Law & Legal & Attorney Immigration Law

Immigration Legalization Questions


    • If you have lived in the United States since before Jan. 1, 1982, you can apply for temporary residency under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, this option is only available to people who "have continuously resided in the United States in an unlawful status since Jan. 1, 1982." Once you have gotten temporary residency, you can apply for permanent status if you can "demonstrate at least a minimal of understanding" of U.S. history and the English language.

    Other Options

    • If you entered the United States after 1982, there is currently no way for you to legalize your status. You can return to your country of origin and then try to re-enter the United States legally. However, according to the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, people who have lived in the United States illegally for more than 180 days must wait 3 years before they can legally return. If you have lived in the United States illegally for more than 1 year, you must wait 10 years before you can return.

    Legal Immigration

    • There are several ways to legally immigrate to the United States. If you have job skills in high demand, you might be able to find a private company to sponsor your applications. If you have relatives that are U.S. citizens, they can sponsor your application. According to, members of minority groups that are underrepresented "in the immigrant population" can legally come into the United States. Also, a limited number of refugees are allowed to immigrate for humanitarian reasons legally.


    • According to, the number of undocumented immigrants living in the United States has increased dramatically in recent years. In 2005, undocumented immigrants made up "almost 30 percent of all foreign born residents." Half the agriculture workers in this country are undocumented. Since these people have no way to legalize their status, many "otherwise law-abiding residents are forced to live in the shadows of society," according to the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.


    • In 2007, the Senate rejected a plan that would have allowed "illegal immigrants to obtain a renewable visa if they were present on Jan. 1, 2007," according to However, since the 2008 democratic platform supports a system to allow undocumented workers to legalize their status, the U.S. Congress may discuss a similar plan in the future.

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