Impact of address change on immigration approval timeline

Considering that immigration decisions can sometimes take too long, it is understandable that some immigrants need to relocate.  Thankfully, the USCIS has no problem with this, even though your application is initially submitted based on the state you live.  When you move whether locally or even thousands of miles away in the country, all you simply need to do is to file USCIS Form AR-11 Change of Address, a very simple form that tells the government that your address has changed.  At the same time, you should also file a change of address form with the USPS, so that in case there is a piece of mail that is still mailed to you, it can be forwarded.  If your family or friends will still be at the old address, it is best to let them know that you are waiting for important mail and you should make arrangements to pick it up.  Except for some applications, for most immigrants the change of address does not change your eligibility, and the USCIS will deal with it internally if it needs to transfer the application internally.  It is not known for sure if the change of address has any impact on the speed of processing, but most experts believe that it does not.

Can EAD card be used as ID?

An employment authorization document (EAD) is a card given to any foreigner by the DHS as evidence of legal right to work.  This document, along with others, can be used to apply for a driver's license in the United States. So can this card be used as an identification document instead of other documents?

Let us first discuss if this can be used to go through security and shown to a Transport Security Administration (TSA) officer to fly on a domestic flight in the United States.  The answer is a bit tricky.  The TSA does not list the EAD card as an acceptable form of identification.  Why would it be so when it looks so impressive and is an official US Government document?  The reality is that the sole purpose of this document is to prove your right to work and not use it for identification purposes.  The reality, though, is somewhat different.  The main goal of the TSA is not to make your life difficult or to prevent you from flying but to make sure that only a legitimate passenger is able to fly on an airplane (when you book a ticket with your name the security agencies run a check to make sure that terrorists are not able to get on a plane).  So there are instances of TSA agents letting people go through with their EAD cards with no problem or after asking a few additional questions to them.  In fact, the TSA will occasionally even let people go through security without an ID (just in case someone forgets to bring one) as long as their identity can be confirmed through other means (this can massive cause delays because you will need to go to a separate area, undergo additional screening, and wait for the TSA to look into databases to confirm your identity -- for instance, if you do have a driver's license and provide information about you, the agent can access the state database and compare the photo on file to your face and confirm your identity).

So should an immigrant try to travel with just an EAD card?  Probably not a good idea until the TSA announces that it will accept it as a valid ID.  You should get a driver's license ASAP, and if that is not possible, you should carry your unexpired passport (it need not have a valid visa or any visa at all because TSA is not interested in your immigration status or if you are in the country illegally).  With just an EAD card, you face the prospect of delays or even denial of the right to board.  You are also putting yourself at risk for having to admit that you are an illegal immigrant.

Why does my Social Security card say not valid for employment?

Or, it may also say "Valid for work only with DHS authorization."  This is a question perplexing many DREAMers approved for DACA, which supposedly lets them work legally because of having approved for a work permit, and having an employment authorization document (EAD).  So what is going on here?  Is this a mistake?

Not at all.  The Social Security Administration issues a card that has the name and the number to individuals who are US citizens or permanent residents.  It is an indication that these people are authorized to work at all times without conditions.

If your card says "Valid for work only with DHS authorization," it means that you have been authorized to work on a temporary basis.  In other words, this card is valid as proof of work, only when accompanied by a work permit.  This card is no longer valid as evidence of legal employment the day your work authorization expires.  It is your legal duty to renew your work authorization in a timely manner so that there is no gap.  If it does happen that you work permit is not renewed before the previous permit expires, you should let your employer know and stop working till you receive your new document.  Working without authorization is a crime and can hurt your prospects of receiving further immigration benefits.  If your renewal is denied, you are no longer allowed to work, and in your best interest, you should not work.  Depending on the type of visa you have, it does not mean that you have to leave the country, but some work related visas are tied to your employment, so with the expiration of your work permit, you may have also lost your right to stay lawfully in the country.  Discuss this with your attorney so that you do not accrue unlawful status in the country.

