Stepping foot in the U.S. without approval is unlawful. This also applies to staying in the country after your visa has expired and you’ve violated specific terms and conditions of your legal entry. Fortunately, for undocumented or illegal immigrants, immigration law has options for those who still want to live in the U.S. and live the American dream.
Marrying a Citizen of the United States
According to U.S. Immigration statutes, marrying a U.S. citizen — whether of the opposite or same sex — would make you an immediate relative. Theoretically, you’ll be eligible for a green card if your marriage is genuine (not just to get a green card) and that you pass the application process. You could run into some issues, however, due to your present illegal status.
Likewise, marrying a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. would make you eligible for a green card, but you need to wait for a significant time before you could be given a visa.
Applying for Asylum
To be eligible to apply for asylum in the U.S., you have to show proof that you’ve been persecuted or are in a position to be persecuted in the future. This is in your own country due to your nationality, religion, race, or political opinion. Immigration lawyers in Utah say that you could apply for your green card a year after being granted asylum, but you risk being deported if you’re denied.
Serving in the United States Military
If you were on active duty or have served in the U.S. Army honorably during certain conflicts or wars, you’re automatically eligible to apply for citizenship. What’s more, you won’t need to apply for a U.S. green card and could go straight to applying for citizenship.
Applying for Temporary Protected Status or TPS
If your home country has recently been devastated by a natural or an environmental disaster, has recently experienced a civil war, or has been in any other kind of trouble that would make it unsafe for you to return or stay there, you could apply for a temporary protected status. Note that this isn’t a green card and it also won’t lead to you being granted green card. It would, however, enable you to legally reside and work in the U.S. for up to 18 months.
The path to becoming a U.S. citizen is hard and full of surprises, especially if you’re an undocumented or illegal immigrant. While you have options, the requirements for these are extremely specific. To that end, you should consider working with an experienced immigration lawyer to find out the best option for your specific circumstances.