What is Immigration Reform ?
 Immigration reform is a  term that was most often used by those wanting to create a way for people who had arrived or stayed in the country illegally to eventually get permission to stay in the country. 

During the Bush and Obama administrations, legislation was crafted that tightened up border security but also proposed a way for people for who did not have legal status to “earn” legal permanent residency, which an immigrant must have before trying to become a citizen. 


This site contains important information for noncitizens to complete necessary tasks related to the immigration process.


1. Determine if you are eligible by having a family member sponsor you. One of the most common forms of eligibility are sponsorships from a family member. If you have a family member who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent U.S. resident and is at least 21-years-old, you may be eligible to apply. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines family member as:

  • The spouse of a U.S. citizen or legal resident
  • The unmarried child of a U.S. citizen or legal resident
  • The married child of a U.S. citizen
  • The parent of a U.S. citizen or legal resident
  • The brother or sister of a U.S. citizen
  • The fianc√© of a U.S. citizen (under special immigration admission)
  • The widow or widower of a U.S. citizen

2.Seek sponsorship through your employer. Some employers are willing to sponsor an immigrant for permanent residency. This is required if you possess an exceptional skill or ability that is not commonly found in the general working population. You must do a test with the labor market to illustrate that there are no available individuals for the job in the US, which is why you'd be eligible for a green card.

  • Preference is typically given to immigrant workers that have extraordinary abilities in the sciences, art, education, business, or athletics, exceptional researchers and professors, and multinational managers.
  • Secondary preference is given to those whose profession requires an advanced degree, those who have exceptional abilities in the arts, sciences, or business, and those who are seeking a national interest waiver.
  • Third preference is given if you are a skilled worker, professional, or other worker. Skilled workers require 2 years of training or experience, while professionals must hold a U.S. baccalaureate degree or an equivalent, plus work in the field. Other workers may be unskilled but are not temporary or seasonal employees.
  • Physicians who agree to work full-time in clinical practices in a designated underserved area for a set period of time may also apply under the Physician National Interest Waiver.
  • Immigrant investors who are actively in the process of investing at least $1 million in non-rural areas or $500,000 in a rural area in new commercial enterprises in the U.S. which will create at least 10 full-time positions for qualifying employees may also be eligible for employment sponsorship.

3. Check to see if you qualify as a special immigrant. Certain categories of immigrants may qualify for special immigrant status. Those employed as religious workers or international broadcasters, and those employed by an international organization or NATO-6 may qualify for this status. Additionally, the following groups may qualify:

  • Afghanistan or Iraqi nationals who worked as a translator for the U.S. government, who were employed by the U.S. government in Iraq for at least 1 year, or who were employed by the International Security Assistance Force.
  • Family members of people employed by an international organization or NATO-6.
  • Children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by their parent(s), and who qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status.

4. Qualify for legal residency through extraordinary circumstances. There are a number of legal resident qualifications that may apply if you experienced harsh or extraordinary circumstances in your homeland or upon your entry into the U.S. You may qualify for legal residency status under these terms if:

  • You were granted asylum for refugee status at least 1 year ago.
  • You are the victim of human trafficking or another crime and have a T or U nonimmigrant visa.
  • You are the abused spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen, or lawful permanent resident.
  • You have resided continuously in the U.S. since before January 1, 1972.
  • You meet any of the terms outlined for sponsorship under non-common circumstances as outlined by USCIS.


  • Applying for Lawful Permanent Resident Status

1. Meet with an immigration attorney. Prior to filing for lawful permanent resident status, you may want to meet with a U.S. Immigration Attorney. They can not only help make sure you are completely eligible, they can also help you prepare your forms and documents and assist with any complications that may arise.

  • You can check U.S. Justice Department's List of Pro Bono Legal Service Providers to see if there are attorneys or legal resources in your area to help you prepare for your immigration filings free of charge.
  • Hiring an immigration attorney is optional, but the law is complicated so their service is very essential if you want to increase your chances of becoming a legal permanent resident.

