If you have entered the United States without approval, or stayed beyond the date of your original visa, then you are one of the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States today. While the U.S. immigration laws are stringent, there are still a few ways you can obtain a green card and become a permanent resident of the United States.
We’ve outlined five possibilities below, but you should definitely seek out an attorney for guidance and assistance in determining if one of these is right for you:
Undocumented Immigrants Can Marry a U.S. Citizen
If you happen to fall in love and marry a U.S. citizen while you are here (no sham weddings or marriage for money deals!), then you may qualify as an “immediate relative” under immigration law. In theory, as an immediate relative, you are entitled to apply for a green card. However, the fact you are currently living in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant can create problems during the application process.
There are a few qualifying exceptions. Consult an immigration attorney to find out if they may apply to you.
Service in the U.S. Military As Undocumented Immigrants
If you are one of the undocumented immigrants who served during one of the following wars or conflicts named below and your military record is in good standing, you can apply directly for U.S. citizenship; no green card required. However, you must have enlisted while on U.S. soil or in a U.S. territory.
These are the qualifying conflicts to date:
- World War I
- World War II
- Korean War
- Vietnam War
- Persian Gulf War
- Operation Enduring Freedom (currently ongoing until ordered by the President)
“Cancellation of Removal” Qualification after Arrest
In the event you are arrested by I.C.E. you may still be able to apply and qualify for a green card if you meet, and can prove, the following requirements:
- You have been physically present here in the U.S. for more than ten years.
- You have been an upstanding individual of “good moral character” during the entirety of your stay.
- Removing you from the U.S. would create undue hardship on legal family members.
- You haven’t committed any offenses which would disqualify you from cancellation (repeated immigration violations, criminal activity, persecution of others, etc.).
PLEASE NOTE: This is not an option you can apply for on your own. It is only valid in the event you are already in the middle of immigration court proceedings. Hire a lawyer immediately.
Undocumented Immigrants May Petition for Asylum
If you are one of the many undocumented immigrants seeking asylum, you may qualify for asylum if you apply within one year of entry, or one year from the expiration of your authorized stay. You will need to show you have been a victim of persecution, or fear reprisals if returned to your home country. Qualifications are generally based on race, religion, ethnicity, political opinion, etc.
You must submit an application, including documentation not only of your persecution, but membership into the persecuted group, and the fear of what you would face upon your return. If granted asylum, you have a one year waiting period before you can apply for a green card.
Temporary Protected Status Due to War, Natural Disaster, or Other Circumstances
If you have arrived from a country in the midst of a civil war, suffering from a natural disaster or environmental incident (think: hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.), or other event which makes your return to that country unsafe, you may qualify for TPS: Temporary Protected Status. It’s not a green card, and it is not on the path to a green card either. But it does allow you to stay in U.S. for up to eighteen months and receive permission to work while you are here.
Need help with undocumented immigrants status? Call (404) 892-8300 to schedule a free consultation.