Normalizing Your Immigration Status Part 1: Adjusting Status and Consular Processing
Trying to normalize your immigration status if you do not currently have proper documentation is an immensely important but difficult process if you hope to be able to remain in the United States. Without proper documentation you can be held in immigration detention and deported back to your home country for that charge alone. President Obama's Deferred Action program allows a small handful of undocumented immigrants a handful of immigration benefits but does not currently provide a path to permanent residency of citizenship even for those who qualify for the program.
In this series of posts I will be discussing one of the pathways to normalizing your immigration status administratively. This pathway will not be applicable to all immigrants and you should consult with a qualified immigration attorney about the specific details of your case.
The easiest way of normalizing your status in the United States is obtaining a visa which allows for residency in the United States and then adjusting your status. Adjustment of status is a process whereby a visa which allows for travel to the United States for permanent residency is converted into a "green card" or lawful permanent residency status. Generally speaking adjustment of status without being in current valid visa status will only be available to immediate alien relatives (Spouse, Minor Child, Parent) granted an I-130 visa and a handful of other exceptional circumstances.
However adjustment of status is not immediately available to most visa applicants and they instead need to use Consular Processing. Consular Processing is a process where you must return to your home country and conduct a visa interview with an officer of the Department of State at the local U.S. Consulate. Obviously if you are living in the United States this process can be difficult, expensive and potentially very time consuming. If you do not qualify for adjustment of status for some reason (entry without inspection, failure to maintain non-immigrant status, criminal record etc.) then you will likely be forced to use consular processing even if your visa would otherwise allow you to adjust status immediately.
However for most individuals currently out of status in the United States Consular Processing also raises the danger of being found inadmissible to the United States even if you otherwise qualify for a visa. The most common reason for this inadmissability is "unlawful presence".
I will discuss inadmissibility and unlawful presence in the next part of this series.