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Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.

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  • Writer's pictureParviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.

Top 5 Misconceptions of U.S. Immigrants in 2023

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

Let's get down to the nitty gritty facts

Along the long path of immigration to the United States, many immigrants make it more complicated by believing certain misconceptions about what is expected. Naturally, there are some mistaken beliefs that are more common than others.

Article Outline:

Sometimes these misconceptions are due to myths that permeate the community, and sometimes the misconceptions exist simply because of a lack of information about a relevant issue.

This article will give you insights on five of the most common errors in understanding that we, at Malakouti Law, see that immigrants make.

This list is not based on any statistics - but rather purely on our experience as an immigration law firm. This is the Malakouti list. If you think there's a top 5 misconception not in this list, feel free to email and let us know.

Stay on top of these misconceptions and don’t get “caught up," as the kids say nowadays.

Misconception #1 - Immigrants don't have to report an address change to USCIS

Fact: Many immigrants may think they are under no obligation to inform USCIS when they change their address.

Not so fast – it's actually mandatory by law to report any such address change within 10 days of moving. Failing to do this could result in unpleasant consequences. An address change can be reported easily and quickly by filing an AR-11.

Make sure to inform old Uncle Sam of your move, via form AR-11

You can file this easily 1) online, 2) through mail or 3) even by phoning USCIS – just don't forget to do it.

Misconception #2 - Approved I-130 doesn't have to be renewed

Fact: Just because your family member's I-130 Petition for Alien Relative has been approved doesn't mean you can sit back and relax forever.

Once your I-130 is approved, you must communicate annually with the National Visa Center to signal your intent of keeping this going, or else all your hard work will be for naught and you may have to re-petition from the beginning. This issue is most common when an I-130 petition has been approved but the the immigrant is not ready to move forward for some reason.

Misconception #3 - Only US citizens have to report and pay taxes on worldwide income

Fact: It's important to note that both US citizens and green card holders (aka legal permanent residents) must report and pay taxes on their worldwide income. That’s because even U.S. legal permanent residents are considered “United States persons” by the IRS.

Also, worldwide income means worldwide. This means an apartment building accruing rent in Albania may be taxable income for a U.S. green card holder. U.S. immigrants with foreign-based income or assets should consult a qualified CPA or tax lawyer (not just an immigration lawyer).

This is a fact that I’ve seen many immigrants refuse to believe or accept. Refuse to accept it at your own peril.

Misconception #4 - State law can “override” federal law for immigrants

Fact: It is a mistake to assume that U.S. state-level acceptance of an activity means one has necessarily not broken a federal law. The reality is a person can do something in a state that is permitted by state law and yet still ILLEGAL by federal law. That’s a problem, especially for immigrants.

For instance, even though certain states may have legalized marijuana use, it remains prohibited under federal law and can still lead to immigration or criminal penalties.

Of course, even U.S. citizens must also abide by both state and federal law but the stakes are even higher for immigrants because running afoul of the law can result in loss of their green card and removal from the country.

Our job at Malakouti Law is to keep our immigrant clients free of trouble, which means avoiding marijuana

Misconception #5 - An expungement removes the criminal conviction for immigration purposes

Fact: There are two misconceptions related to expunged criminal convictions that many immigrants hold. Some believe that an expunged conviction no longer counts for immigration purposes. Here, we are referring to a rehabilitation-based post-conviction dismissal as an expungement.

However, this is not true. Even if a conviction has been expunged, the USCIS still considers it as a conviction that’s part of an individual's record. Expungement does not dismiss the conviction or remove it from the record for U.S. immigration purposes.

On the flip side, some immigrants are aware that an expunged conviction is still treated by USCIS by a conviction but mistakenly believe that there is no benefit in expunging it. This is also incorrect in a few instances.

Expunging a conviction can be beneficial in certain contexts, such as naturalization, DACA eligibility, or when applying for I-601 or I-601A waivers.

  • Naturalization: If you are naturalizing in the United States, one of the requirements is to have maintained good moral character for 5 or 3 years (depending on whether you are married to a U.S. citizen). If you commit a crime outside of those years and you show that you’ve rehabilitated expunging this conviction can sometimes help the case.

  • I-601/I-601A: When applying for I-601 or I-601A, having expunged a conviction, if any, can soften the blow of a conviction with USCIS, thereby helping you show you “merit the discretion of the attorney general”, one of the requirements for an I-601A application.

While the conviction remains on record, expungement can demonstrate rehabilitation and improve an immigrant's chances in these specific situations.

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Each immigration and citizenship case is particular and you should consult with a qualified immigration and citizenship lawyer about your case before taking any steps. The Law Office of Parviz Malakouti does not guarantee the accuracy of information presented nor assume responsibility for actions taken in reliance of this information. The information in this page could become outdated. Attorney marketing.

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