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How Undocumented Immigrants Can Gain Legal Status In The United States

The Marble Team

How Undocumented Immigrants Can Gain Legal Status In The United States

Immigration Law
| 5 min
8 minutes

It’s estimated that there may be 12 million, or even more, undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Such individuals are often referred to as illegal aliens, either because they snuck across the border without showing their papers or overstayed their visas.

Either way, undocumented immigrants are foreign people who are residing illegally in the US. As such, they likely live with the constant fear of a knock on the door, knowing that at any moment, immigration officers could arrive and serve a deportation order on them.

Putting an end to that constant fear is a good enough reason to seek legal status. But there are many other clear benefits - not just in terms of certainty for the future, but also in areas like health, education, employment, and family security.

Gaining legal status isn’t an easy process, but it can be accomplished with the right circumstances and perseverance. Read on to see if you’re eligible, how to make it happen, and what mistakes to avoid.

What It Means To Be Undocumented In The United States

Although undocumented immigrants in the US face many challenges, it’s often the case that the positives outweigh the negatives, especially in comparison to what they’ve left behind. In addition, despite their illegal status, they still enjoy a number of rights.

However, life can be incredibly challenging for members of this group. They’re open to exploitation in the workplace, often having no option but to accept low wages and poor working conditions. For the most part, they don’t qualify for state or federal support and benefits and are also effectively barred from pursuing specific careers. They may fear reporting a crime or personal injury because of the potential consequences or find themselves at the mercy of a cruel landlord.

Most of all, they must live with the ever-present threat of deportation. If the worst happens, these individuals may find themselves separated from their families and subject to a barring order which prevents them from re-entering the US.

The Types of Legal Residency In the US

Undocumented immigrants in the US looking to legalize their status should be aware that there are several different types of legal residency. You may be able to apply for asylum if you can prove you would be facing persecution in your home country. Alternatively, you could be granted Temporary Protection Status in exceptional circumstances like a civil war or a natural disaster in your home country.

If you’ve been arrested for immigration offenses but have been in the US for more than ten years, then you may qualify for Cancellation of Removal. However, for this to apply, you have to meet certain conditions. These include being of good moral character, not having any civil or criminal convictions, and demonstrating that your deportation would cause exceptional hardship to close family members who are US citizens. Undocumented immigrants who served with the US military may also be granted some leeway.

In certain circumstances, you can secure residency by marrying a US citizen, but your illegal presence in the US may cause complications. Also, bogus marriages to secure residence are a serious matter that may result in a felony conviction for the US citizen and deportation for the other party.

The Possible Consequences of Not Declaring Your Illegal Status

People caught living illegally in the US may be subject to fines, jail, or deportation, plus a court order barring their return. But you may experience other consequences of not declaring your status. One of the most critical examples concerns Form I-9, which employers use to confirm your eligibility to work.

If you falsely claim to be a lawful US citizen or resident on Form I-9, there may be severe ramifications if you apply for a Green Card. The US immigration authorities take a very dim view of such behavior and deem your application inadmissible accordingly.

How To Start The Process of Getting a Green Card

Most immigrants to the US dream of getting a Green Card. Alongside the many benefits, it also represents a route to the ultimate prize: US citizenship. There’s a distinct timeline and set of procedures to follow when applying, but it’s well worth doing some preparatory work before you begin.

That mainly involves collecting copies of all the relevant documentation and paperwork. But you may also find it helpful to consult with a legal professional to ensure that you approach your application in the right way.

Reasons Beside Your Illegal Status That Your Green Card Could Be Denied

Applicants for a Green Card should be under no illusions: it’s a long and drawn-out process, with many potential pitfalls along the way. Naturally, your illegal status can have a huge - or even terminal - impact on your application, but there are many other reasons why you might be denied.

Your failed application could be down to something as simple as a missed deadline, an administrative error, or a full quota. Other factors that can count against you include your poor state of health, criminal record, political beliefs, fraudulent documentation, previous immigration violations, and financial circumstances.

How An Immigration Lawyer Can Help 

Immigration law is a highly complicated area and one that’s changing all the time. So if you’re serious about gaining legal status, your first step should always be to consult with a legal professional. An immigration lawyer can guide you through the legal complexities and help you to avoid any mistakes that might hamper or void your application.

There are many different ways to apply for legal status, some of which you might not be aware of. An experienced immigration attorney can explain the various options and make sure that you choose the best approach.

The Bottom Line

The stakes are high for any undocumented immigrant, especially those who want to apply for legal status. Get it right, and you could enjoy all the security and benefits of a Green Card. Make the wrong choices, and you could end up being deported and separated from your loved ones. Having professional support and guidance could be what swings the balance in your favor. For more, contact the team at Marble to see how we can assist.


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