Maintaining legal status is paramount for many Iranians living in the United States. Whether you're in the US on a temporary visa or as a permanent resident, understanding your obligations and the requirements of your immigration status is essential. This comprehensive guide aims to provide valuable information for Iranians in the US to maintain their legal status and avoid any potential pitfalls or complications.
Understand the Terms of Your Visa or Green Card
The first step in maintaining legal status is understanding the terms and conditions of your specific visa or green card. This will help you ensure compliance with all requirements and avoid any unintentional violations that could jeopardize your legal status.
For Iranians on temporary visas such as F-1 (student), H-1B (worker), or J-1 (exchange visitor), it's essential to:
For Iranians with a green card, or Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR), it's crucial to:
Properly Extend or Change Your Visa Status
If you need to extend your stay in the US or change your visa category, it's essential to do so before your current visa expires. This will ensure that you maintain your legal status and avoid becoming "out of status," which can lead to severe consequences.
To extend or change your visa status, you must file a timely application with USCIS. For Iranians with temporary visas, you must file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. If you're seeking a change of status to an employment-based visa, your employer may need to file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, on your behalf.
Iranians with a green card who need to renew or replace their card must file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card.
Keep Your Documentation Up-to-Date
Maintaining accurate and up-to-date documentation is critical for Iranians in the US who want to preserve their legal status. This includes ensuring that your passport remains valid and renewing it as needed. Additionally, you must update your address and personal information with USCIS and other relevant agencies within the specified time frame.
For Iranians with a green card, it's essential to keep your card current by renewing it before the expiration date. This will help you avoid potential issues with employers or government authorities that may question your legal status.
Comply with Employment and Tax Regulations
One of the critical aspects of maintaining legal status in the US is complying with employment and tax regulations. For Iranians with temporary work visas, this means adhering to the terms of your visa, such as working only for the employer who sponsored your visa and not engaging in unauthorized employment.
For Iranians with a green card, it is essential to file income tax returns and report your income to the IRS each year. This demonstrates your commitment to fulfilling your obligations as a Lawful Permanent Resident and helps to show your continuous residence, especially for your citizenship/naturalization application.
Avoid Criminal Activity and Immigration Violations
To maintain your legal status in the US, you must avoid any criminal activity or immigration violations that could lead to deportation or the revocation of your visa or green card. Iranians in the US should be aware of the potential consequences of criminal convictions, including those that may seem minor or unrelated to immigration. Some common crimes that could jeopardize your legal status include:
In addition to avoiding criminal activity, ensure that you comply with all immigration regulations, such as not overstaying your visa or always working with authorization.
Limit Extended Travel Outside the US
For Iranians with a green card, maintaining a strong connection to the US and limiting extended periods of travel outside the country is essential. Lengthy absences can raise concerns about your intention to reside permanently in the US and may lead to the abandonment of your green card. Furthermore, multiple trips under six months each can still raise red flags for your citizenship application. Therefore, during these absences, you must maintain your ties to the United States via your work, family situation, and financial holdings. Obtaining a re-entry permit (referred to colliqually as “white passport” sometimes by the Iranian community) can help show your commitment to preserving your permanent residency in the United States while you are traveling abroad, but the re-entry permit or “white passport” alone does not make your trips abroad completely OK for your citizenship application; you must be able to show other evidence in addition to your use of the re-entry permit or “white passport.” The immigration officers can determine that you did not maintain your continuous residence if you have multiple trips close in time that are under six months each. If you have extensive travel history and want to apply for citizenship, it is best to consult with an attorney regarding strategies for your case.
When planning international travel, consider the following guidelines:
Seek Legal Assistance When Needed
Navigating the complexities of US immigration law can be challenging, particularly for Iranians, who may face unique challenges and restrictions. If you encounter difficulties maintaining your legal status or need assistance with a visa extension, change of status, or green card renewal, it's essential to consult with an experienced immigration attorney. A knowledgeable attorney can help guide you through the process and ensure all documentation is accurate and complete. Also, attorneys can provide expert advice on any issues that may arise. This can help you maintain your legal status and avoid potential pitfalls.
Maintaining legal status in the US is crucial for Iranians who want to enjoy the benefits of living and working in the country. By understanding the terms of your visa or green card, keeping documentation up-to-date, complying with employment and tax regulations, avoiding criminal activity, limiting extended travel outside the US, and seeking legal assistance when needed, you can ensure that your legal status remains secure. Remember, staying informed and proactive is the key to navigating the US immigration system and maintaining your legal status as an Iranian living in the United States.
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--Najmeh Mahmoudjafari, J.D.
Najmeh is the Founder and Lead Immigration Attorney at ImmigraTrust Law (www.ImmigraTrust.com), an immigration law practice in Orange County, California, representing individual and corporate clients in all 50 U.S. States and internationally. Najmeh can be reached at Najmeh@ImmigraTrust.com.
DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended and does not constitute legal advice. This article does not create an attorney/client relationship and does not provide an attorney/client privilege. For legal advice about your specific case, please contact an attorney.
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