How can I apply for a green card while in the US on an R1 (religious) visa?
April 15, 2010 12:31 PM   Subscribe

I am an English citizen living in the USA on an R1 (religious worker) visa. I would like to apply for a green card and need legal advice. More inside.

I have been living in the US on my current 5-year R1 visa and have about 17 months left till it expires.

I would like to start applying for a green card based on the fact that I have lived for more than 2 years on an R1 visa.

I have spoken to lawyers and they charge around $5-6000 for the service.

I'd like a lawyers help but would prefer to do most of the work myself and just consult occasionally with a professional for a lesser fee (I applied for my R1 visa on my own.)

Also, does anyone out there have experience with this and could you share some tips?

Thanks much.
posted by seatofmypants to Law & Government (7 answers total)
Response by poster: If it's useful: I live in NYC.
posted by seatofmypants at 12:41 PM on April 15, 2010

Just head down to your local US Citizenship and Immigration Service office, which seems to be in downtown Manhattan. They'll have all the paperwork you need to fill out.

A lawyer can make some of this easier, but it really doesn't sound like you need one just yet, to be perfectly honest. If you run into difficulties or USCIS starts giving you trouble, definitely consider getting one, but the process is actually pretty straightforward (even if it takes for bleeding ever).

You may even consider looking around at local Legal Aid options. They'll have an income requirement which will probably be pretty low, but it's at least worth a phone call.
posted by valkyryn at 1:22 PM on April 15, 2010

It's a crazy broken system, which is why these lawyers make such a good living. Sure, you can probably do it yourself, but you might make an error or forget something, in which case the bureaucracy will be only too happy to make you wait for whatever arbitrary reason. (Veteran of the US immigration system here.)
posted by teedee2000 at 1:36 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

You need a good immigration attorney. If yours was a straight forward petition I would tell you to do it yourself but because you want to adjust status and you are in a non immigrant visa category, you NEED and attorney.
posted by MsKim at 1:53 PM on April 15, 2010

Many law offices offer consultations at an hourly rate; sometimes the first one is free. You could set one up, and spend an hour discussing your specific situation with an experienced immigration attorney. At the end of the hour, you could decide if it's worthwhile for you to pay an attorney to file the adjustment of status for you, or if you can do it on your own.

You can also discuss with the attorney whether you could have ongoing consultations for the hourly rate if you run into any problems - you can afford several hours of attorney fees for a lot less than $5000. Not all offices will allow you to do this; you might want to check on the phone first.
posted by insectosaurus at 2:12 PM on April 15, 2010

You need to file your I-360 quick like. Do you have the additional documentation listed here?

Did the $5,000 fees you were quoted include the filing fees for the I-360 and the I-485?

Here's where a lawyer may pay off: This link says New York residents file an I-360 in Dallas and that you can file your I-485 for adjustment of status concurrently. As a New York resident you can file an I-485 in Vermont, which is preferable to Texas because of the faster processing times. If you can file your I-360 in Vermont it will be processed in about 6 months. The Texas Service Center showed a processing time of 25.3 months on this link

If you're going to do this yourself, definitely visit with USCIS first so you can figure out where to file and what other forms you need.
posted by IanMorr at 3:19 PM on April 15, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks all for your helpful info. I'm gonna work my way backwards.

IamMorr: The link for the additional documentation you posted is for applying for an R1 which I am already in possession of. The Texas/Vermont thing is really helpful. I will look into that further. I have scheduled an appointment with the USCIS at the Javits Center.

insectosaurus: can you suggest a law firm in NY?

MsKim: The key word is "good" lawyer. I've heard horror stories so it's not a sure thing even with a lawyer.

Valkyryn: Do you have experience with this that could share.

P.S. I'd be willing to pay someone an agreed-upon amount if they can walk me through the process even on line/phone.
posted by seatofmypants at 8:32 AM on April 16, 2010

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