By Attorneys Devin M. Connolly & Nancy E. Miller
In his State of the Union address President Obama again spoke about the necessity of passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform (“CIR”). There was applause from those in attendance, and excitement throughout the United States from those who have been waiting a significant period of time for CIR to be passed. Despite this excitement, though, it does not appear that CIR will be passed in the immediate future.
Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner followed President Obama’s remarks by stating that he thought it would be difficult to get any legislation approved in 2014. In addition, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has also said that he does not believe there will be an agreement on CIR in 2014 because there is an "irresolvable conflict" between the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.
Thus, to the disappointment of many, it does not appear that CIR will become a reality in 2014. However, there are still numerous ways to obtain a green card right now. At Reeves Miller Zhang & Diza we would encourage everyone to fully explore all of their options. The following examples are just a few ways to immediately obtain a green card.
One option for those patiently waiting for immigration reform to pass is filing a family-based immigrant petition. Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (spouse, unmarried child under the age of 21or parent if the U.S. citizen is over the age of 21) have special immigration priority and do not have to wait in line for a visa number to become available for them to immigrate. In conjunction with an approved immigrant visa petition is the possibility of obtaining a provisional waiver if the foreign citizen is not eligible for adjustment of status.
A provisional waiver helps intending immigrants who are unable to adjust but will invoke the 10-year unlawful presence bar upon leaving the United States to consular process. Most waivers require that the immigrant who is consular processing submit the application for any waiver from outside the United States. Provisional waivers allow the applicant to submit the request from inside the U.S. and wait for the decision here. Once approved, the applicant departs for their immigrant visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. This pre-approved waiver avoids lengthy separation of family members. The provisional waiver is only for the inadmissibility ground of unlawful presence. It applies to aliens who entered the United States without inspection (i.e. without papers), who came in on a crewman visa, who entered the United States on a fiancé visa but did not marry their petitioner and who entered on a visa but overstayed or violated the visa and are not in the immediate relative category.
Another option is cancellation of removal. Cancellation of removal allows qualified individuals to obtain a green card if they have lived in the U.S. for at least ten years, have good moral character and can show that their U.S. citizen, or Lawful Permanent Resident parent, spouse or child would suffer exceptional and extremely unusual hardship if the applicant were forced to leave the United States. Applicants are eligible to obtain employment authorization as soon as their application is filed. With work authorization, one may apply for a social security number, work legally and obtain a state-issued driver’s license.
Another option is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”). Though not a green card, DACA is also a wonderful option for individuals brought to the U.S. by their parents when they were young. In general, DACA is available to a person who: (1) was under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012; (2) entered the U.S. before the age of 16; (3) has resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007 up to the present date; (4) is currently out of status; (5) is in school or has graduated from school in the U.S. (or is a veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces); and, (7) has not been convicted of a felony or a significant misdemeanor.
In addition, a DACA applicant can apply for work authorization. As stated before, this will allow them to obtain a social security number, work legally, and obtain a state-issued driver’s license. DACA is granted for a period of two years and can be renewed upon expiration in two-year increments.
Waiting for potential reform is not productive for those who already have a viable path to legal status in the U.S. After all, more than one million individuals obtain legal permanent resident status each year. It is important to remember that there are potentially many other options available to you.