To become a U.S. citizen you must first become a permanent resident. Then you must wait five years (or three years if you are married to and living with a U.S. citizen) before you can apply for U.S. citizenship.


If your child is a U.S. citizen, then when they turn 21, they may be able to help you become a legal immigrant.

Also, if your child has special needs, this may help you stay in the U.S. if you are being deported. But it does not automatically make you eligible and will not stop Immigration from deporting you.

It is not easy for an undocumented immigrant to become a permanent resident. Unfortunately, the process of becoming a permanent resident from an undocumented immigrant is too complicated to full explain in this guide.  But the table below gives you some information.

If you have questions or think any of these laws apply to you, talk to an immigration lawyer or a community organization that helps immigrants.

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)

If you are unmarried, under 21, and were abused, neglected, or abandoned by your parents in the U.S. or your home country, you may qualify for SIJS and permanent residency. Many applicants for SIJS

  • are or were in foster care,
  • have or had a court-appointed guardian, or
  • are in delinquency court.

You must have an order from a juvenile court to qualify for SIJS.

Important! If you get married or turn 21, you will not be able to qualify for SIJS.

U Visas If you (or your child or parent) have been a victim of certain kinds of crimes, and you help or agree to help the police, you may qualify for a U Visa and permanent residence.

These crimes include

  • domestic violence (abuse by someone you live with, are related to, have a child with, and/or are or were in a relationship with),
  • sexual assault,
  • rape,
  • assault, and
  • certain other serious crimes.

If you have been the victim of a crime, you should talk to a lawyer about the U Visa law.

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) If your parent, stepparent, adoptive parent, or legal spouse (who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident) abuses you, this law allows you to apply for permanent resident status.
Permanent Residency through a Relative If you have a qualified relative, you might be able to apply for permanent residence.

A qualified relative includes your

  • parent, stepparent, or adoptive parent who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident,
  • husband or wife who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and
  • child, sister, or brother who is a U.S. citizen and at least 21.

Becoming a permanent resident through a relative is very complicated and can take many years. There are many rules that make it difficult for applicants.

Asylum You can qualify for asylum if you or someone in your family had to leave your country (or cannot return to your country) because of danger or serious harm related to political, religious, or racial problems.
Cancellation of Removal (Order to Stop Deportation)

Cancellation of removal is very difficult to get. But you may qualify to apply if

  • you have lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years,
  • you have a child who is a U.S. citizen, and
  • immigration is trying to deport you now.
Other There are other ways to legalize your status that are not listed here. You should check in regularly with an immigration lawyer or a community organization that helps immigrants. The laws change almost every year. And, sometimes the courts interpret old laws differently. Even if you cannot legalize your status now, the laws may change.

 

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