Immigration amnesty simply means the process of granting legal immigration status to persons who are in the United States illegally. Persons who entered the US illegally or persons whose immigration status has expired may qualify for immigration amnesty.
Immigration amnesty is mostly granted to specific groups of people and granted only to those persons who have committed no other illegal activity apart from being in the country illegally.
From 1986, Congress has occasionally passed legislation granting immigration amnesty to specific groups of persons. Immigration amnesty is a much debated issue. Some are of the belief that blanket amnesty should be granted to all persons who are in the US illegally but who have committed no other crimes. They also believe that if all the persons who are in the US illegally were removed, the US would suffer severe economic setbacks.
Though there are no perfect statistics about the number of illegal immigrants in the US, it is roughly estimated that 12 million persons are in the US without legal immigration status, although this figure itself is highly debated.
Some who are against immigration amnesty point out that persons who are in the country illegally have already broken the law and should not be granted legal immigration status. They also claim that granting immigration amnesty will embarrass immigrants who follow the rules when applying for immigration status.
The process while seeking immigration amnesty is:
- You have to first check if you are eligible for immigration amnesty. As mentioned earlier, the laws concerning this issue change frequently. Normally, if you have overstayed your visa or have entered the US without the proper visa, you may qualify for immigration amnesty. If you fulfill the eligibility requirements, your child/ren or spouse will also qualify to apply for a change of immigration status in the US
- Get a qualified immigration attorney who can help you about your immigration status. Applying for immigration amnesty is a a very sophisticated process because the legislation regarding amnesty changes quite frequently. You can contact the local bar association or the American Immigration Lawyers Association to find a qualified attorney who specializes in immigration issues. Though you be competent enough to fill the forms yourself, consulting an immigration attorney can help you understand the best way to proceed.
- You will be required to fill the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485).
- Complete Form I-485 and submit it to the USCIS. The application will come with detailed instructions as well as information about the supporting documents that you have to include. You will have legal status and can also apply for a work permit while your case is pending. Apply for a work permit so that you can remain and work legally in the US while your application is being processed.
- The USCIS will review your application and will inform you about their decision. As you wait for the decision regarding your application, there are certain things you are not supposed to do. You cannot leave the US without completing certain documentation and forms. Ensure that you follow all such rules to see to that your application is not rejected.