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What Immigration Benefits do I Qualify for if I entered the United States Illegally?

What am I eligible for? That is a very common question for many immigrants who call or visit our immigration office for legally advice. “I came into the country illegally,” how do I get a work permit or a green card? The truth is if you are in the United States and you do not have status and you did not enter after having been inspected and admitted or paroled, your immigration options can be quite limited. Our immigration laws changed dramatically in the 1990s and early 2000s and one of the big changes was to punish people who entered the country illegally by greatly limiting their ability to stay in the U.S. legally.

There are five basic immigration options possibly open to you if you entered illegally and are currently out of status; 1) Asylum/Withholding/CAT; 2) U/T/S Visas; 3) 245(i) Adjustment; 4) Cancellation of Removal; 5) TPS.

At first blush, you may say, wow those are quite a few options, sounds great, how do I sign up. Therein lies the problem, most people who are in the United States without status after entering without inspection will not qualify for any of these forms of immigration relief. That’s right, unfortunately, just because you have been in the U.S. for many years, have family here, have a job here or have a fear of going back to your home country does not mean you qualify for any form of immigration relief. Lets briefly review what it takes to qualify for these immigration benefits/relief.

1) Asylum/Withholding/CAT: These are all related protection claims that any non-citizen in the U.S. can file to try and avoid deportation to a country where they fear being persecuted. This is one of the most common forms of relief that people apply for when there is nothing else that can help them. The problem is the majority of the people who apply will be denied and never had a chance for approval to begin with.   In order to qualify for asylum, with few exceptions, you have to apply with the government within one year of coming into the U.S. If you don’t file in that one-year period, no matter how strong your claim for asylum is, it will probably be denied. Asylum requires that you prove that you were persecuted (usually physically harmed or worse) or fear persecution in your home country on account of your race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. And, you must prove that the government, or its agents or people, is unwilling or unable to control what did or will do the harm. This is very tough to prove and you will almost never win an asylum case if you fear general violence or crime in your home country. This is why most asylum seekers from Central America are denied.

Withholding is like asylum, but you can apply even after the one year of entering the U.S., but it’s harder to prove and it comes with an order of removal. CAT, or protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, is even harder to establish and requires that you prove the government or its agents will torture or kill you or will knowingly allow it to happen. These requirements are not complete and if you want to apply for asylum or withholding or CAT, please, please go pay an immigration attorney a consultation fee to review your case and let you know if you have chance and if its in your best interest to apply or not.

2) A U Visa is for the victims of certain crimes in the U.S., a T visa is for victims of severe human trafficking and an S visa is for non-citizens without status who help federal law enforcement officers with investigations and prosecutions of crimes. A U visa is a wonderful form of immigration relief and if you qualify for one, you can apply for you and your whole family. After three years of having it, you can even apply for a green card. The T and S visa are very difficult to get, but they do exist. If you are in the U.S. without status and you or any member of your family were the victim of any crime, human trafficking, or cooperated with federal law enforcement regarding a criminal case, go pay an immigration attorney a consultation fee to review your case and let you know if you have chance and if its in your best interest to apply or not.

3) If you had an I-130 petition for alien relative or labor certification filed for you prior to April 30, 2001, you may be able to adjust your status in the U.S., even if you last entered without inspection. Most of the time, if you entered the U.S. illegally, you cannot adjust your status in the U.S. and have to return home, apply for waivers to come back and hope for the best. However, if a family member filed an I-130 petition for you or your parents prior to April 30, 2001, you may still be eligible to get your green card while you are in the U.S. without having to travel abroad and risk not coming back. Go pay an immigration attorney a consultation fee to review your case and let you know if you have chance and if its in your best interest to apply or not.

4) To qualify for cancellation of removal, you have to be in the U.S. for more than 10 years, then be placed in removal proceedings, be a person of good moral character, not have any disqualifying criminal convictions and prove that if you are deported your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident parent(s), spouse or child would suffer exceptional and extremely unusual hardship. This one is way to complicated to discuss more here, so go pay an immigration attorney a consultation fee to review your case and let you know if you have chance and if its in your best interest to apply or not.

5) TPS, or Temporary Protected Status, is a benefit granted to nationals of certain countries that have suffered natural disasters, or other huge problems. This status allows people from those countries to stay in the U.S., avoid deportation and get a work permit. The rub is that only certain countries qualify, you have to have entered the country before a certain date, have no, or a very minor criminal records and only registered for TPS on time. If you are from a country like Haiti, Syria, El Salvador, Honduras, or Nicaragua to name a few, go pay an immigration attorney a consultation fee to review your case and let you know if you have chance and if its in your best interest to apply or not.

If you came into the U.S. illegally, your immigration options are limited, but not completely hopeless.

If you need an immigration attorney anywhere in the United States, but certainly if you live in Orlando or Jacksonville, please call Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon.
If you are not a citizen and concerned about your immigration options, call us today for a consultation.

You can reach John at John@slgattorneys.com
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