Real Questions from Real People


My niece, who holds a B (tourist) visa, is visiting me. Can she attend public
high school during her visit?

Yes, but three important things must first happen: she must apply for an F (student) visa, reimburse the school for the full cost of her education, and show that she will not attend a U.S. high school for longer than twelve months.



I must be in the United States for only 18 days a year to keep a green card; is that right?

No such rule. You must make the United States your permanent residence.  If you depart for any length of time then all the circumstances of your departure shed light on your intent to abandon permanent residency. The main points for inquiry are these: length of time out of U.S; whether activity outside the United States apt to be temporary; what ties do you retain in the United States.



If I marry someone in the United States do I automatically become a citizen of the United States?

No.  You must marry a United States citizen; where you marry him or her merely affects which visa you apply for, but they both lead to the same conditional green card. None of it happens automatically upon marriage; applications and interviews are necessary.

And if you marry in the United States, you must have entered legally; that is, with a visa. Undocumented aliens can marry United States citizens but they gain no immigration advantage from it.

A marriage contracted by a U.S. citizen and an alien not intending to live as husband and wife, but rather evade the immigration laws, is illegal.


Is is OK to marry someone who receives food stamps?

Yes, but if you are marrying a United States citizen who accepts food stamps, then that suggests the citizen-husband or citizen-wife might have difficulties meeting the income requirements needed to sponsor you because the value of food stamps are not considered as income.



Do all latinos have the same immigration privileges?

No. The term "latino" is social, not legal, with no bearing on immigration benefits. For the great variety of rules for the several Spanish-speaking countries, see the article in the Español section of my website. 



Do I have to prove that I have a lot of money to come to the United States?

No. The application fees to the United States Department of State, or the Department of Homeland Security, the travel costs, and the legal fees can be high, but there is no test of personal wealth to enter the United States as an immigrant or non-immigrant.



Can I live in public housing if I'm not a citizen?

Yes, if you are a "qualified immigrant;" that means you must first be an immigrant, and have a green card.  State programs, funded entirely from the state treasury, may have different rules.



Will a homosexual union, like a heterosexual marriage, help me get a green card or a visa?

No. Homosexual unions do not afford the partners the same immigration benefits as heterosexual marriages. In all other applications for immigration benefits homosexuals are on the same footing as heterosexuals.



If I become a United States citizen must I renounce the citizenship of my native land?

Yes, you must. But you might, under the laws of your native land, retain citizenship there.  The United States recognizes this status of "dual citizenship."



I was born outside the United States; is there any chance I am already a United States citizen?

Yes. Some people born outside the United States are citizens of the United States at birth depending on the citizenship or their mother, or father, and the length of time the mother or father lived in the United States.



Is any foreigner living or working in the United States an immigrant?

No. The legal status of immigrant does not arise automatically, or rest solely on the foreigner's intentions. The United States confers immigrant status when the alien meets the statutory requirements. The resident alien identification card, also known as a green card, evidences that status.



Do I have to pay income taxes in the United States if I'm not a citizen?

Yes. People who work in the United States usually have to pay income tax to the federal government. You may be excluded from paying tax if you or your income does not have sufficient legal contact with the United States.

The states of the United States have similar contact rules about income, so you may have to pay income tax to both the federal and state governments. You must follow these rules even if you work without authorization.

A tax treaty between the United States and your native country may alter these generalities.



If I become a lawful permanent resident based on my employment, must I remain an employee of that employer?

No. A green card allows you to seek work in the United States as if you were a citizen here. But your employer might lawfully ask you to agree to a fixed period of work after getting a green card.



I became a citizen of the United States and I want my mother and father to live with me here. But they were married fifty years ago, at a time and in a place when no marriage licenses were issued. Will a wedding photograph help me prove their marriage?

Yes, but the value of the photograph is dubious because personal appearance changes after fifty years. Other evidence for the marriage is still needed. Legally more important than proving the marriage is proving paternity and maternity.



May foreigners legally come to the United States without someone here inviting them?

Yes.  Aliens seeking a green card, or a non-immigrant visa, usually must have an employment or family connection in the United States.  These connections imply welcome, but they are not invitations.



I have a friend from another country who came to the United States twenty years ago, forgot to go home, married here, spouse died, and now wants to marry me, a citizen.  Can she get a green card?

Maybe. A lawful remarriage under the Domestic Relations Law of New York does not always mean that the alien spouse is eligible for a green card if the immigration service finds that the principal object of matrimony was obtaining immigration benefits.