Immigrants who receive a card with the words "Not valid for employment" are given a number for other purposes but not for employment.  These individuals are barred from work and if they do change their immigration status and are able to work, they must do the paperwork to get a new Social Security card.

In all cases, it is important to understand that once you are assigned a SSN, it is for yours to keep for life.  So as you change your status or lose your right to work, your number will still be the same.  It confers no other rights on you like being able to live in the USA, get a driver's license or work.

Obama illegal immigrant amnesty LPI visa details released

What is President Obama proposing in his amnesty?  While Congress develops a bill, the president has leaked parts of his plan to the media.  It is important to remember that this is just a draft bill that is not being submitted to Congress.  In any case, the Republican Senator Marco Rubio has announced that he and his party will not approve the president's bill.  In other words, while this information may hint at what may eventually become a Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill, nothing is final yet.

What will happen after approval?  If the president's plan is approved, undocumented aliens will apply for a Lawful Prospective Immigrant (LPI), that will be given in form of an identification card to show as proof of their legal status in the country.  This card can then be used for get a valid (if you already have a genuine SS#, you will keep the same number but get a new card) Social Security number (the new card will look like an EAD card or green card so no one will be able to use fake SS cards any more), driver's licenses, and this is the card that you will show to a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agent when you enter the United States at an airport or land crossing, along with a valid passport (in some states that harass Hispanic people, they can show this card to a cop to prove that they are legally in the country).  It will also be used at the time of starting a new job as proof of employment (employers will use the E-Verify program to verify your right to work and this card will allow you to do that).  The card will be valid for four years and will need to be renewed before expiration by submitting another application and paying fees.

Who will be eligible for this program?  The president does not provide a cutoff date on which the immigrant must have entered the United States, but an immigrant will need to pass a background check after fingerprinting and providing information on addresses and jobs held.  If you were convicted of crimes that led to a prison term of at least a year; or three different crimes that resulted in a total of 90 days in jail you will not be eligible.  If the crime was committed outside the United States, you will not be eligible.  You will be required to provide information on criminal activity even that outside the USA (you might wonder if USCIS, FBI and CIA can find out about your criminal past, and it might be true for some cases, but it is widely known that the United States government collaborates with governments all over the world and shares data on criminals, so hiding a crime is a bad idea, because if you are caught lying, your application will be denied).  The great news about this amnesty is that if you have used fake documents like green card or Social Security card or not filed an income tax return and not been caught, you are cleared for approval.  It is also a nice feature that if you committed a crime but were not jailed -- just paid a fine or were on probation -- you will still be eligible.  If you are in jail for breaking immigration laws or are in deportation, you will be eligible for LPI visa.  Another great news: no requirement that you learn English for this visa.


What is the application process?  You will complete an application in English and provide evidence also in English.  Application and/or supporting documents cannot be accepted in any other language.  Be prepared with your birth certificate, passport, photos, information on your residential address history, job history, etc. because that will be needed.  The fees is not yet finalized but it should be a few hundred dollars.  Also no back taxes be paid at this time and there is a $250 fine for applicants older than 21 (though there will be a discount for family members applying together).

Can I travel with the LPI visa?  You will be allowed to travel overseas as long as you return within six months, the way green card holders are allowed to, but you cannot move to another country or your native country and still be able to maintain status or apply for permanent residency later on.

Can I sponsor my family members like spouse and children?  After you have been approved, you can then file an application to bring your spouse and minor kids to the United States on the same visa, so they will also be legally able to work and study. 

When can I apply for a green card?  You will be eligible for a green card 8 years after Obama signs the law. 

How will I apply for a green card?  Unlike other green card applicants, you will need to learn English (anyone over 65 is exempted), pay back taxes, and learn about United States history and government, similar to those who want to naturalize.  You will also need to pay back taxes.  Needless to say that you must not commit any other crimes after being approved for LPI.

What if I don't want to learn English?  You will not get a green card and will either need to leave the United States or become illegal once again because the LPI visa will not be issued after a deadline that is expected to be about a year after it becomes law.

