Questions and Answers

General
Employment Immigration
Adjustment of Status

General

What is your fee for an initial consultation?
The fee for an initial consultation by either Attorney W. David Zitzkat or Attorney Jon-Marc LaRue Zitzkat is $60.00. However, there is no charge for an email evaluation. To get a free email evaluation, just send us a message with a brief description of your situation and your CV, if you are looking to file an I-140.
What are USCIS filing fees? Are they included in your fee agreements?
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (or USCIS) may require fees for processing certain applications. These filing fees are not included in our firm's attorney fee agreements. So, you or your employer will need to pay these fees when it is time to file your application. Generally, USCIS filing fees are paid by personal check. All filing fee checks must be made out to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security."

Click here for a list of USCIS filing fees for each application, and click here for instructions on how to pay USCIS filing fees. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about filing fees.
One or more of my documents is not in English. What should I do?
USCIS requires that all foreign language documents include a "certified translation." However, anyone that is competent in both English and the foreign language can generally provide the translation. If you are competent in both languages, you can try translating yourself. Please ask us for the certification format if you are planning to submit a foreign language document.
After my case has been submitted, how will I know that it has been accepted and is being processed by USCIS?
Our firm generally mails applications to USCIS by one of two U.S. Postal Service methods: Priority Mail (2-3 business days) or Priority Mail Express (overnight). Both of these methods include tracking. We certainly can provide you with a tracking number to track your cases delivery. In addition, since most applications require you to submit a USCIS filing fee (see above) by check, you can check your bank account to see if your check(s) have been cashed. If your check has been cashed, this is a good indication your case was accepted.

Within 1-3 weeks after your case has been filed, our office will receive a Form I-797 Receipt Notice from USCIS, which includes your case receipt number. Generally, USCIS will mail a copy of this notice to you as well. We will send you a scanned copy of any receipts we receive. Make sure you keep this document in a safe place, and save it even after your case has been approved.

If 10 days have passed since your case was filed and you, your employer, or our office have not received a receipt notice, you may submit an inquiry to USCIS customer service. Please contact us, and we will ensure that you have the most recent customer service number.
Can I track my case after it has been accepted by USCIS?
Yes. First, go to the USCIS Case Status page. Next, enter the receipt number on the top left of your I-797 Receipt Notice. Click "Check Status," and the page will update to show the most recent activity on your case.
How long will my application take to be processed after USCIS has accepted it?
The time it will take for your application to be processed depends on my factors, including the type of application, the time of year, and the amount of cases USCIS is currently processing. Please see the USCIS Processing Time webpage for more information.
What do I need to provide to you as documentation for my case?
This depends on the type of case it is. We will generally give you very specific instructions at the beginning of every case as to what documents are required. We will also explain how to organize it.
Do you accept credit cards?
Yes, we now accept credit card payments through PayPal. However, we do charge extra to compensate for PayPal's service fees. We will always inform you of any extra fees, and you will always have the option to pay by personal check instead.
Do you take clients in states other than Connecticut?
Yes! Since much of our work is conducted over email and phone, we are well-equipped to take on clients for employment-based cases, including direct I-140, Labor Certification (PERM), and non-immigrant visas (such as H-1B and O-1). We also take paperwork-only cases for family-based immigration, naturalization, and other types of cases for out of state clients.

For clients in Connecticut, we will also accompany clients to USCIS interviews, if an interview is required. Interviews are generally required for spousal petitions, or for employment-based petitions where the client has previosuly been on a J-1 or J-2 visa, or if the client has some other problem that USCIS would like to discuss in person. However, we may not be able to attend an interview if it is held outside of Connecticut.
Where are most of your clients from?
We have had clients from virtually every part of the world, from every continent, and from dozens of countries. Though we have not done a statistical analysis, it is likely that over 80% of our clients are from China or India. This is due to the fact that we have had great success representing scientists and engineers, and these professions tend to be very well represented in the Chinese and Indian populations. However, we encourage anyone to contact us if they have an immigration problem, regardless of national origin.
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Employment Immigration

What is an the purpose of an employment-based immigrant petition?
The purpose of an immigrant petition is to classify an alien under a particular category of immigrant eligibility. For an employment-based immigrant petition (I-140), these categories are based on your current employment or capacity for future employment. After your I-140 has been approved, and a visa is immediately available, then you may "adjust" your status to permanent resident (i.e., apply for a green card).
What do the employment-based direct petition categories (NIW, EB-1A, EB-1B) mean?
EB-1A means "Alien of Extraordinary Ability." EB-1B means "Outstanding Researcher/Professor." EB-1A and EB-1B are "first preference" categories, which means that an immigrant visa will be available regardless of the alien's country of origin. EB-1A has slightly higher requirements than EB-1B, but may be filed by the alien independently (known as "self-petition"). EB-1B must be filed by a petitioning employer.

