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How Can You Gain Legal Status in the USA?

By Michael Brooks-Jimenez

These days, the change in government has everyone asking big questions about citizenship, naturalization, and family immigration, such as “how can an undocumented immigrant become legal?” and “can an undocumented immigrant become legal by marrying a citizen?”. Matters of legal status in the USA, such as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) as well as issues of deportation and removal defense, are at the forefront of everyone’s minds right now.

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Let’s go over a couple of ways in which you can gain legal status in the USA. Remeber, our immigration system is complicated, and these are just two ways to gain legal status in the United States. For more specific advice according to your circumstances, we advise you to reach out to an immigration attorney in OKC.

Legal Status through Work

There is a difference between a green card and a work permit. If you want to enter the country because of a job, you may apply for a work visa with the support of your employer. Employment-Based Immigrants can be classified in several groups, including priority workers, Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability and Employment Creators/Investors. An immigration lawyer can help you find out which of these apply to you and how to go about the application process.

There are religious worker visas for people who come to work as a minister or in a religious occupation. Some requirements are that you “must be a member of the same religious denomination as the religious organization you plan to work for in the United States for at least two years before that organization files a petition on your behalf”, and you must work at least 20 hours a week on said religious organization. If you require additional waivers or consular processing, you might be better off seeking an immigration consultation to fine-tune the details.

Legal Status through a Family Member

When people think of how to get papers for undocumented immigrants, most immediately think they can get legal status through marriage with an American citizen. Same-sex marriage now gives the same immigration rights as previously granted only by “traditional” marriage.

A U.S. citizen may bring their intended over on a fiancée visa, provided they get married within a short period of time and then apply for a permanent immigrant spouse visa. If the marriage already took place in a foreign country, there are other options for applying for an immigrant or non-immigrant visa for a spouse. This should not be thought of as an easy fix for how to get a visa for an undocumented immigrant, or an answer for how can an undocumented immigrant get a green card, as the Department of State is stringent about marriages being real, and will follow through.

There is one more way to apply for legal permanent residence, and that is if a close relative of yours has legal status. The Department of State says that “Your relative in the United States will need to sponsor you and prove he/she has enough income or assets to support you, the intending immigrant(s) when in the United States.”

There are different priorities depending on the relation to the legal resident:

  • First Preference: Unmarried son and daughters of U.S. citizens.
  • Second Preference: Spouses and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and over) of permanent residents.
  • Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, including their spouses and minor children.
  • Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, including their spouses and minor children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years of age.

Note: Grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins cannot sponsor a relative for immigration.

For more questions, such as “can an illegal immigrant become legal after 10 years?”, “how can an illegal immigrant get a social security number?” and more involved issues such as an immigration detainer or special immigrant juvenile status, visit our offices in Oklahoma city, and we’ll be happy to advise you.

Para leer esta nota en Español, haga clic aquí.