Financial Guides

How Personal Finance Can Affect Your Immigration Case

Learning to better manage your money can have a significant impact on your immigration case.

Adina Appelbaum

Creator, ImmigrantFinance.com

When it comes to your immigration case, learning about personal finance may not be one of the first action steps that come to mind. However, learning to better manage your money can have a significant impact on your immigration case.

From saving for emergencies to budgeting to investing in your future, personal finance is all about building your financial stability, knowing your goals and priorities, and being intentional about your life – each of which can help your immigration case.

Saving up an emergency fund is an important step to take in personal finance for any person. Also known as a rainy day saving fund, an emergency fund can help you be prepared for anything. Without an emergency fund available, it is very difficult to build stability and have options.

If you are an immigrant, saving up for an emergency fund can make or break your ability to fight and survive immigration problems. It can help you be ready to pay for the expenses of applying for immigration status and empower you to have choices during an immigration emergency. That’s why all immigrants should have immigrant empowerment funds.

Being Able to Afford an Immigration Attorney

An immigration attorney is one reason to save for an immigrant empowerment fund. In immigration court, there is no public defender system or right to a government-appointed lawyer. Very few nonprofits provide free legal representation and to few people. In reality that often means that only immigrants who have large cash savings readily available are able to hire a lawyer to represent them.

An immigration attorney can cost thousands of dollars. Having an immigration attorney can make you about five times more likely to win your case, giving you a higher chance to stay in the U.S. with your family. If you or your family members ever face immigration problems in the future and have to go to immigration court, a lawyer is critical.

Immigration law is one of the most complex areas of the law. Some people say the immigration code is more complicated than the tax code. And any mistakes can be catastrophic for your life. Being able to afford an immigration attorney can make a significant difference in your life.

Affording Fees for Applying for Legal Status or Citizenship

Many applications for immigration benefits, such as adjustment of status for a green card, renewing your green card, or to naturalize to become a U.S. citizen have high fees as well as related expenses that can add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars. Budgeting your income in order to save for an immigrant empowerment fund can help you plan and budget for these costs.

Establishing a Paper Trail

Setting up a bank account and/or credit card can help show records of the amount of time you have been living in the U.S. That can be helpful evidence for an immigration case.

Some defenses to deportation require a person to show that they have been living in the U.S. for a certain number of years. One way a person can try to show the dates they have been living in the country is through the dates in their bank and credit card statements.

A history of tax filings may also provide an immigrant an official record to help show that they qualify for any potential immigration reform that may be passed in the future. We do not know if immigration reform will ever happen in the future, but it is possible that someday. In the past, immigration reform has required people to establish that they had been living in the country before a certain date and for a certain number of years. Showing copies of tax returns that a person has filed can help a person have a “paper trail” to establish they were living in the country during certain important dates. A bank account with records of deposits and the date the account was opened could also help show those important dates.

Some of the proposed legislation for immigration reform that congress has considered in recent years has also included provisions that immigrants have paid taxes as a requirement to obtain status.

Fighting Deportation and Detention

Emergency savings can be crucial if a person ever needs to fight deportation in the future. ****In addition to needing to pay for an immigration lawyer, a person who is detained may also need thousands of dollars in cash to pay an immigration bond to be released from detention.

Several types of defenses to deportation require the immigration judge to use his or her discretion to determine if the person warrants relief from deportation, which involves the judge looking at all the positive and negative factors in the person’s life to determine if they should be able to stay in the country. Having your personal financials in order and records showing you have been paying taxes can help demonstrate to an immigration judge that you are a responsible, stable, and contributing member of society.

Smart personal finance decisions such as saving money for immigration-related emergency costs is critical for preparing an immigration plan, for example to get legal status, renew a green card, fight deportation, or become a U.S. citizen.

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