Family-based Green Card Applicants
Each day, more people are becoming eligible for permanent residence or “Green Card Status” in the United States based on family member petitions. Unfortunately for many family-based green card applicants, not knowing about the “Permanent Bar” and other grounds of inadmissibility can mean spending years outside the United States separated from family members instead of receiving green cards.
It’s helpful to first understand the different family-based visa categories. Every month, the Department of State issues a “Visa Bulletin”, which lists the time frames that some beneficiaries of family-sponsored green card applications must wait. According to the latest bulletin, spouses and minor children of current green card holders are waiting the shortest amount of time for their applications to become current. While adult children and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens are waiting for the longest. Some of the visa categories can have wait times of several years or even decades.
Who is considered ‘immediate relatives’
In contrast to the preference categories of the visa bulletin, there are certain people who are considered by immigration to be “immediate relatives”, which means that there is an immediately available immigrant visa or green card available to them. Family members who are considered immediate relatives include 1) spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens, and 2) parents of U.S. citizen children who are twenty-one years or older. For these immediate relatives, there is no waiting period and they can apply for their green card status immediately. Whether the green card will be approved, however, depends on several factors.
One of the biggest factors affecting the ability of applicants to receive green card status has to do with whether or not the green card applicant entered the United States legally- if so, they can apply to “adjust their status” to that of a permanent resident without having to leave the country. If the beneficiary did not enter the United States legally, however, they are unable to adjust their status and have to leave the United States in order to obtain a legal entry with a visa.
Leaving the United States, however, can be very risky for some people, particularly those who have been in the U.S. for more than a year without authorization. Those green card applicants are subject to the “unlawful presence bar”, meaning they will be barred from receiving a visa for 10 years if they leave the U.S. Thankfully, there is a waiver for this “unlawful presence bar” that can now be filed and adjudicated prior to the applicant leaving the country in order to obtain the immigrant visa.
The dreaded “permanent bar”
A much bigger problem for green card applicants comes from the dreaded “permanent bar.” Green card applicants who have entered the U.S. illegally after a prior deportation, or have entered the U.S. illegally after having previously been in the U.S. unlawfully for a year or more, are subject to a permanent bar, for which there is no waiver available until the applicant has stayed outside the country for at least 10 years.
This permanent bar is a very serious and harsh punishment imposed on some of those who have a prior history of an illegal entry. Applicants are cautioned to be sure that they will not be subject to the permanent or any other bars to admission prior to leaving the country, as they may find it very difficult to return.
In Lake County, call 440.946.7656
In Cuyahoga County, call 216.861.4211