How Can Illegal Immigrant Become Legal: I Am in the US Illegally and Married to a Citizen. Can I Apply for a Green Card?
How can illegal immigrant become legal?
“I overstayed my visa or entered the United States illegally. Now I am married, with kids (or a kid on the way). How do I apply for green card? Can I become a legal US permanent resident? Help me.” We receive these requests quite regularly. The level of anxiety is high. People are afraid of deportation and losing contact with loved ones. They also feel pressure to find a solution fast. Ironically, finding a solution to situations like this involves staying cool, following the process and getting legal help.
While we market an ebook about to get your green card through marriage, we are not qualified to give situation specific immigration advice. The book was written from the perspective of a legal alien and is an excellent tool for folks who want to avoid paying immigration attorneys to prepare their greencard through marriage application. However, based on the experience of going through the greencard process, we would like to offer a few words of advice for consideration.
Spirit of the Immigration Law
First, the spirit of the law is not to penalize potential immigrants but to prevent illegal immigration. The greencard through marriage is a legitimate path for immigration to the United States. It affects both you and your spouse. Assuming your spouse is a citizen or green card holder, depriving you of immigration privileges will affect him or her as well. While we don’t think this is spelled out in laws anywhere, hurting a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident goes against the spirit of the US legal system. That said, this statement is merely an opinion; the US legal system guarantees due process, not just or fair outcome. And it is on this due process you'd have to rely to clean up your immigration status.
Precedents to Becoming a Legal US Permanent Resident
Second, there are plenty of precedents that confirm that certain not significant violations of the immigration law can be “forgotten” or “forgiven” by an immigration officer reviewing your case. If that happens, you are granted a green card, albeit it may come with certain restrictions. The key here, however, is to come clean, acknowledge you violated the immigration law and request formal approval of the green card based on certain legal qualification criteria. This acknowledgement and request for green card must take place through a formal green card process and green card application process. Your chances for success in getting your green card application approved will depend on a number of factors.
1. Length of Time You’ve Spent Out of Status
The length of time over which you've been in the country illegally. There are certain time thresholds that the USCIS uses in assessing the severity of the overstay. These thresholds are typically shorter than 180 days, between 180 and 365 days, and longer than 365 days. If you happen the leave the United States having triggered these thresholds, you may be barred from entering the U.S. for three or 10 years. This is also known as being “inadmissible.” The key is to initiate the adjustment of status process before you choose to leave the United States.
2. History of Violation of Immigration Laws
If you have a record of violation of the U.S. immigration laws, like the one you receive when you are deported previously or you are on inadmissible list, it is likely that it will be harder to legitimize your stay (see Number 1 above).
3. Extremism Connections
History of involvement in violent or extremist organizations while living outside of the U.S. will be a part of the evaluation criteria. Public safety is one of the criteria for evaluating potential immigrants. Especially after 9/11, any hint of affiliation with paramilitary or terrorist groups tend to be a considered a red flag. Careful and thought out responses to questions about your history may be key for the success or failure of your application.
4. Criminal Record in the United States
This should be self-explanatory: Criminals are expensive. They require attention of the police, which cost money. If incarcerated, being held in prison also costs money. Immigration officers typically seek to flash out “bad citizens,” who are often “inadmissible” because of their criminal past. Obviously the preference is given to folks with clean criminal record.
5. Bona Fide Relationship with Your Spouse
While this is true regardless of whether you are in the United States legally or not, the authenticity of your relationship with your spouse will be a key in determining whether you qualify for immigration benefits. Please note this only matters if your spouse if a U.S. citizen or permanent resident because only. Fake marriages, contract marriages or other arrangements for the sake of securing green card are not allowed and immigration officers seek to flash them out in the application process. Explore consequences of lying on your adjustment of status application.
6. Application Completeness
The quality of the paperwork submitted and its completeness is paramount in the situation when violation of the immigration laws is involved. Before submitting the paperwork, an illegal immigrant may not be even on the radar of the immigration authorities; they do not know he or she is in the country illegally. Submitting your application involves flashing this fact out and acknowledging it legally. In case of legal visitors, improper green card paperwork may result in delays. In case of illegal immigrants, improperly submitted application may eventually lead to removal proceedings, which again may put the immigrant on the “inadmissible” list. Thus, the proper legal representation and advice during this process is key to the success.
To best navigate this process and prepare explanations for staying in the U.S. illegally, our recommendation is to hire an immigration attorney, who has handled several of such cases in the past. Search your local directories. Meet with several candidates. Make sure to study previous customer’s reviews. When you are to meet with an attorney, request his or her references. And pick the attorney with whom you can relate. This is going to be a long and sometime nerve racking process; you’d want to work with a person who can help you both legally and help calm you down if things get tense.
How Can an Illegal Immigrant Become Legal?
Adjusting your status from being in the U.S. illegally to a legitimate US permanent resident or greencard is not easy nor simple. You start by getting clean with the government and acknowledging that you violated the immigration law and petitioning for a green card.
It will be expensive, so be prepared to spend money. Be ready to pay all requisite application fees. You’d have to pay a good attorney to help you navigate the process and potentially represent you in front of the judge. But don’t feel discouraged: The money you spend is an investment in your and your family future. Remember, once your green card is approved, you can legally work in the U.S.; perhaps, it will help you secure a more stable and gainful employment.
Finally, be patient and follow the process. Even if you submit your paperwork, it will take time for it to be properly reviewed by the USCIS officials. You will have to go through the formal process, and submit your biometrics and attend a green card marriage interview. It may take months. But the wait is worth it.
Green card application process is hard, complex and may be expensive. To ensure this process is as efficient as possible, please visit www.doityourselfgreencard.com to download Green Card by Marriage guide and subscribe to our newsletter, or www.doityourselfgreencard.com/blog for further discussion of immigration and green card issues.