NIW means "National Interest Waiver." NIW is a "second-preference" category, meaning a visa may not be immediately available, depending on the alien's country of origin. NIW does not require a petitioning employer, and may be filed independently.
How do I know which petition category is best for me?
The category that is best for you to file in depends on your background, experience, published work, and country of origin. This is a complex inquiry that requires extended review and evaluation by an experienced immigration attorney. If you would like to get started, please send your Curriculum Vitae by email for a free case evaluation.
Can I apply in multiple petition categories at the same time?
Yes. If you file more than one employment-based petition with USCIS at the same time, these petitions will be reviewed independently. However, you will need to pay an additional filing fee, and additional attorney fees may apply. Please consult your agreement, and feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
Do you discuss strategy with your clients?
Yes -- discussing strategy is the first thing that we do after a client has sent in his or her signed agreement and attorney fee. This can be over the telephone, or in person if you are in Connecticut or are otherwise willing to travel to our office.

A strategy conference must take place as early as possible, once the client has decided to go forward with his or her case. It generally lasts between one and three hours. Needless to say, we go into considerable detail in examining what the client is looking to accomplish, and what is reasonably possible. Frequently, we will also advise clients on alternative ways to achieve their objectives.

Most of our clients have later said that the experience of a strategy conference has been extraordinary, and that they have gained a new appreciation of what is possible in accomplishing their goals that is far beyond what they knew previously.
What are the steps in preparing an employment-based I-140 petition?
Once you send in your agreement and attorney fee, we will immediately send you example letters that will be needed for your petition. We will also immediately schedule a strategy conference, as described above.

Typically, the next step is to prepare referee letters, which are an important part of any employment-based direct petition. Because these letters will describe your work, you must provide the initial draft. It does not make any difference how good your English is, as your drafts will be edited carefully and thoroughly, with regard to both the English language and the content. For example, many scientists tend to talk in scientific terms--such as ligands, receptors, signal processing, antibodies, etc. It is unlikely that a USCIS examiner will be able to understand these terms, no more than they would be able to understand a foreign language. Fortunately, this firm has vast experience in taking these letters, reducing them to what is necessary, and avoiding any potential confusion. We have had clients bring cases to us that were previously submitted by other attorneys, and denied. Upon re-writing the referee letters and preparing a new cover letter, these exact same cases were later approved.

After the referee letters are complete, we write the cover letter. One written a copy is sent to you, for your comments. We will correct any errors or omissions.

We have a high approval rate for the employment-based petitions we have submitted, with our NIW approval rate at very close to 100% since 1990, and our EB-1B approval rate also very close to 100% since 1990. (1990 was the year that these petitions were first allowed.) Our EB-1A petitions have a lower rate of success (probably somewhere above 90%), this is to be expected given that EB-1A has the highest requirements of any employment-based petition.
What is a Request for Evidence (RFE)? Is it a sign that my case will be denied?
USCIS may respond to a petition with an RFE for many reasons. Often, whether an RFE is issued depends on which USCIS examiner is reviewing your case. The particular examiner may not be convinced that your case qualifies for the category it was filed in. The examiner could be confused about a certain piece of evidence that was submitted. In any case, an RFE is not an indicator that your case will be denied. Well over 90% of our cases that have received an RFE have been responded to successfully, and eventually approved.

In rare situations, USCIS may also respond to a submission with a "Notice of Intent To Deny" (NOID). Generally, this reponse means that something is so wrong that it is likely this case will be denied. Our firm has never received a NOID on a case that we have submitted. However, we have handled NOIDs on cases other attorneys have submitted, and their clients have brought to us.
How often to your cases receive an RFE?
The likelihood of an RFE depends upon the method by which petition is filed.

If the petition is filed using USCIS's Premium Processing service, our RFE rate is about double our usual rate. Premium Processing is a very expensive way of having a case adjudicated within 15 days, as opposed to the usual processing time, which is generally at least four months. (As of this writing, the filing fee is $1,225.00, in addition to the base I-140 filing fee.) The response, however, is usually an RFE. For this reason, we do not generally recommend using Premium Processing except in some circumstances. We feel this high rate of RFEs is caused by the inability of USCIS examiners to process their case loads within the short period allowed. Most frequently, the examiner elects to get more time by sending out the RFE. In our view, this is usually a waste of $1,225.00.

