Normally you cannot adjust status if you entered the United States illegally…
In order to qualify for adjustment of status, you must have been “inspected and admitted” when you entered the United States. This generally means that you must have entered the United States through a border entry point such as an airport or a land crossing border. If you entered the United States some other way, such as being smuggled across the border, then you likely won’t qualify for adjustment of status. To be safe, you should check with an immigration lawyer before you apply for a green card if there was anything unusual about your entry to the United States.
Keep in mind that this is different than falling out of status after you enter the United States lawfully. In some cases you can still apply for a adjustment of status even if you are currently out of status or have worked unlawfully. However, not everyone can apply for a green card while in the United States if they are no longer in a lawful status or if they have worked unlawfully. Never apply for a green card if you have any immigration violations without first checking with an immigration lawyer.
But there are exceptions…
There are exceptions to the general rule of needing to have been inspected and admitted upon your entry to the United States in order to be eligible to apply for adjustment of status. Two of those exceptions are:
One exception is what is referred to as 245(i). If you had an immigration petition filed for you before April 30, 2001, you may be able to file for adjustment of status even if you entered the country unlawfully. If you think you may be eligible to apply for a green card under 245(i), you should first check with an immigration lawyer to make sure that you meet all of the requirements before you file any forms with the government.
Parole in Place Exception
Parole in place is another exception to the general rule. Parole in place is a way for certain family members of people who are serving in the United States military to be paroled into the country so that they can apply for a green card. Parole in place is most commonly used to help military spouses obtain a green card even though they entered the country unlawfully. If you have any questions about whether you qualify for parole in place, you should discuss your options with an immigration lawyer before you do any immigration paperwork.
If you apply for adjustment of status and don’t qualify…
You risk being placed in deportation proceedings if you apply for adjustment of status but don’t qualify because of how you entered the country. In addition, you need to make sure that you understand all of the grounds of inadmissibility before you apply for a green card. If you are inadmissible and apply for a green card, you risk being placed in deportation proceedings. This is true even if you are married to a United States citizen, your children are citizens or your parents are citizens.
Don’t take this risk unless you know that you meet all of the qualifications for adjustment of status. In particular, if you entered the US unlawfully or are currently out of status, you should work with an immigration lawyer on your green card application. In addition, if you don’t have the time to research all of the grounds of inadmissibility you should work with an immigration lawyer on your adjustment of status application.
If you’d like to speak with an immigration lawyer about your case before you apply, you can request a consultation using this form.