When can I become a US citizen?  If your spouse is an American citizen, after you get a green card, you can apply for naturalization after three years.  Otherwise, five years.

Will DREAMers get a green card earlier?  Yes, immigrants who entered the United States before their 16th birthday, will be able to get a green card after just two years in the LPI visa category.  There will be special privileges for going to college or serving in the military and spouses of DREAMers will be able to immigrate to the US on a speedy path.

Legalization after using fake names

Understandably so, many undocumented immigrants have used tricks to engage in unauthorized work in America.  With the help of employers who are willing to look the other way (their actions are criminal, though), without realizing the consequences of their actions at the time, many illegal aliens have used false documents (birth certificates, passports, visas, green cards, Social Security cards, drivers licenses, etc.) in variety of places to get whatever they needed to get done.  Obviously, use of forged or fraudulent documents is a crime and may impact your efforts to legalize, in this article I will discuss specifically the consequences of using a different name than your actual name.  And no, you do not need to worry if your first name is Antonio and you may have been listed  as Tony or Anthony on some documents, as long as your story is otherwise straight. 

Identity theft is a crime:  Assuming the identity of another individual, particularly that of a US citizen, is very problematic.  Declaring yourself to be a US citizen typically means denial of a green card (it is not clear if Congress will forgive this crime for probationary legal status) and immediate deportation.

Using the name and identity of a foreigner:  Many undocumented aliens entered the United States with documents belonging to other individuals or of a phony person.  If you were fingerprinted at the port of entry or at any other point in the US, your identity is basically associated with those fingerprints.  While applying for Obama Amnesty if you are unable to use the same identity and furnish all the documentation that supports that identity, you are in a lot of trouble.  However, if you can furnish all the paperwork with whatever identity you have been using, be prepared to be that person for the rest of your life (unfortunately if this foreigner is a real person and would ever like to visit the United States or immigrate here, it could be a problem for this person).

Using an assumed name or even names:  I have been told that many illegals have simply changed their names to something else or have different names at different places or assumed another name after they were caught for a crime (since these people were not legally associated with a valid Social Security number, they also used more than one number).  In the Obama Amnesty process, you will be required to prove several details, like date of entry into the United States, where you have lived the whole time, places of education/employment, criminal history, etc.  So for instance if you worked at a job with a fake name, you will not be able to use that piece of information.  Depending on individual situations, it might become a problem and might disqualify you from applying.  If you started to use another name or SS# after a crime but your photo and/or fingerprints are in the system, they will be discovered during a background search by USCIS and could put your petition in jeopardy.

What can I do if my name and documents do not match and I have been using other names?  You will need to first wait for the documentation requirements from USCIS and assess if you will be able to qualify even with fraud in your history.  It seems that President Obama and Congress are planning to make the process very easy being fully aware that fraud is widespread in the immigrant community.  In any case, it is best to work with an immigration attorney.

Illegal immigrants who claimed to be US citizens

There is no more serious crime by illegal immigrants than claiming to be US citizens when it comes to a foreigner trying to become legal in America.  Unfortunately, it is also the easiest one to commit, because when an undocumented alien declares him/herself to be an American, there is typically no need to provide any evidence.  Therefore, this is the most preferred route because claiming to be a green card holder requires one to furnish a number and/or the actual permanent resident card.  That is why millions of illegal immigrants are living with some combination of false claim of US citizenship, fake papers showing a Social Security number, and outright identity theft by assuming the identity of a real American (which is undoubtedly claiming US citizenship).

So how does USCIS deal with aliens who have ever claimed to be US citizens?  The decision in this matter is very simple: absolute denial of any immigration benefit and immediate deportation.  It is not clear what law Congress will pass as part of Obama Amnesty and Comprehensive Immigration Reform and if it will specifically condone such action, but it seems highly unlikely.

