As an immigration lawyer, I frequently meet with people who have entered the United States without a visa or without being inspected by an immigration officer at an airport or border. Such people have sneaked their way into the United States and now they seek a green card or some other legal status. We immigration lawyers refer to this class of people as EWIs (entry without inspection). What immigration options are available to someone who has no proof of being properly admitted and inspected upon entry into the U.S.?
One common path to permanent residency status is through marriage to a U.S. citizen. But U.S. immigration laws only allow someone to get a green card or become a permanent resident through adjustment of status if they can prove that they entered the U.S. with a valid visa. Proof of entry requires an I-94 record of entry, which is why this little piece of paper might be the most important document for your green card case.
If you haven’t entered the U.S. with a visa and with inspection by an immigration officer, and are not required to appear in Immigration Court before an Immigration Judge, your immigration options are mostly limited to:
245(i): you can get a green card through marriage, a family member or through employment even if you entered without inspection, overstayed your status or worked without authorization, if you can take advantage of 245(i), which requires you to have been the beneficiary of an approvable labor certification or visa petition (I-130, I-140, I-360, I-526), which was filed on or before April 30, 2001 and were physically present in the U.S. on December 21, 2000. USCIS requires a fee of $1,000.
TPS: Temporary Protective Status is available for people who entered the U.S. without inspection. Although TPS is not a green card and doesn’t lead to permanent residency status, those with TPS are eligible for employment authorization, work permits, and may not be deported. TPS is only available for certain nationals of Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan and certain other countries designated by the Department of Homeland Security.
VAWA: The Violence Against Women Act or VAWA provides a path to a green card for victim of an abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident parent or spouse even if they entered the U.S. without inspection or parole.
Asylum, Withholding of Removal, and Convention Against Torture: these persecution-based forms of immigration relief are for people who are afraid to return to their country of origin. Proof of proper entry and inspection isn’t required.
Cancellation of Removal for Non-lawful Permanent Residents: You can obtain a green card by applying for cancellation of removal in Immigration Court before an immigration Judge if you have been continuously present in the U.S. for 10 years, can demonstrate good moral character, and can show that your deportation would cause “exceptional and extremely unusual” hardship to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, child or parent.
Other immigration options may exist for those who have entered without inspection. If you would like to find out more information about these and other options, feel free to call me in my Boston immigration law office at 617-722-0005. I’d be happy to meet with you and evaluate your options.