Fong Ilagan, we’ve fielded many of these questions from applicants looking to naturalize and have addressed some in our latest blog here! 

How Long Does The Process Take? 

 

Currently, the application processing portion of the naturalization process takes anywhere from 14 to 15 months on average. The overall time from application to full citizenship can take anywhere from 18 months to over 2 years, depending on myriad factors involved.

 

Unfortunately, if you plan on applying for naturalization, you should expect to wait quite a while before the process is complete. There are some factors that could make the process quicker, like avoiding errors in the application and the applicant’s current residence, among others. 

Is A Lawyer Necessary?

 

Strictly speaking, no, a lawyer is not necessary to complete the naturalization process. You can file USCIS forms on your own, and you can even submit your documents online. However, it is normally advised that applicants at least consult an immigration lawyer to receive more information and specialized assistance. 

 

The reason for hiring legal guidance or assistance is that the immigration has many wrinkles and complexities that a lay person simply won’t have access to. Mistakes in the application process can delay the completion of the process or even mess up your chances altogether. Our team at Fong Ilagan can walk you through the process and provide key bits of information to put you in the best position to succeed. 

 

Can I Live In The U.S. And My Home Country With A Green Card?

 

To qualify for citizenship, you have to demonstrate that you have resided in the United States continuously for at least 5 years. If you live in your home country, then you will not be able to qualify for citizenship. You can visit your home country or other places during this 5-year period, but staying in another country for longer than 180 days may mean the 5-year period has to be reset. 

 

How Many Times Can I Apply For Naturalization? 

 

There is no limit to how many times you can apply for naturalization. Contrary to the beliefs of some, you can always retry your naturalization application if the previous one doesn’t work out. Here an experienced lawyer is crucial because they can point to any mistakes you may have made previously and help you correct them in the future. 

 

However, the application fee will need to be provided each time you submit a new application. This is another incentive to put your best foot forward on the first application, rather than risk having to pay for multiple applications. 

Is The Process Expensive? 

 

The current fee for naturalization comes out to $725. This can be broken down into $640 for application processing and an additional $85 for biometric services. While this is considered expensive for many, there may be some ways to request outside financial assistance from various organizations. Additional costs may arise from legal fees should you use a lawyer during the process. 

Choose Fong Ilagan For Your Naturalization Application!

Still have more questions about the naturalization process, or are looking to get started? We’d love to help! Contact us today to receive more information and speak with our immigration attorneys!

Fong assists with Naturalization

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: https://www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo.

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)

    • DATES FOR FILING FAMILY-SPONSORED VISA APPLICATIONS

Second (F2A only):

    • FINAL ACTION DATES FOR FAMILY-SPONSORED PREFERENCE CASES

Employment Sponsored Preferences:

First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth,

    • FINAL ACTION DATES FOR EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCE CASES

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: listserv@calist.state.gov 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. 

 

Undocumented

 

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. 

 

FAQs 

 

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.

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