Legalization and registry

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Updated: 4/13/2007 3:36 pm
Legalization and registry are two ways in which illegal aliens living in the United States can obtain lawful permanent resident status. Legalization, as the name suggests, refers to the process of authorizing legal residency to illegal aliens who meet certain requirements. To be eligible, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 requires that an alien must have continuously resided in the United States in an unlawful status since January 1, 1982. He or she must also have entered the U.S. either illegally before January 1, 1982 or as a temporary visitor before January 1, 1982, with an authorized stay expiring before that date or with the government's knowledge of his or her unlawful status before that date. The process of legalization, also known as “amnesty,” consists of two stages: temporary and permanent residency. If you’re granted amnesty, your deportation hearing will typically be closed and you’ll attain the legal right to remain in the United States on a temporary basis. To adjust your status to permanent resident, you must show continuous residence in the United States, be admissible as an immigrant, and demonstrate at least a minimal understanding and knowledge of the English language. The process of registry similarly allows you to obtain legal resident status if you have no legal record of entry into the United States, but the requirements are very different. You must have resided continuously in the U.S. since prior to January 1, 1972, be of good moral character, be eligible for citizenship, and not be deportable on certain criminal aggravated grounds. You can ask for registry during your deportation proceedings by filing Form I-485 (eye 4-85) or “application to register permanent residence or adjust status.” Unlike amnesty, which is granted to all applicants who meet the statutory requirements, registry is granted at the discretion of the immigration courts. If your application is approved, you’ll be given a record of lawful admission. Both registry and legalization allow illegal immigrants who have resided in the U.S. for a long period of time to regularize or legalize their resident status. Both procedures came about when Congress decided that illegal immigrants who’ve managed to live and work in the U.S. for many years without committing criminal acts should be allowed to obtain permanent residence.
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