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Ways to Stay in the United States After Entering Illegally

Entering and staying in the U.S. without permission is considered illegal. Staying within the U.S. after a work visa, visitor visa, or any other visa has expired is also considered illegal. It is encouraged to seek help in becoming a permanent resident or green card holder in the United States in order to avoid penalties of unlawful residence. There are various ways of staying in the U.S. and obtaining a green card after entering illegally.

Marrying Lawful Permanent Residents or U.S. Citizens

By entering into a valid marriage with citizen of the U.S. (of opposite or same sex), considers you an “immediate relative” and makes them eligible for a U.S. green card under United States immigration laws.

If you are someone who did not initially enter the U.S. illegally, instead you are illegally residing in the U.S. past the expiration date on any valid visa, you would be able to apply for a marriage-based green card without having to leave the U.S. This process is called “adjustment of status.”

On the contrary, if your last entry into the U.S. was illegal, it is not likely that you will be able to adjust your status to becoming a permanent resident on the grounds of marriage with a U.S. citizen. This is the punishment for entering the U.S. unlawfully.

In the case where you have not yet been residing in the U.S. illegally for six months or longer, you are given the right to take part of consular processing.

If you have unlawfully resided in the U.S. for over six months, you may qualify for a waiver if there are no other grounds of inadmissibility in your case. This wavier would allow an individual to reenter the U.S. after consular processing interviews, however you will need to prove your denial of green card would cause hardships for your any family members who are already U.S. citizens.

Serving in the Military

If you serve honorably and on active duty with the U.S. Armed Forces during one of the wars or conflicts named below, the law allows you to apply for U.S. citizenship. You don't have to go through the usual step of applying for a green card first. You must, however, enlist (sign up) while on U.S. territory, such as the Canal Zone, American Samoa, Swains Island, or a noncommercial U.S. ship.

If you serve on active duty with U.S. Armed Forces during any of the listed wars or conflicts, you are allowed to apply for U.S. citizenship. In this case, you are not required to apply for a green card as this form of applying for citizenship is an exception.

  • World War I
  • World War II
  • Persian Gulf War
  • Vietnam Hostilities
  • Korean Hostilities
  • “Operation Enduring Freedom”

Request Cancellation of Removal in Court

If you are arrested by U.S. immigration authorities, you might be able to avoid removal, and receive a U.S. green card, if you can prove all of the below:

If you have been arrested by immigration authorities within the United States and are able to prove all of the following, you may be able to receive a green card and avoid removal proceedings:

  • Being physically present within U.S. for 10 or more years
  • Being an individual of good moral character for the number of years physically present
  • Your removal out of the U.S. would result in hardship to your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family members
  • Have not committed one of the crimes listed as an immigration violation
  • Have not persecuted others
  • Have not been in affiliation with communist party or any terrorist organization
  • Don't attempt to apply for cancellation of removal on your own. It is available only if you are already in immigration court (removal) proceedings and facing deportation. You'll definitely need a lawyer's help in this situation.

Applying for Asylum

If you qualify for asylum, you are able to apply within one year of entry in the U.S. or until the expiration of your authorized stay. You will have to prove that you have previously been persecuted or fear potential future persecution in your home country based on the grounds of nationality, religion, race political opinion, or membership in a specific social group.

If you are granted asylum, you are able to apply for a green card once your approval has reached one year. You are able to apply for U.S. citizenship after four years.

Kennedy Law LC has experience guiding clients through all stages of the immigration process. We understand that the immigration process can be quite complicated, this is why we advise you to seek legal guidance from our office today as we strive to help guide you with your specific case no matter how complex or complicated.

Attorney Ramona Kennedy cares about your case and will fight for you.

You can contact attorney Ramona Kennedy Law Offices (Kennedy Law LC) for an initial consultation and case evaluation. The first consultation is free of charge. 

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