What is my current immigration status?
U.S. Citizen: If you have a (legit) United States birth certificate and/or a U.S. passport, then you are most likely a United States citizen. Everyone born in the U.S. is a citizen, but not all citizens were born in the U.S., so place of birth isn’t the only factor. You can either be a citizen by birth or a naturalized citizen. As a citizen, you can legally work, vote, and travel outside the U.S. without restrictions.
Legal Permanent Resident (LPR): If you have a green card, then you are most likely a legal permanent resident. You can obtain a green card in various ways, including through certain family members who are U.S citizens or permanent residents, through an employer, or through a visa lottery. Status of legal permanent resident can be taken away if you commit certain crimes or in other situations. As a legal permanent resident, you can legally work, you cannot vote, and you can travel outside the U.S., but not for long periods of time.
Undocumented: If you have no U.S. identifying documents, then you are likely undocumented, and hold no legal status. Depending on your situation, it may be possible for you to adjust status from undocumented to legal permanent resident, though you would have to consult an immigration attorney to see if you’re eligible for any form of adjustment. As an undocumented person, you cannot legally work, unless you have permission from the Department of Homeland Security, i.e. a work permit, you cannot vote, and you cannot travel outside the U.S. without being subject to a ban on the amount of time you have to remain outside the U.S. before attempting to return.
There are other specific categories of immigration status, such as special immigrant juvenile status for undocumented children in the foster care system, refugee for those who were threatened in their home countries, and temporary protected status for those who need a temporary place to stay because of a major event in their home country.
How can I change my status from undocumented to legal permanent resident?
- First and foremost, speak to a qualified immigration attorney. Because each case is different, and there may be different ways for you to adjust status, it is best to have a lawyer evaluate your case and review your options with you, if any.
- If an immediate family member is a US citizen or legal permanent resident, you may be able to adjust status through them. If your husband, wife, mother, father, brother, or sister is a US citizen, they may be able to file for you if all other criteria are met, though filing times differ based on the relationship, i.e. mother-daughter applications are generally faster than sister-sister applications. If your husband, wife, mother, or father is a legal permanent resident, they may also be able to file for you if all other criteria are met. If either case applies to you, immediately schedule an appointment with an attorney to see if this option is available to you.
- If you are undocumented, Section 245(i) of the LIFE Act may help you be able to adjust status in the future.
Section 245 of the LIFE Act allows people to become permanent residents without leaving the U.S. through a process called “adjustment of status.” Generally, people who entered the U.S. without being inspected by an INS officer, who have ever been unlawfully employed in the U.S. or who failed to always maintain lawful status in the U.S. are barred from adjusting their status in the U.S. (There are certain exceptions to the last two bars for “immediate relatives” of U.S. citizens and for certain EB applicants.)
Section 245(i) was first added to the law in 1994 to allow persons who qualify for green cards, but not for adjustment of status, to be able to adjust their status in the U.S. upon payment of a fine (currently $1,000). Congress phased Section 245(i) out of the law on January 14, 1998. However, people who had already qualified under the law as of that date were “grandfathered” into the benefits of Section 245(i) for the rest of their lives. The problem was that hundreds of thousands of otherwise qualified persons who missed the January 14, 1998 deadline cannot adjust status in the U.S., and cannot return to their countries to obtain green cards without being subject to either a three or a ten-year bar from returning to the U.S. These persons (You may be one of them!) have been in a state of legal limbo since 1998.â€2
Congress gave a holiday present to hundreds of thousands of potential immigrants on December 15, 2000 when they extended the grandfathering date of Section 245(i) to April 30, 2001. Not only does this extend the benefits of Section 245(i) to people who had labor certifications or visa petitions (I-130, I-140 or I-360) filed on their behalf between 1998 and 2000, but it gives people over four months AFTER the passage of the law to qualify for the benefits of Section 245(i)
a.To qualify for Section 245 (i): A person with a labor certification or a visa petition filed on their behalf on or before January 14, 1998 is qualified for the benefits of Section 245(i). Under the new law, a person who has a labor certification or visa petition filed on their behalf after January 14, 1998, but on or before April 30, 2001, is also qualified for the benefits of Section 245(i) but only if the principal beneficiary was physically present in the U.S. on the date of enactment of the new law (December 21, 2000).
b. You must have had either an employer or a relative submit a labor certification or a visa petition on your behalf by April 30, 2001. It is not necessary that the Labor Department or the INS approve your application or petition by this date, only that it be filed.
