Foreign citizens who are currently in the United States unlawfully might feel like they have no hope of gaining lawful resident status – but if they meet certain conditions, even those who are here illegally can qualify for a green card and lawful permanent resident status through a section of U.S. immigration law known as registry. The law allows anyone who entered the U.S. before January 1st, 1972, and who has resided in the U.S. continuously since that year, who is of good moral character, who is eligible for naturalization and who is not currently deportable to be granted a green card and all of the rights and benefits that go along with it.
Filing for a Green Card through Registry
To begin the process of getting a green card and lawful permanent resident status, immigrants who meet the qualifications of the registry program described above have to fill out United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Form I-485, which is officially known as an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
In addition to the application form, the USCIS will require two passport sized photos, a copy of a government issued photo ID, a copy of a birth certificate, a copy of the nonimmigrant visa (if applicable), a copy of the passport admission / entry stamp (if applicable), evidence that the immigrant entered the U.S. before January 1st, 1972, evidence that the immigrant maintained continuous residence since that date, USCIS Form I-94 Arrival / Departure Record (if applicable), and a USCIS Form G-325A Biographic Information form if the immigrant is between the ages of 14 and 79. These documents should be attached to the application form and reviewed by an attorney prior to being submitted to USCIS.
If applying for a green card under the registry program, immigrants are not required to undergo a medical examination.
Working Legally Until a Green Card is Approved
Even though they may qualify for a green card under the rules of the registry program, immigrants are not automatically allowed to begin legally working in the United States until the green card is approved or until a work authorization is granted. The work authorization allows immigrants with certain types of immigration applications pending to work legally in the United States while the application is being reviewed and decided.
For best results, immigrants who would like to apply for a green card under the registry program should work with an experienced immigration attorney. The attorney will help the immigrant by explaining the legal process and completing the necessary application forms on the immigrant’s behalf. While it may not seem like a big deal, a single mistake in filling out an application may result in an application denial that is not actually warranted. An attorney will know exactly how to fill out and prepare all of the necessary paperwork for the application process, and can even help immigrants whose applications for a registry green card have been denied in the past. The attorney can review the facts of an initial denial to determine whether or not pursuing an appeal would be a good idea.