I came to the U.S. from Mexico 11 years ago. Someone told me
that if I’ve been here for ten years, I can get a green card. Is that true?
Where and how do I apply?
The information you received has a grain of truth in it, but
unfortunately there is no simple way to apply for a green card based on length
of time in the United States. The person you talked to was referring to a
remedy called “Cancellation of Removal,” formerly called “Suspension of
Deportation.” It allows noncitizens who are already in Immigration Court
proceedings, fighting against removal (deportation) from the U.S., to request
relief if they have been in the U.S. for ten years or longer. If approved, the Immigration
Judge will grant the person a green card. But you have to be in court
proceedings first, before you apply for this.
What’s more, the ten years of living in the U.S. (being “continuously
physically present” here) is not the only requirement. You would also need to
show that your removal from the U.S. would cause “exceptional and extremely
unusual hardship” to one or more of your close family members – and they must be U.S.
citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPRs). The relatives who qualify include your spouse, parent, or child.
In addition, you need
to show that you have “good moral character” and that you have not been
convicted of certain crimes or violated certain laws.
Even after all that, you would need to convince the
Immigration Judge that you deserve cancellation of removal according to the
judge’s subjective discretion.
As you can see, the standards for this form of relief are
high. It’s certainly not something you want to rush out and attempt to get
picked up by the immigration authorities in order to apply for, unless you have
sat down with a lawyer and determined that you have a strong case and are
willing to accept the risks of receiving an order of removal.
For more information on this remedy, see “Green Card Through
Cancellation of Removal (Non-LPR): Who Qualifies?” And for other ways that someone can qualify for a green card or temporary
status in the U.S., see “Noncitizens Seeking Visas, Asylum, Green Cards, DACA.”