How Illegals Get Square With The Law
By Michael Rehak
In 2003, the illegal immigrant population in the U.S. was cited at 8 million. Today the number may be as high as 12 million. Despite the sheer size of those numbers, many have the opportunity to gain legal status – even if the law says they are not supposed to be here.
The three possible methods of legalization include getting married to a lawful permanent resident, having a close relative who is legalized and can sponsor you, or finding a job.
The first two are pretty straightforward. The marriage entrance is not always as simple as signing on the dotted line, mostly because of federal checks that ensure that a couple is actually married, living together and has the appearance of being a couple – often people have sham marriages just for citizenship, and that can lead to deportation.
As for the sponsor route, it is best to have the sponsor lined up and to enter the country legally. If political pressures or fear for one’s life force a person to come to the country before getting permission, the process can be trickier.
“It’s not that easy,” said Jose Rey, a Jackson Heights immigration attorney. “You have to prove your life was in danger”
Rey said legalization fees start at $1,000 to apply for a visa, but the total cost varies by the individual because of background checks that could reveal unpaid taxes.
The first thing an illegal immigrant needs is a Green Card, and there are a number of fees, background checks and waiting lists to deal with; but the process is intended to help people who might have overstayed their visa or found their way here by some other means.
The first step is getting a visa petition approved on your behalf.
In cases where an illegal immigrant has no legal family here or isn’t planning to marry, the reach for the American Dream can happen by opening a newspaper and going through the classified section. There, an illegal immigrant must consider what jobs he or she might qualify for and apply.
When an agreement is made with an employer that a particular job is the right fit, the employer needs to step in – submitting an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration division will then process a labor certification request that, once authorized, will give the applicant a State Department-issued immigrant visa number. When one becomes available, you must apply to adjust to permanent resident status.
If your petition is denied, an appeal may be requested within 33 days of receiving a notice.
In many circumstances, an illegal immigrant will need to seek the advice of a legal counsel.
People like Jose Rey and others in the legal profession in Queens are always willing to advise those looking to clear the path toward citizenship.