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Is It Possible for Illegal Immigrants to Get Green Cards?

In June 2021, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in a case filed by an immigrant from El Salvador whose green card application was rejected in 2014. At the heart of this case was a claim by the immigrant that his Temporary Protected Status (TPS) made him eligible for permanent residence even though he had entered the country illegally in 1993, eight years before TPS was granted to his country of origin. By unanimous decision, the Supreme Court justices determined the claimant’s illegal entry meant he was never admitted, thus precluding him from being eligible for a green card.

Admissibility is a major aspect of the American immigration system. When foreigners enter the U.S., they must do so with visas or other legal documents that characterize them as being admissible, but they still have to go through border and customs inspections to complete the process of lawful admission. In the aforementioned Supreme Court case, the claimant never completed this process. Moreover, the TPS program doesn’t actually admit foreigners as immigrants, thus complicating their status should they want to become legal residents.

It’s not entirely impossible for immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally, or who weren’t admitted, to get green cards. Let’s say a man from Cambodia illegally entered the country as a stowaway on a ship but he later marries an American citizen, so he can apply for adjustment of status under section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. As long as this applicant is living in the U.S. under the auspices of a bona fide marriage, a San Diego immigration law firm might be able to make section 245(i) work, but he may need to return home and stay out of the U.S. for a period between 3 and 10 years as a penalty for illegal entry. This would require managing the adjustment of status process through the U.S. consulate abroad.

Another option for an undocumented foreigner is to request a special waiver through an immigration attorney. This can be done through filing Form I-601A so the determination of inadmissibility can either be reversed or forgiven. Waivers are more likely to be granted for the purpose of keeping families together. However, applicants shouldn’t be surprised to learn they may have to be separated from their relatives anyway, and this period could last a few years. One of the best courses of action in this regard is to avoid the separation altogether by arguing the applicant’s absence would result in family hardship.

Enlisting in the U.S. Armed Forces during a period of armed conflict is one of the best ways to quickly adjust status so undocumented immigrants can serve in the military and later go through the naturalization process. Aside from the possible solutions already mentioned, applying for asylum and arguing a case in immigration court would be the remaining options. 

If you’d like more information about green cards or you need the services of a reliable, trustworthy San Diego immigration lawyer, reach out to KS Visa Law today. Call 858-874-0711 to schedule an appointment.

April 2024