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Can an undocumented immigrant obtain legal residency?

On Behalf of | Sep 17, 2018 | Citizenship

At first blanch, the immigration laws in the United States don’t offer a lot of hope for undocumented immigrants. Even before the recent strictness with regard to the enforcement of immigration rules and the deportation of undocumented immigrants, those who were in the United States without the appropriate paperwork didn’t have a lot of options — but now the situation is worse.

The truth is that it’s not entirely easy to come to the United States, and many of those who are currently here unlawfully didn’t have any lawful options for coming to the country. Now, there are millions of people living, working and raising families in America and they don’t know what to do.

Several options for undocumented immigrants to become “legal”

Here are a few options — that could apply to various uncommon circumstances — to help an undocumented immigrant lawfully stay in the United States:

Asylum: If an undocumented immigrant can’t return home because of the fear of persecution on the basis of religion, nationality, race, social grouping or political view, this could provide the means for obtaining asylum and being able to lawfully stay in the United States. Asylum is given to people who are already in the United States or who show up at the border seeking help and protection. In 2015, only 26,000 people received asylum.

Cancellation of removal: Cancellation of removal applies to immigrants who have been living in the United States for at least 10 years continuously, have a “good moral character,” have never been convicted of crimes and can show that their deportation would result in unusual and extreme hardship to a U.S. citizen to whom they are related such as a parent, spouse or child.

Violent crime victims: Undocumented immigrants who have been victimized by violent crimes or who have witnessed crimes may be able to stay in the United States in select circumstances.

Getting married: Getting married to a U.S. citizen is one way to try and stay in the United States, but if the immigrant who gets married is undocumented, it could be difficult to obtain legal status. Those living in the United States for six months and under will need to live three years outside the United States. For those living over a year unlawfully within the United States, it’s necessary for them to spend 10 years out of the country. On the other hand, those who came into the United States lawfully may be able to seek a green card while remaining in the country.

The most important thing an undocumented immigrant can do

An undocumented immigrant in danger of deportation who wants to stay in the United States needs to fully understand U.S. immigration law and how it applies to his or her unique situation. There are too many options and too many potential complications for a U.S. immigrant to simply assume that a “cookie-cutter” legal solution will work for his or her situation without first acquiring a complete understanding of the law.