What Are Your Options When You’re Undocumented?


If you are currently undocumented it can be difficult to get a green card. There are a few paths to permanent residency, though they are not easy. 

Undocumented immigrants have 3 paths to a Green Card. The first is a family reunification path. The second is an employment path. The third is a humanitarian path. If you are undocumented you will need a Green Card before applying for citizenship.

Family Reunification

If you have a spouse, parent, or unmarried child who is a adult United States Citizen then you may qualify for a family reunification card.

There are also 226,000 Green Cards set aside every year for siblings, children, and spouses of Green card holders. You will need an attorney’s help to pursue this path because it is by no means a straightforward one.

Employment-Based Visa

If you work in a qualifying profession or have an advanced degree you may be able to take advantage of an employment visa. There are 140,000 of these visas available every year.

You’ll need an employer-sponsor, and that employer will need to demonstrate they couldn’t find a qualified US citizen to fill the role you’re trying to fill. 


If you are an undocumented immigrant who has been in the country for less than a year, and can demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution if you return to your home country, then you may apply for asylum.

Some undocumented immigrants may be able to get a T-visa (victims of human trafficking), a VAWA visa (if your spouse, a US Citizen, abused you), or a U-visa if you were a victim of a crime, suffered physical and mental abuse as a result of that crime, and assisted law enforcement in bringing the perpetrators of the crime to justice. 

Cancellation of removal green cards also fall under this humanitarian “umbrella.” To qualify you must be in danger of imminent deportation and you must have lived in the United States for more than ten years. If your cancellation of removal proceeding is successful you will receive an immediate green card.

Cancellation of removal requires you to meet a number of requirements: residency requirements, requirements which help you demonstrate good moral character, and certain hardship standards. You will absolutely need an attorney to help you navigate this part of the process. 


Under current laws many undocumented immigrants would have to leave the country to apply for a green card. This usually means navigating some hefty re-entry bars. 

For example, if you were an unlawful resident for more than 6 months then you’ll be barred from re-entry for 3 years. If you lived here unlawfully for more than a year then you won’t be able to re-enter for ten years.

There are ways around this, but you would have to prove that your absence would cause an extreme hardship for a spouse or parent who is either a US citizen or a green card holder. You would have to show that there would be financial, mental, emotional, or other types of severe repercussions if you are not there to help that person out.

There’s one more complication: wait times. No country may receive more than 7% of any of the visas issued in a year. That means it can take years and years for a green card to become available, especially if you are from a high-volume country like India or Mexico.

All of this means that it pays to work closely with an immigration attorney when you finally get your chance to become eligible for a card. Don’t miss your shot because something has gone wrong during the application process. Get help making sure the job is done right the first time. This is doubly true if you are attempting a cancellation of removal procedure, since you can meet all of the qualifications and still get deported at a judge’s discretion. Working with an attorney can mean the difference between getting to stay and having to go.

See also: 

7 Ways to Get a Green Card

Can an Extramarital Affair Disqualify You for a Green Card?

What Must an Employer Do Before Hiring an H-1B Worker?

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Employment & Investment Visas

Although it often comes with controversy, immigration into the United States has always played a major role in the strength of its economy. Perhaps no one understands this more than the residents of Philadelphia, where the Liberty Bell still welcomes foreigners to one of the richest historical communities of our country.


Family Visas

Not knowing or understanding the system and laws of the U.S. can be a disadvantage for many foreign immigrants who wish to obtain permanent residency in the United States, either for themselves or for their loved ones. Hykel Law’s Family-Based Immigration Services can lead you through the complicated process to achieve either temporary or permanent residency, depending on your situation.


Deportation Defense

Are you afraid of deportation? If you are a foreign national involved in the beginning stages of removal proceedings, the deportation attorney at Hykel Law in Philadelphia can help prevent this unfortunate situation. We can evaluate your immigration case and find the best strategy to defend you from removal proceedings to help you stay in the United States.

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