|Monday, 06 December 2010 14:53|
THIS WEEK’S IMMIGRATION NEWS
Obtaining A Driver’s License Without Legal Immigration Status
Currently, New Mexico, Washington and Utah are the only U.S. states now which still issue Driver’s Licenses to individuals without requiring proof of immigration status. However, the laws in all three remaining states could soon change, as conservatives push to tighten restrictions in license issuance to require proof of legal status. Immigration advocates urge immigrants to obtain valid Driver’s Licenses now, before restrictions are put in place. Applicants for Driver’s Licenses should have a valid address in these states and a utility bill or other documents showing they receive mail at an address within the state.
THIS WEEK’S IMMIGRATION QUESTIONS
Question: I came to the U.S. from Trinidad as a tourist in 2008, but my I-94 expired later in 2008 and I’ve been living here since that time. I applied for the Green Card Visa Lottery this year and I want to know if I win, can I still get a Green Card in the U.S? Will I have to go back to Trinidad to apply for residency? Thanks!
Answer: That is a great question. Once an I-94 has expired, a foreign national is considered to be out of legal immigration status in the U.S. For most immigration categories, applicant’s who apply in the U.S. must demonstrate that they have maintained legal immigration status in the U.S. during the entire time. This is also the case with the Visa Lottery. Once an individual’s I-94 card has expired, he or she is no longer eligible to adjust status to a Permanent Resident inside the U.S. In such cases, processing would normally be done outside the U.S, however the “catch” is that once a foreign national who has remained inside the U.S. past his or her I-94 expiration for 180 days or more, later leaves the U.S., he or she is barred from re-entering the U.S. for 3 years. Once an individual continues to remain for 365 days or more, upon exiting the U.S., he or she is barred from re-entering the U.S. again for 10 years! Very strict. The only exceptions to the rule which allow foreign nationals to adjust to Permanent Residency (Green Cards) inside the U.S. apply to spouses, minor children (under age 21) and parents of U.S. Citizens and some individuals who qualify under an old law called “245(i). Immigrants in these categories can still obtain Green Cards inside the U.S. even if their I-94 cards have expired. Many immigrant do not understand this rule and leave the U.S. believing that they will be able to obtain an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate, only to find out that their visa is denied because they spent time in the U.S. in illegal status. So, the safest approach for those who have been in the U.S. for 180 days or more past their I-94 card expiration is to avoid leaving the U.S..
Question: I’m so worried and confused, I hope you can help me. I came to America from Jamaica to help my daughter after her son was born. Because of complications, I stayed for the past 3 years. My I-94 card expired during the first year I was here. Now my Driver’s License has expired recently and when I went to renew it, they said I was ineligible. My husband died 10 years ago and I only have my daughter here in the U.S. I just don’t know what to do. Some friends say I should wait for some amnesty but since it is taking so long, I am afraid to stay here any longer and drive without a license. My daughter is now a U.S. citizen, but she thinks if she tries to sponsor me, I’ll be deported and we are so afraid of that. I have a consultation with you in December, but my daughter said you answer email questions, so I just want to get some peace of mind. Is there any other immigration solution right now before I leave?
Answer: The Good news is that under current USCIS regulations, parents/spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens are called “Immediate Relatives” and as long as they enter the U.S. with inspection (meaning being inspected by an immigration officer and issued an I-94 card), then even if the I-94 card has expired and they become “out of legal status”, the U.S. citizen relative (spouse, adult child, parent) can apply for them. So, it does not matter that your I-94 has expired, your daughter can still sponsor you now. Unless there is some other immigration or criminal issue you have not discussed, once your application is filed, you can stay in the U.S. legally until you receive your Green Card. Once your case for adjustment of status is filed, it takes about three to four months to receive your Green Card.
** Contributions to this Column are made by Attorney Caroly Pedersen, Esq. of the American Immigration Law Center – Call 954-382-5378
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 June 2011 10:19|