Immigration Law Guide

: The information you obtain on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.


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Topics include:
  • Asylum / Refugees / Withholding of Removal
  • Citizenship / Naturalization
  • Deportation / Removal
  • Embassies / Consulates
  • Family Petitions
  • Permanent Residents
  • Nonimmigrant Visas




Here are your main options:

  • Are you the spouse or parent of an adult U.S. citizen? Or, is an immigrant visa immediately available to you by virtue of your relationship to any other U.S. person (including your employer)? If so, then you might be able to stay in the United States and obtain permanent residence. However, you might not qualify for this option if you have already been ordered removed, in which case you might need to file a motion to reopen. You might also need a waiver if you have a criminal record.


  • Asylum applicants need to show that they are unable to return to their home country because of past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution based upon their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Ordinarily, you need to file your asylum application within one year of arriving in the United States. You will not qualify if have ever been convicted of an aggravated felony.


 Available if you are already a Permanent Resident and:
  • You have been in this status for at least 5 years; 
  • You have continuously resided in the United States for at least 7 years after having been lawfully admitted (i.e., no illegal entry); and 
  • You have not been convicted of an aggravated felony. OR
Available if you are not already a Permanent Resident and:
  • You have been continuously present for at least 10 years; 
  • You have been a person of good moral character during that time; 
  • You have not been convicted of a crime that would make you removable; and 
  • You demonstrate that your removal would result in "exceptional and extremely unusual hardship" to at least one of your immediate family members (spouse, parent, or child) who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.


  • Voluntary departure is the most common option available to individuals in removal proceedings. It is supposed to avoid the stigma of formal removal by allowing you to depart the United States of your own accord and at your own personal expense. If you qualify and are granted voluntary departure, you must leave within the time specified (if prior to the completion of removal proceedings, then within 120 days at most; or, if at the conclusion of removal proceedings, then within 60 days at most). If you fail to depart, you will be subject to fines and a 10-year period of ineligibility for other forms of relief.