What if I came here illegally?
How to get a green card
If you came here illegally the first thing you want to do is get legal status. And by legal status I mean getting a green card. Some people who enter the United States illegally may also be eligible for asylum if they have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of their race, religion, ethnicity, political opinion or membership in a particular social ground and the government of their home country is unwilling or unable to protect them.
There are many ways to get a green card but the most common way, especially for someone who came here illegally is through the family green card process involving an immediate family member. So as an immigration attorney, I have done cases for people who came here illegally for a very long time, like for more than 20 years and had an immigration petition filed by their adult son or daughter (over 21) in order to get their parents a green card and just to see the look of joy on their faces, it’s just amazing.
The other way to get a family based green card is through marriage. So if you came here came here illegally and you are in a real marriage with a United States citizen, then you can also be on a path to get a green card but here is the deal. Oftentimes you cannot get a green card directly without leaving the United States unless you are 245i eligible or you qualify for parole in place. Most people will have to get to a green card through a process called consular processing.
First an immigration petition is filed for you while you remain in the United States. Once the petition is approved then an unlawful presence waiver is filed by you and once it is approved and immigrant visa processing is completed by the National Visa Center and you have an interview date at an embassy abroad, e.g. Cuidad Juarez, you leave the United States to attend your interview.
After you have attended the interview overseas you will get your immigrant visa and upon returning you will become a permanent resident upon admission back to the United States and you will get your green card in the mail, usually within 60 days. This type of family green card processing time can typically be around 12 -15 months. By this I mean the time from when the petition is filed until you get green card status.
If you stay married and live with that US citizen for three years after gaining permanent resident status (your green card), then you can apply for naturalization to become a US citizen. Otherwise you typically have to wait for 5 years.
Some persons in removal proceedings may qualify for a green card using cancellation of removal. This will be discussed in a different post. If you have any green card issues such how to get a green card for a family member of a permanent resident or questions about immigration waivers, book an appointment to discuss your case with an experienced Las Vegas green card attorney. Call 702-423-2721. We would be happy to assist.