How can I adjust my legal status?
There are many paths to take to obtain various visas and absolution of undocumented status, and people often wonder whether or not their employer filing on their behalf is one of those options, especially if the employee in question is undocumented. There are many work visas that employers can use, but whether or not they apply to employees here unlawfully, illegally, or without status in the United States is the brass tacks of what many immigrants want to know. Unfortunately, the answer is complex.
One of the most difficult endeavors in immigration law is the pathway from having no status, expired status, or being undocumented. No matter which way you identify, changing from that status into a legal status can be quite complicated. In fact, transitioning from illegal to legal status can sometimes be an impossibility; however, there are a few ways that a person might be eligible to make that difficult transition and adjust their status to permanent residence in the United States.
Of the many avenues people take to adjust their legal status, one of the oldest is under section 245-I. We don’t often see this option, as it’s been such a long time since it’s last been renewed. The last time USCIS renewed this ruling and made it available was nearly twenty years ago. To be eligible for this rule, an employer would have had to file an application on behalf of the undocumented employee before April 30, 2001, with the employee being physically in the United States by December 17, 2000. With the length of time that has passed since the 245-I ruling was an option, it’s understandable that we don’t often meet many people who fit those requirements. In the off chance that you do, or you are a beneficiary under somebody who benefited from section 245-I, that application serves as a waiver, or a perdón, as we say in Spanish.
Are you willing to return home for a chance to legally come back into the United States?
Another opportunity to adjust legal status is one that requires your willingness to return back to your country so you can apply for a waiver for a non-immigrant visa, such as any work visa, but only if you first go back to your country. The problem is that there is no guarantee of success, so there is a bit of risk involved in returning to your native country. For most people, though, the risk does not outweigh the possible reward, as many people who’ve lived here for years and know no life outside of what they have made in the United States—homes, children in school, deep ties to their community. Without knowing with certainty that they’re going to get approved for that waiver, traveling back to their native country is simply out of the question.
Could you be eligible for a work permit?
There is an option for which many people are eligible to adjust their legal status, which comes in obtaining a work permit. Remedies such as U-visa, DACA, or VAWA allow an eligible undocumented person to obtain a work permit through these limited programs, even if that person illegally entered the United States. Each program has its own set of requirements for eligibility that we’d be happy to discuss in detail with you.
Separate from a pathway to citizenship or legal standing is the possibility of obtaining deferred action. If you or someone you know is a young person who came to this country, DACA may be an opportunity about which you may want to speak to a lawyer.
Victims of Violent or Domestic Crimes
If you or a loved one has been a victim of domestic violence with a spouse who is a permanent resident or US citizen, it’s very much worth discussing your options with an immigration lawyer who can help you identify the best and safest means to stay in the United States.
If you have been a victim of a violent crime and you cooperate with the police and prosecutors, you may be eligible for U Visa. Whether or not you know who committed the violent crime against you or if either of you is undocumented is irrelevant.
Those are all different pathways to take without having to leave the country.
Overstaying Your Visa
Another predicament immigrants may find themselves in is having overstayed their visa, failing to return to their native country when they were supposed to have done so. This happens, and it’s usually for a lengthy period of time that the person has overstayed their visa. Most often, an employer is unfortunately not able to file for their employee to rectify this particular situation. As mentioned, unless you qualify for one of the options mentioned previously, there just are not many options for people who are undocumented to transition from undocumented to visa status legally within the United States, even if they have an employer who is willing to cooperate and work on their behalf. Simply put, it’s not as easy as you would think.
The options discussed here are just a few of the ways a person can work to adjust their legal status. If you think you might be eligible for one of the programs discussed here, it’s more than worthwhile to talk to a lawyer to see where you stand. As an immigration attorney, the need would be to evaluate various details about your background and your immigration history to make sure that we account for all of the possibilities and scenarios that could make you eligibility for adjusting your legal status or deferring action against you.
At Peek & Toland, we’d love to help you gain peace of mind and take steps to rectify your legal standing. Please tune into our updates every Immigration Wednesday or follow us on social media for up-to-date information.