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Getting a Green Card Takes Green to Do it Right

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Washington, DCGetting an immigration green card isn't easy. It can take years. It can be expensive. And the need for a citizenship green card by anyone in the citizenship immigration camp is so great, people are willing to do anything to get one.

Such as get married, for example. It's an old story, and on the surface it's both charming and sad, considering the lengths that some people will go to achieve the elusive credential.

ImmigrantsIt can also be kind of funny, given some of the situations that people get themselves into. There was that one foursome made famous a few years ago by ABC News that involved a couple of phony marriages to facilitate the pursuit of the elusive green card. 'Isobel' was an immigrant from Latin America who had been in the US for 8 years on a visa. When that document ran out, she married in an attempt to obtain her green card.

Her 'husband' was, in reality, her gay friend 'David' whose partner 'Manuel' was also looking for a green card. So 'Manuel' married 'Laura' in an effort get a green card through marriage.

If this looks like the makings for a television sitcom, you could be right. But the arrangement is fraught with danger, as immigration officials are on the hunt for such dubious liaisons—and the fallout if caught, is frightening for someone desperately seeking to stay.

Should an immigration official, during the interview, smell a rat the immigrant can be arrested on the spot and immediately deported out of the country, no questions asked. Worse, section 204c of the Immigration and Nationality Act pretty much guarantees that the fake spouse will never be in a position to set foot on US soil ever again.

The provision states that an immigrant found to be married for the sole purpose of evading immigration laws can never be granted a visa, and will never again be allowed into the country. One immigration expert likened it to a life sentence, and there is zero tolerance.

Of course, that's if they catch you. And crafty immigration officials can ask couples anything from what kind of shampoo the other one uses, to the availability of joint income tax filings.

It is not known how the two masquerading couples, made out in pursuit of their citizenship immigration.

Then there is the story of someone we'll call 'Ed.' An immigrant in the US on an H-1B, Ed was trained as a business analyst and was named Project Manager (PM) immediately after the firm hired him. He was new to the US and his co-workers were openly hostile of him, and his immediate promotion. And so, 3 days later he was demoted. The title of PM was given to someone else, who subsequently couldn't make up his mind about how he wanted things done. When the client was finally brought in to see how things were going and was visibly annoyed at the delays, the acting PM put the blame on Ed, who was subsequently fired.

The paperwork for his green card was never started.

Ed managed to find another job, however. And again the employer promised to expedite application of a green card. A year went by, with no news. Finally, acting on a tip from the firm's lawyer Ed confronted his employer, who confirmed that she had never even filed the application because it would have been 'too expensive.'

So how expensive is an immigration green card, anyway? Depends on who you ask, but here's a ballpark breakdown. Legal fees will run about $4000 or so. Then there's the advertising expense, which can run about $1000. Then there are the filing fees, inherent with the 3 phases of a green card application.

According to one source, the initial Labor Certification phase carried no fee. However the second phase, a Preference Petition, cost $475. Phase 3, the Final Application for Permanent Residence, was quoted at $1,010.

Total: $6,485—together with the potential of a years-long wait, to get through the customary backlog.

However, about $6500 bucks in order to do it properly with a skilled legal professional is really, the only way to go. The alternative—deportation, the empty promises of employers or the botched applications on the part of fly-by-night consultants who operate from the trunks of their cars—is not worth the risk.

Application for an immigration greed card is serious stuff, and has to be done right if you want to one day have that citizenship green card to stuff into your pocket. Do it right, or suffer the consequences. Invest in you. A citizenship immigration lawyer can help, and is worth every penny.

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