RFEs can be sent out for both trivial and non-trivial reasons. For example, if you file an I-485 and your medical examimination becomes more than a year old during the processing, USCIS will send out an RFE to request a new examination. This is a trivial RFE, since there is really nothing wrong with the case as filed; USCIS simply took too long to process it. This is only one example, and similar problems may arise, despite our best efforts to avoid them.

More serious RFEs may occur where USCIS considers the documentation submitted for a particular category to be insufficient, or more commonly, where the client technically qualifies in a category but the overall case still seems weak to the examiner. In these situations, we treat the response very aggressively, and are almost always successful. In 2015, only one of our employment-based petitions has been denied, and that case is presently on appeal. (For reference, we file around 50 employment-based petitions per year.)
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Adjustment of Status

What is an "Adjustment of Status"?
The purpose of an immigrant petition (I-140 or I-130) is to classify an alien under a particular category of immigrant eligibility, either employment-based or family-based. After your I-140/I-130 has been approved, and a visa is immediately available, then you may "adjust" your status to permanent resident (i.e., apply for a green card).
What is a derivative beneficiary?
A derivative beneficiary is an immediate relative a person with an approved immigrant petition (I-140/I-130). For immigration purposes, an "immediate relative" is your spouse and/or children under the age of 21. So, once your immigrant petition has been approved, and you are immediately eligible to apply for adjustment of status, then your spouse and children may apply to adjust their status as well.
What is "Concurrent Filing"? Should I file concurrently?
Concurrent filing is where the immigrant petition (I-140/I-130) and Adjustment of Status application are filed together with USCIS. The advantages of filing concurrently include slightly faster processing of the AOS application, and earlier eligibilty for Employment Authorization and Advance Parole.

However, there are also risks in filing concurrently. Filing for AOS is very costly. As of this writing, the USCIS filing fee for each AOS application is currently $1,070. (Note that the filing fee differs for children under the age of 14 and persons over the age of 79.) In the event that your immigrant petition is denied, then the concurrently filed AOS application will also be denied automatically. In this situation, the filing fees will not be refunded. Therefore, as a general rule, concurrent filing should only be considered where an immigrant petition is likely to be approved.

Because circumstances can vary considerably, the question of whether you should file concurrently is a matter that should be discussed with your immigration attorney. As our client, we will carefully evaluate your situation and help you make an informed decision.
What is "Employment Authorization"?
An "Employment Authorization Document" (EAD), commonly referred to as a "work permit," is a document that allows its holder to live and work in the U.S. for any employer for a period of time. Generally, anyone that has applied for Adjustment of Status is eligible for an EAD. USCIS must issue an EAD within 90 days of applying.
What is "Advance Parole"?
Advance Parole, commonly referred to as a "travel document," is a document that allows its holder to return to the U.S. without a non-immigrant visa. If an Adjustment of Status applicant leaves the U.S. while the application is pending, then USCIS could consider the AOS application to be abandoned. If the applicant has been issued Advance Parole, then he or she can leave and return while ensuring that the pending AOS application is perserved.
What is your attorney fee for filing an Adjustment of Status application?
The attorney fee depends on whether you have previously signed a fee agreement with our firm. Please refer to your fee agreement, and if you have any questions, contact our office.
I have an approved I-140/I-130 petition that I filed myself or through another attorney. Will you file my adjustment of status application?
Presently, our firm does not process adjustment of status applications for previously approved immigrant petitions.
Can I file my adjustment of status application on my own?
You may opt to file your adjustment of status application without attorney assistance. However, these applications can be very complicated, with numerous forms and supporting documentation. If you choose to apply on your own, you will be 100% responsible for the outcome, and we will not be available for any inquries. This is because we will not be handling the case, and thus we will not be familiar with specifics of the case. In such a situation, we wish to avoid giving potentially wrong advice.
My I-140/I-130 has been approved, and I am currently in the U.S. Can I apply for adjustment of status right away?
This depends on the category your immigrant petition was filed in, and when you filed your case. Your "priority date" (the date the immigrant petition was filed) must be earlier than the "cut-off date" listed on the Visa Bulletin. If the cut off date is earlier, then you can apply immediately. If not, then you must continue checking the Visa Bulletin each month until a visa is available.
My I-140/I-130 was approved, but I and/or my immediate relative(s) are outside of the U.S. Can I file for Adjustment of Status?
No. You may only apply for Adjustment of Status if you are currently in the U.S.
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