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How to Apply For a Green Card Without Leaving the US

Romish Badani

Are you or a family member currently in the U.S. without legal immigration status but looking to get a green card to permanently reside in the country? If so, you aren't alone. Many people are in the same situation and wondering how they can get a green card without returning to their home country. There are two potential paths available to you:

1. Apply Through "Adjustment of Status"

An immigration pathway called Adjustment of Status allows "immediate relatives" of U.S. citizens to get a green card without leaving the country if they initially entered the country legally. You are eligible even if you are now in the country "illegally" (e.g. overstayed a visa) or have worked without authorization. Immediate relatives eligible for this route include:

- Spouses of U.S. citizens

- Parents of U.S. citizens, if the child sponsoring the parent is over 21 years old

- Children of U.S. citizens, if the child is under 21 years old

You would still need to be eligible for and successfully apply for a family visa.

2. Apply Through the 245(i) Rule

What if you aren't eligible for Adjustment of Status because you don't fall into one of the three "immediate relative" categories or because you did not enter the country legally? There still may be another option available to you, called Section 245(i). This rule allows certain people to adjust their status if they filed a visa application or labor certification on or before April 30, 2001. Even if you have filed a more recent immigration petition, as long as you filed an application by that date you would be eligible for 245(i) and not have to leave the country to obtain a green card. If you filed the application between January 15, 1998 and April 30, 2001 you will need to prove that you were physically present in the country on December 21, 2000.

We certainly hope that you are eligible for one of these two immigration paths if you are currently in the country without lawful immigration status and have family members who can sponsor you. If not, you may need to attend a consulate interview overseas before your application is approved. Other options may be available, but you should first consult an experienced immigration attorney to determine your options.


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