2. Have your sponsor file your immigrant petition. If someone, such as a relative or your employer, is sponsoring your immigration, they will need to file an immigrant petition for you. If you qualify to file for yourself, you need to file your petition. The exact petition and documentation you need will depend on how you qualify for lawful permanent resident status. All forms are available from the USCIS website.

  • If you are unsure what forms you need, talk to your immigration attorney or an immigration services office in your area. You may also be able to receive advice over-the-phone if you cannot get to an office.
  • If you already have an approved immigrant petition and visa, you may just need to file the I-485 application form.

3. Fill out Form I-485 and submit it to USCIS. Form I-485 - Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status is essentially the application form for your green card. The form is about 18 pages in length and requires you to provide details about yourself, your family, your employment, and your eligibility.

  • Once fully completed, the form will need to be submitted to the correct office. The office you will submit to depends on how you qualify for your status. Check the USCIS website to find the correct filing address for your eligibility category: https://www.uscis.gov/i-485-addresses.


4. Pay the filing fee. You will need to submit your filing fee along with your I-485. You may submit a check along with your application, or pay online using a credit card. The fee structure for filing your I-485 is:

  • $750 for children under 14 filing with the I-485 of at least 1 parent
  • $1,140 for children under 14 not filing with at least 1 parent
  • $1,225 for those age 14-78
  • $1,140 for those age 79 and older
  • $0 for those admitted to the U.S. as a refugee

5. Schedule your biometrics services appointment. After you file your application, USCIS will help you schedule a biometrics services appointment at a local Application Support Center. Show up to your local center at the date and time listed on your appointment notice to provide biometrics including your fingerprints, photograph, and/or signature.

  • These appointments will help USCIS confirm your identity and run background and security checks.
  • If USCIS requests an appointment, be sure to bring your appointment notice and a valid form of photo ID.


6. Attend your Green Card interview. After your petition and application have been processed along with all background and security checks, you will be scheduled for an interview with someone from USCIS. The nature of the interview will vary somewhat depending on your application and qualifying circumstances. In general, it is important to be honest, polite, and calm throughout your interview.

  • If any part of your application or status changes between when you file your application and your interview, be prepared to address that change and provide all necessary evidence.
  • If you are not confident in your spoken English abilities and cannot arrange an interview with someone who speaks your native language, arrange to have someone you trust with you help with translation issues.

7. Avoid traveling abroad while your application is pending. In many cases, you will be restricted from traveling outside of the U.S. while your lawful permanent resident application is pending. If you do need to leave the country for any reason, you may need to apply for an advance parole document prior to leaving the country. 

  • Staying Compliant After Your Application is Approved

 1. Carry your Green Card with you at all times. Once you become a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., you are advised to carry your Green Card with you at all times. This serves as your proof that you are authorized to live and work in the U.S. It also functions as a photo ID, much like a driver's license or passport. 

2. Do not travel outside of the U.S. for more than 12 months at a time. Remaining outside of the U.S. for more than 12 months could result in the loss of lawful permanent resident status. If you need to be outside of the U.S. for longer than 12 months, you may need to apply for a re-entry permit prior to leaving the country. 

3. Renew your Green Card 6 months prior to expiration. Green cards typically expire every 10 years. Plan to begin your green card renewal process 6 months prior to when your green card's expiration date.

  • If you have a conditional green card, such as one based on a spouse or family member, you can apply to have the condition removed after 2 years.

TIPS: Even if you qualify in one of the approved categories, such as being an immediate family member or having an employer sponsor, it is very important that you check to see if you have a permanent bar or require a waiver. Individuals with a permanent bar cannot apply, even with a waiver. If they do apply, they are revealing themselves to the government and could be subjected to deportation.  

Migrant children are one in every eight migrants worldwide who move for various reasons, such as escaping violence, seeking education, or reuniting with family. Many migrant children come from Central America and cross the border into the United States, where they face risks of abuse, trafficking, and detention. Unaccompanied foreign minors are turned over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services