Twelve Ways to Prepare for Reform Even if You are "Legal"

Immigration Reform – and Government Slowdowns - Ahead!


Immigration reform is coming! No one knows for sure what form it will take, but one thing is for sure – it will drastically increase the workload of the U.S. immigration agencies. New filings and new regulations are certain to increase processing times by months, or even years.

Twelve Ways to Prepare for Reform Even if You are “Legal”

When there is immigration reform, workloads of the U.S. immigration agencies are drastically increased. The wait in “line” to get a green card (based on priority dates) will become ever-longer.

You should be preparing now to take advantage before any big change! Here are some specific strategies to help you make the process as fast as possible:

1. Employers and employees: If you have not started the labor certification process, start the process now! The current DOL processing time is a mere 2-3 months (if the file is not selected for audit). That means you could go from zero to having an approved I-140 petition in six to eight months, depending on case preparation requirements. More importantly, secure your priority date, which determines how quickly you will receive your green card, now!

2. Researchers, professors, and other “fast-track” green card applicants: Start your green card process now while processing times are reasonable. The current processing time for the NIW or EB-1 is a mere four months at the Texas Service Center, and four months for the EB-1 at the Nebraska Service Center (a little longer for NIWs filed at Nebraska). That means you could have the I-140 petition approved, and possibly even the green card, within 4-6 months from the date of filing.

3. For family-based filings: Whether your family member is in the U.S. or abroad, by starting the processing now, you may shave months or even years off the wait. Note: in some cases you can even start the process for family members who are in the U.S. without immigration documentation. Speak with an experienced immigration attorney before beginning the process.

4. Permanent residents: If you have family members that you may want to sponsor now or in the future,consider becoming a naturalized citizen as soon as you are eligible. In many instances, U.S. citizens can sponsor relatives that permanent residents cannot. In other instances, the process is faster for relatives of U.S. citizens. Remember, the naturalization process itself will take at least a few months, so prepare ahead of time by starting the process now.

If you or a family member is in the U.S. without documentation, and are thinking of filing for an immigration benefit when there is a change in the laws (reform), you can do the following to prepare now. You can also take these steps, even if you already have immigration status, but need to apply for permanent residence:

  1. Gather all your immigration-related documents in one, safe place. This includes old and current passports, I-94 cards, visas, immigration receipt notices, and other correspondence from USCIS. You may even want to make a copy of these documents now, in case you lose the original.
  2. If you have paid taxes, gather your old tax returns and also keep them in a safe place.
  3. If you have a criminal record, you may consider obtaining a copy of your criminal record for every state in which you have had a criminal matter.
  4. Apply for a government-issued photo identification from your country (such as a passport).
  5. Make a list of the places that you have lived and worked the past five years; find out missing information now, as best you can.
  6. Make sure to keep a clean criminal record between now and the time that you do file for immigration benefits.
  7. Do not go to “notarios” for immigration help. Only licensed attorneys and BIA-accredited representatives (like at community organizations) are authorized to give legal advice and prepare applications in exchange for fees.
  8. Start saving money now for USCIS filing fees, and other application fees.

Remember, if you are eligible to start the green card process now, you can save yourself months or even years by starting now, before there is a change in the process.

Contact our immigration team at to set a consultation to discuss the best strategy for you!