Our office was recently retained by a very nice young couple. They have been happily married for a number of years. Unfortunately, there is a big cloud on their perfect horizon, as the wife overstayed her visa and is in the United States illegally. To complicate matters, she is at present in deportation proceedings in Los Angeles and is facing the possibility of being sent back to her native country. Her husband, a United States citizen, is devastated by a very grim possibility that she may have to leave. What is the problem in their case? The wife entered the United States as a C-1/D visa holder several years ago. It is precisely the manner and timing of her last entry, which carry serious limitations for our client and dictate what her options are before the Immigration Judge.
Individuals coming to the United States with C-visas rarely understand what they can and cannot do in the United States once they arrive here. While obtaining a C visa might have been relatively easy for some, staying in the United States and legalizing one's status here following an entry on a C-1 visa is a completely different matter. The area of law regarding C-visas is not necessarily very complicated, yet there are many attorneys and even immigration officers who do not understand it. In the case of our client, this is exactly the case. Her prior attorney carelessly filed for her green card without first educating himself, and most importantly the client, about the ramifications of having an entry to the United States on a C-1 visa. As a result of his ignorance, the client's green card application was not only denied, but she was later referred to the Immigration Court for further proceedings. It is unfortunate that our client had to learn about the C-1 visa limitations in a hard way.
C Visas in a Nutshell
C visas are non-immigrant visas. This means that C-1 visa holders can remain in the United States only for a temporary period of time. In fact, the regulations are very specific about how long C visa holders can stay in America - up to 29 days.
The following individuals can qualify for C-1 visas:
- Crewmembers and transit visa holders
- UN Transit
- Foreign Government Transits (given to accredited foreign official on official business passing in transit through the United States)
Most C-1 visa holders fall under the first subcategory, which includes crewmen and foreign nationals who are passing through the United States in immediate and continuous transit to a third country. In order to meet the C-1 visa requirements, foreign nationals must show the following:
- They are in possession of a ticket or other assurance of transportation to a third country
- Have necessary funds for their transit
- Have permission to enter the third country
This type of visa is not appropriate for those who wish to visit friends and family or study in the United States. Foreign nationals in transit are specifically barred from extending their stay in the United States or changing their visa to another one. They are also not allowed to work in the United States. However, foreign nationals in transit are eligible to apply for adjustment of status to receive permanent resident status in America. For example, if a C-1 visa holder in transit marries a United States citizen, he or she is eligible to apply for a green card without leaving the United States.
Unfortunately, the above is not true for those foreign nationals who enter with C-1 visas as crewmen. Crewmen include persons serving in good faith in any capacity required for normal operating and service on board a vessel. Crewmen also include individuals joining a vessel in the United States. In most cases, crewmen are in possession of a very detailed letter from their employer, confirming employment on a ship, name of the ship and indicating date and port of exit, job position, duration of employment, and the employer's financial responsibility while crewmen workers are in the United States among others.
Crewmen, similarly to those who are in transit, are not permitted to extend or change their status in the United States. Additionally, they are not eligible to apply for adjustment of status in the United States unless they are protected under the Immigration and Nationality Act § 245(i). This means that they (and/or their parents) had a good faith family or employment petitions filed for them by either January 14, 1998 or April 30, 2001. It is not required for the 245(i) petition to have been approved to derive the protection. Simply, the petition had to be bona fide and approvable when filed.
Sometimes it may not be easy to determine on the spot whether or not the person with a C visa entry was a crewman or in transit. This is why a visit to a reputable immigration attorney can be very beneficial. The consequences of filing for long term immigration benefits without understanding the law can be very dire and devastating. Just ask our client.
Our experienced attorneys will be glad to help. Our offices are located in Cerritos, Boise, Riverside, and Irvine. Please call if you have any questions regarding your or somebody's C-1 visa or any other immigration issues.