- If you are currently in foster care, you may be able to adjust status by obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Be sure to get in contact with a social worker or lawyer with previous knowledge on SIJS to see if you are eligible. Here are some requirements to obtain SIJS:
- You are unable to be reunited with either of your parents because of problems at home.
- It would be out of your best interests if you were to return to your home country.
- You are under 21 years old and are not married, though you may have children of your own. You are not emancipated.
- If you are approved for SIJS, you cannot help your parents immigrate to the US later.
- If you are currently living with other relatives or are adopted, you may still qualify for SIJS.
- If you come from an abusive household, you may be able to adjust status under the Violence against Women Act (VAWA). Be sure to get in contact with a lawyer familiar with this act to see if you qualify. This law applies if your mother, father, husband, or wife is a US citizen or legal permanent resident, but doesn’t want to help you adjust status. If the person in question is your mother or father, you have to be under 25, and you have to have lived with the person in question at some point. The abuse does not have to be physical.
- If you have been the victim of a crime, and you aided the police in investigating said crime, you may be eligible for a T visa or a U visa to adjust status. Be sure to get in contact with a lawyer as soon as possible to see if you are eligible. The T visa applies if you were a victim of human trafficking.
Deportation and other encounters with ICE
If a person is not a US citizen, they may be deported or removed by the US government, which means they have to leave the country and have very slim chances of being allowed back in. Deportation should be avoided at all costs, and there are many reasons why a non-US citizen could be deported. Here are a few:
a)Being in the US without permission, i.e. being undocumented.
b)Alleging to be a US citizen when you are not, i.e. putting down that you are a citizen on a job application when you know you are not.
c)Marriage fraud: Marrying someone for the sole purpose of becoming a legal permanent resident, or to help them become a legal permanent resident.
d)Committing crimes such as drug possession, theft, murder, assault, etc.
f)Illegal gun and/or weapon possession
Â·If you receive notice that you are being removed, get in touch with an immigration lawyer IMMEDIATELY to discuss your options.
Â·If you are detained unexpectedly, remember that you have a right to remain silent and the right to an attorney! Do not answer any questions or sign any documents put forth to you by an ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officer without first consulting a lawyer. If you do so, you may jeopardize any rights or chances you had to fight to stay in the US.
Â·If ICE officers show up at your home, first ask to see a search warrant. If one is not shown to you, you do not have to open the door. Do not answer any questions or sign any documents put forth to you without a search warrant. Contact a lawyer immediately!!!
If you are adopted by US citizens or legal permanent residents, they may be able to help you adjust status. Seek legal counsel with an immigration lawyer as soon as you think you may be eligible. You first must meet all of these requirements:
a)You were adopted before your 16th birthday, or if the same family earlier adopted a brother or sister of yours, before your 18th birthday.
b)You’ve lived with your adoptive parents for at least 2 years, either before or after you were actually adopted.
c)Your adoptive parents have had legal custody of you for at least 2 years, either before or after you were actually adopted.
- If either of your adoptive parents is a US citizen, the process, if you are eligible, may be much faster than if they are both legal permanent residents. The process may also be much slower if you are over 21 or are married.
- Once you are adopted and are able to adjust status, you cannot help your birth parents immigrate. If you legally separate from your adoptive parents and reunite with your birth parents, and you never got your legal immigration status through your adoptive parents, then you may be able to help your birth parents immigrate. If you legally separate from your adoptive parents and reunite with your birth parents, and your adoptive parents helped you get legal status, then you may not help your birth parents immigrate.
***All of this information was mainly based on the information presented here
***Before heeding any advice given here or online, please schedule a consultation with a qualified immigration attorney!