Potential clients often call my office to find out about how one can stay in the U.S. My answer is usually the same. I tell them that generally speaking (although not exhaustive), the paths to permanent residency (green card) are based on some family relationship and/or employment based relationship. Unfortunately, even within these broad categories there are same prerequisites that are necessary. For the most part (with some minor exceptions) unless you are basing your application based on marriage to a US citizen, or based on an application filed by your son or daughter (21 and over), you must be in status at the time the priority date is current. This usually takes the person out of that category’s eligibility, as most callers are already out of status.
However, before ending my call I usually ask the caller what country the person is from and whether they are afraid to go back to their country based on one of five grounds that asylum provides. I will not take up these five grounds in this article and save that for a future blog. The caller is usually surprised to find out that the law allows such persons to file an application for asylum and be entitled to work authorization five months after filing even if they are out of status. Some ask how they can prove their claims. I explain to them that the law may consider their testimony alone enough to win their case, but that usually we can provide extrinsic evidence through third parties to further bolster and corroborate their claims.
Most callers are pleasantly surprised to find out about this permanent residency path. Some even ask if they marry a U.S. citizen while their asylum is pending whether they can change the case to a marriage based application. The answer is usually yes.
The point is that there may be avenues of relief in immigration law. So, think outside the box and explore all options.