How does USCIS find out that an foreigner has claimed US citizenship?  Those DREAMers who applied for DACA know very well that President Obama made the process so simple that none of these questions were even asked.  The DACA program even condoned use of a fake Social Security number to work (which in normal course is a serious crime) but USCIS has clarified that it does not mean that these crimes will not disqualify an alien in the future or she will not be prosecuted.  The way the process will work is that when an alien will file Form I-485 for adjustment of status (a standard step for anyone trying to gain permanent residency in the United States) -- this is the process that all undocumented immigrants as well as DREAMers will need to follow after their turn comes to apply for green cards after their probationary legal status has been approved -- the USCIS will look very carefully at your application.  It is common for straightforward employment based applications for green card to be approved without an interview, and while it is not clear if all illegal immigrants will need to appear for an interview (though I expect that there will be an interview for all illegals), if the officer has even a tiny doubt that an alien may have claimed US citizenship, he can order the immigrant to either provide evidence (through RFE) to simply show up for an interview.

In the meantime, the USCIS will subpoena the school/college/employers to send all documentation related to the individual.  The prosecutors are particularly interested in I-9 forms or other forms filled out by applicants that may have allowed them to claim benefits at universities reserved for citizens.  Since this process is not perfect, in many cases the files never arrive (that is what causes all those delays in approvals that makes immigrants go nuts), but most employers simply do whatever is required by law and will mail a copy of your employee file (the employers are typically not liable in such cases because as long as they have made a reasonable effort for paperwork, they are good, so do not be surprised that your employer who gladly hired you might stiff you now that the Feds come calling).  So when you go for the interview, you are not aware of what exactly the adjudication officer knows about you, what documents are in your alien file, you will swear to tell the truth (remember that the interview is a legal proceeding even though it does not look like the courts in movies -- most likely you will be sitting on a table with an officer in a tiny room or cubicle), and you will be required to explain how you were able to work without authorization (interestingly enough, those illegal immigrants who merely claimed to have the authorization to work or presented fake papers might be okay).  If it is indeed the case that you deliberately claimed US citizenship knowing fully well that you were not a citizen, the officer will deny your amnesty application and tell prosecutors to seek deportation and permanent bar on entry into the United States.

What are the options for illegal immigrants who claimed false citizenship?  While it is not yet clear what the forms will look like but the Obama amnesty that will grant a provisional legal status (that will give you right to live, travel, and work indefinitely) may not ask about claim of US citizenship and if the process is similar to DACA, it may never be an issue.  In that case, while you may never be able to apply for a green card, you will be able to live without fear.  Just keep renewing your permits and you will be good.

What if you claimed US citizenship believing that you were a citizen?  Many DREAMers have been in this situation that their own parents lied to them and/or provided them with false papers.  If you will be able to demonstrate to a judge that you genuinely believed that you were a citizen when you checked the US citizenship box on an I-9 form, you will be fine, but this is not going to be easy for most immigrants.  Most aliens find out by the time they are ready to go to college or get a job after graduation that they were illegal and it will be nearly impossible to convince a judge that you did not know you were not an American (so that little job you got at a burger joint as a teenager might be okay but the one you got after graduating from college might be a huge problem).  It can be particularly problematic for those DREAMers who have provided their W-2 forms from employers to prove their being in the country and if the employment was obtained on claim of false citizenship, it will come to bite them.

What should an alien do if she or he ever claimed American citizenship?  Do not even think about applying for any immigration benefit without consulting an excellent immigration attorney.  DIY application will not work for you.  Your lawyer might be able to guide you through the process and maybe your best option will be to remain illegal or return to your native country.  It is important to consult with a good attorney because many of them just want to make a fast buck and hate to tell a client not to apply.  So make sure that you pay for an hour of consultation for this particular issue rather than take advantage of free consultations that lawyers often provide when they are trying to sign you up for applying (in that free time the attorney is really not interested in the complexity of your case but just wants you to file the paperwork because that is how he makes money).  Also make sure that you meet with a real attorney and not just a paralegal or secretary or notary public.