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Immigration Issues/legal first, now illegal

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Hi Mr. Hay,

My Name is Karen and I have been looking for help for the past 3 years about immigration. I came here legally in 2003 to Houston to visit my friend at the time.The law allowed me to come without a visit visa. We spent a lot of time together and we wanted to further our relationship. At first I went back home and came back again about a month later. I was told that I could stay here without a visit visa for 6 months and being I guess stupid I believed it. Then I called the INS and asked how long I could stay and they told me 3 months. I was then considered illegal and I was afraid to go back home in fear of being sent home and not allowed to come back. Sorry my question is long but I really am just so tired of being scared and feeling alone. I have now been living in Houston for almost 4 years. At first we did not file taxes together but now I have a legal tax number where we can file taxes together and it is a problem..someone said I could have went back and got a Fiancee visa but now that cannot be, where he has filed taxes with me listed has a spouse. Where INS will ask for atleast 5 years of tax papers. So, I really need to know if there is anything that we can do to correct this without getting into trouble or risk being sent back home. I cannot continue living like I am...afraid to go out in case of being caught. We are living common law right now which is legal in Texas but not recognized with the INS. We have got plans to get married soon in the next month or 2 but that is why we are not married yet. I wanted to marry him for so long time but refused because I did not want anyone to say we married only to become a legal resident but now I do not care what anyone says. We love each other very much and have build a good life together, the only things is....I want so bad to work and be able to breathe again without worrying. Right now I have not broken any laws by working or anything. Except being here illegally but one person says that is a good thing that I have not broken any other laws...and I came here legally. Is this right and can you please help us, What can we do to get things right and allow me to live a life with a man whom I adore and cannot see a life without him. Please, Please help us.... I cannot go to the INS, they have told me to go back home immediately but I have not called using my name or any way that they can find out who I am. So I hope you may be able to send us down the right path.  Thank You for reading my Question and I pray you can help us.

Karen.

Answer
This was all very complicated, and I did not get to the bottom of the description.  I am not sure what your problem is but it sounds like you came in on a waiver visa from Europe or on a B1 visa.  As such you were allowed to come in for a specific amount of time then leave.  The 6 month thing was actually 180 days.  The rule is that if you overstay your visa for more than 180 days after the date of termination, the you will be barred from ever having a visa issued to you for 3 years out of the country.  If you stay in the USA more than 1 year after your visa expires, you must leave the USA and stay out 10 years before you qualify for an approved visa (if one is available).

The only exception to this rule is marriage to a US citizen which more or less makes everything very easy. I tried to look and see from your explanation if you are married to a US citizen, but no such information was provided.

I wish I could help you, but it sounds like you are very confused, and it also sounds like you have been listening to the wrong people, or at least people who know even less about immigration issues than you do.

Get a good attorney to help you, or at least give you a detailed explanation of your options.

Good luck.

Immigration Issues

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Alexander J. Hay

Expertise

I am a U.S. lawyer with offices in Houston, Texas and in Belize. I can answer questions on U.S. Immigration, U.S. corporate law, and Offshore Tax and Asset Planning.
If you are on an H or L visa I am NOT GOING TO ANSWER your questions since they are usually highly fact oriented, and also you have a company attorney handling the whole thing. Call your own attorney please! If you disregard this request, don't be surprised if I answer with "homework question".

Experience

I am a U.S. attorney with offices in the United States and Belize. I have experience helping to protect assets, reduce taxes, and improve investment performance by utilizing global investment techniques.

Education/Credentials
Harvard University, A.B. degree; University of Houston Law Center, J.D. Degree; Fulbright Scholar

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