Immigration amnesty has been a contentious issue in the US since at least the 1980s. In the most general sense of the term, immigration amnesty refers to the process or the practice of granting legal immigration status to those persons who are in the US illegally. Immigration amnesty may pertain to persons who entered the US illegally or persons whose immigration status has expired. In most cases, immigration amnesty is granted to specific groups of people. Usually, this type of amnesty is granted only to those persons who have committed no other illegal activities other than being in the country illegally.
In the 1980s, then-President Ronald Reagan offered blanket amnesty to about 4 million persons. Since 1986, Congress has occasionally passed legislation offering immigration amnesty to specific groups of persons. Since the 2000s, immigration amnesty has become a very debated issue. Some people believe that blanket amnesty should be offered to all persons who are in the US illegally but who have committed no other crimes. Some people who support this view point out that if all the persons who are in the US illegally were removed, the US would suffer severe economic setbacks. While there are no precise statistics about the number of illegal immigrants in the US, many experts claim that 12 million persons are in the US without legal immigration status, although this figure itself is highly debated. Opponents to immigration amnesty allege that persons who are in the country illegally have already broken the law and should not be rewarded with legal immigration status. Opponents to immigration amnesty also claim that offering immigration amnesty is an affront to those immigrants who follow the rules when applying for immigration status.
In many cases, persons who have entered the US illegally or whose immigration status has expired may seek immigration amnesty. This process involves the following steps:
1) Find a qualified immigration attorney who can consult with you about your immigration status. Applying for immigration amnesty is a complex process because the legislation surrounding amnesty changes so often. Contact your local bar association to find a qualified attorney who specializes in immigration issues. The American Immigration Lawyers Association can also help you find a qualified attorney. Even if you can complete all the forms yourself, a consultation with a good immigration attorney at the onset can help you understand the process and can help you understand the best way to proceed.
2) Determine whether you are eligible for immigration amnesty. The laws surrounding this issue change often, but in general if you have overstayed your visa or have entered the US without the proper visa, you may qualify for immigration amnesty. If you meet these eligibility requirements, your children or spouse may also qualify to apply for a change of immigration status.
3) Get an application form. You will need to complete the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status form. You can get this from a United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) office or from the USCIS website.
4) Fill out the application and submit it. The correct form will come with detailed instructions as well as information about the documents you will need to submit. Carefully read and follow these instructions and submit your completed form. While your case is pending, you will have legal status and will even be able to apply for a work permit. Apply for a work permit so that you can remain and work legally in the US while the USCIS is reviewing your application.
5) Wait for a decision in your case. The USCIS will review your application and will contact you with a decision. While you are awaiting the decision, make sure that your consult USCIS rules. While you wait for the decision regarding your application, there are certain things you will not be able to do. For example, you will not be able to leave the US without completing certain documentation and forms. Make sure that you understand and follow all such rules to ensure that your application is not rejected.