I got deported, came back, married U.S. citizen: Can I adjust status?

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Question:

I came to the U.S. illegally a few years back, but I got caught by Immigration and put into deportation proceedings. Although I applied for asylum, the judge denied it. I missed the appeal deadline. So I got deported back to El Salvador. I came back across the U.S. border from Mexico with a coyote last year, and just got married to a U.S. citizen. Will this help me adjust status and get a green card?

Answer:

With so many complications in your case it’s difficult to get a full picture of your immigration situation, but one thing seems all too clear: You are subject to what’s known as the “permanent bar” to immigration, meaning that no, you are not eligible to adjust status in the United States. In fact, you are not eligible for a green card at all, at least not without returning to your home country and applying for a waiver after first spending ten years there.

Your best bet is truly to see an experienced immigration attorney to fully analyze the facts of your case. We will, however, try to at least further explain the so-called permanent bar here.

U.S. immigration law contains three bars to admission (getting a green card or visa) based on noncitizens’ “unlawful presence” in the United States. (These became part of the law in 1996, when Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act or “IIRIRA.”)

One of these, the “permanent bar,” is now found at § 212(a)(9)(C)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, or I.N.A. It makes a noncitizen permanently inadmissible who “has been ordered removed . . . and who enters or attempts to reenter the United States without being admitted.”

From what you have described, this permanent bar applies to you, because of your removal and then unlawful reentry to the United States. Marriage to a U.S. citizen does not “fix” this – in fact, it is one of the common reasons that someone would seek a green card, which always triggers a look at whether or not the person is “admissible” to the United States

Like many grounds of inadmissibility, the permanent bar can potentially be overcome by applying for a “waiver,” or legal forgiveness – but not right away. There’s a ten-year period during which you have to remain outside the U.S. before applying for the waiver. Unless that waiver is approved, you won’t be allowed to proceed with your green card application.

Again, you absolutely need to consult an immigration attorney for a thorough review of the facts in your case and possible remedies.

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