Legal vs illegal entryAn individual who enters the United States through a border crossing and get inspected by an Immigration Officer is considered to have entered the country legally. Citizens of certain countries, such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and many other (mostly from the western world) do not need a visa if they are planning to stay up to 90 days as visitors. For all others, a proper visa has to be issued before an individual comes to the United States border. Once someone enters the U.S. his visa becomes known as “status”. On the other hand, many individuals enter the country without proper documentation, many times risking their lives going through the desert, crossing rivers, often without food and water for many days. All of that just to find a better life. They also become victims of human trafficking.
Visa extension and change of statusMany individuals who already entered the U.S. have decided to proceed with as many extensions of their status as they legally can. A good example would be a foreign student who entered on J1 visa to work during the summer and decided to stay longer. This type of visa could not be extended, but an individual would be able to change his status to some other type of visa, like a B2 visa, which gives him the right to travel but not to work for an additional six months. However, we are not the country that automatically grants permanent residency after couple of years of being here, so at one point an individual will run out of all “temporary” options and he will have to leave the country. At that point, some people comply with the terms and leave, but some of them decide to stay without permission. Overstaying is almost the same as illegal entry and an individual might face deportation. Overstaying also leads into further consequences, such as a ban of entering the country at a later date. If someone overstays for more than six months, he will have a ban of entering the country for five years. For overstaying more than a year, this ban goes to 10 years.
Possible reliefOptions of obtaining a relief after overstaying or entering the U.S. illegally are “everything or nothing”. No temporary visa is available beyond that point, so options are usually limited to adjustment of status to permanent residency based on employment or family petition and asylum seeking.
One thing that can cause a problem is if the immigrant commits a crime. For example, if the Orange County Sheriff's Department arrests an immigrant for Driving Under the Influence, this may put the legal status in jeopardy. If this happens,make sure the immigrant contacts an Orange County DUI lawyer as soon as possible.
Green card based on employment as a form of reliefThis is the one of most common ways that many workers try to get to. In reality, there is an annual quota for qualified and non-qualified workers set in place. Waiting for “the number” might take more than 10 years and there is no visa which would keep someone that long in the country. In addition to that, the company that filed for an alien has to “survive” through the whole process and prove that no U.S. citizen or resident was available to take that position. The very first step would be obtaining “Certificate from Department of Labor” and then waiting for quota for many years. It appears as a long, expensive and stressed process.
Adjustment of status based on family relationOnly spouse and parents of U.S. citizen have visa immediately available. the term “immediately available” means that there is no annual quota of how many individuals can obtain permanent residency per year. Very important thing is that the marriage entered with U.S. citizen has to be real, which means that the marriage cannot be made for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits. Individuals who decide to enter any type of “deal”, just to get a “green card” are subjects to 5 years of Federal imprisonment. In reality, soon after they get “cut”, they agree with deportation as some type of “plea bargain”, in the order to avoid this long sentence. Even the ones that “tricked” authorities and obtained paperwork based on false marriage are subject to deportation. Sisters and brothers of U.S. citizens have to wait for quota.
Asylum seekersSeeking asylum means that an individual has life threatening conditions in his country. While many people in reality run away from the war just to save their lives, some other try to take advantage and give false statements just to obtain residency or avoid deportation. It is worth to mention that an individual has a year after entering the country to apply for asylum. After the year has expired, it is still possible to file for asylum, but even if granted – it would be just “withholding of removal”. Beyond the “year”, situation and circumstances in individual’s country have to be very different - worse (war started etc) than during the first year of residency in the order for asylum to be approved. Many people believe that poverty is a reason good enough for asylum seeking, but asylum based on financial circumstances and poor economy in seeker’s country does not exist.
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