Three common roadblocks to family-based immigration

These immigration hurdles could hold you back from getting a green card – even if you otherwise qualify through a family member.

One of the most common pathways to getting a green card (or lawful permanent residence) is through a family member. However, even if you have an eligible family member in the U.S., other roadblocks can still hold you back. It's important to identify these potential pitfalls sooner rather than later.

Below are three common hurdles that prospective immigrants face.

1. Undocumented presence in the United States

Immigration law poses challenges for undocumented immigrants seeking legal status. If you have lived in the U.S. with valid status - whether you entered without permission or came in on a visa that has since expired - you may need to overcome additional hurdles in pursuing a green card through a family member. It's especially important to enlist the help of a lawyer in these cases.

With the right legal strategy, you may be able to overcome these challenges by requesting an unlawful presence waiver, which will essentially forgive the immigration violation. To qualify for a waiver, you must demonstrate that your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent would suffer extreme hardship without you.

Even if your waiver is granted, depending on your situation, you may need to leave the country to complete the process through a U.S. consulate abroad. Called consular processing, this step can take many months.

Other immigration violations that can affect your prospects include:

  • Reentering the U.S. without permission after having one year or more of unlawful presence in the past
  • Failing to attend removal (deportation) proceedings
  • Being previously removed (deported) from the United States
  • Misrepresenting your immigration status to receive benefits of any kind
  • Having a criminal record

If you have any doubts about your immigration history and its impact on your ability to get a green card, consult with an attorney about your situation.

2. Criminal history

U.S. immigration law takes a harsh stance on crime. Even if you have never been arrested or convicted of a crime, you could still face roadblocks if you admitted to committing certain crimes, or if the government has reason to believe you committed certain crimes.

The law in this regard is extremely complicated. Generally speaking, your immigration prospects may be in jeopardy if you have a background involving:

  • Crimes that reflect poor moral character - in immigration law terms, crimes involving moral turpitude - which may include murder, rape, theft, fraud, assault, aggravated DUIs and other crimes, depending on the circumstances
  • Multiple criminal convictions with a total sentence of at least five years
  • Aggravated felonies, which may include state-level offenses at the misdemeanor or felony level, depending on their definitions
  • Controlled substance violations, including drug possession and trafficking

Even if you have a criminal background, you may not be completely out of luck. You could be eligible for a waiver, which would keep your immigration options intact. An experienced immigration lawyer can determine whether you qualify.

3. Insufficient financial means

Prospective immigrants must demonstrate that they will not become dependent on public assistance. With a few exceptions, those seeking a green card through a relative must file a document - called an affidavit of support - from a sponsoring family member. This document must show that the sponsor can and will be financially responsible for you. It is legally binding.

To qualify, your sponsoring relative must meet certain income requirements. If he or she cannot, you may need to enlist a joint sponsor who can meet the income requirements. An attorney can help you identify the right way to demonstrate sufficient financial means.

Overcoming these hurdles

With the help of a professional, you may still be able to get a green card despite these hurdles. The attorneys at Ramos Immigration Law in Longmont, Colorado, can analyze your options. They have years of experience helping people like you accomplish their immigration dreams.