Do I Need to Wait for Immigration Reform to Apply for Status?

Immigration Reform takes time, so can you apply for legal status early?

parade flagCurrently in Congress a number of different immigration reform bills are being debated. Some of them require undocumented immigrants to wait for 10 years before they can apply for green cards, and then wait another three before applying for citizenship. As of now, there has been no comprehensive reform bill passed. However, there are still numerous ways to obtain a green card, so immigrants seeking legal status may not need to wait to apply.

There are a many ways by which you may be currently eligible for a green card. For example, a common way many immigrants seek their green cards is by filing a family petition. For family-based green cards, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (that is, a spouse, unmarried child under the age of 21, or parent of a U.S. citizen over 21) receive special priority and do not have to wait in line for a visa. If you do not fit the criteria of an immediate relative, you may be a “preference” relative and will be subject to waiting times, but can stile file a family petition as soon as possible.

However, even if you are not eligible to apply for a green card without immigration reform, you still may have a path to legal status. In order to allow for more people to apply for immigration benefits, the Department of Homeland Security enacted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Because of this action, young immigrants are able to apply for a work permit and request a temporary two-year reprieve from deportation, which also allows for other benefits.

Ultimately, for those immigrants who already have practical paths to legal status, waiting for eventual reform makes little sense. It takes time for any changes in law to pass through Congress, so don’t be intimidated to review the options for permanent residence or legal status that may be currently available to you.

Read more information on applying for legal status and obtaining a green card here

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