Can I obtain a work permit before residency?

In this week's Consulta Migratoria® column I answer a reader's question. Each case is different and the answers vary depending on each person's immigration history.

Here I provide general answers to your questions. Please consult with an immigration attorney to receive personalized legal advice before starting any procedure.

This is the column:

I am Mexican and I have been living in the United States since 1999. In 2001, my brother, who is a U.S. citizen, applied for me under the 245i law. The application was prepared by a notary and we have a receipt from immigration stating that they received the application. How long until there is a visa for me? Can I get a work permit while I am waiting for my permanent residency? -Elvira T.

Elvira, first of all, you should have your application reviewed by an immigration attorney. I am concerned that you did the paperwork with a notario. Notaries are not lawyers and by law are not authorized to give legal advice. It would be important to know if they filled out the correct form and if they did not make any mistakes. It is at stake whether you can get your residency.

Since the application was made by your U.S. citizen sibling, if the person who made the application did it correctly, it falls under the F4 category that benefits siblings of U.S. citizens.

According to the March 2014 Visa Bulletin, the U.S. Department of State is processing cases of Mexicans in the F4 category with a priority date before November 15, 1996. That means that applications submitted before that date are being processed and there is still a long way to go before a visa is available for you.

However, these dates sometimes change. You should monitor the Visa Bulletin to see how your case is going.

Unfortunately, the law stipulates that while you are waiting for your visa you will not be able to obtain a work permit through your brother's application.

It is extremely important to have an immigration attorney or a federally accredited representative review your case as soon as possible to analyze what the notario did and help you finalize the immigration process.

For more information and immigration tips, read my blog

Send your questions to Include detailed information about your situation to better answer your questions.

Nelson A. Castillo, Esq. is an immigration attorney and author of La Tarjeta Verde: Cómo Obtener la Residencia Permanente en los Estados Unidos (Green Card: How to Obtain Permanent Residence in the United States). He is a past President of the Hispanic National Bar Association and current President of the Los Angeles Westlake South Neighborhood Council. To contact Mr. Castillo's office, please call (213) 537-VISA (8472).