Amnesty for illegal immigrants refers to the granting of temporary or permanent residence status to persons who have entered in the U.S. in an illegal manner. This is often reserved for persons who face political or religious oppression if they return to their home country (i.e., those seeking political asylum). Amnesty is not available for all illegal immigrants and the requirements are generally very strict and somewhat difficult to satisfy.

Thus, amnesty for illegal immigrants tends to be a fairly specific category under immigration laws. Amnesty determinations can be somewhat complex, especially when considering the various factors involved in such proceedings.

Who Is Eligible for Amnesty?

As mentioned, amnesty is typically reserved for political or religious asylees (those seeking refuge from political or religious wars in their home country). The granting of amnesty is usually done on a case-by-case basis for each individual applicant. However, some eligibility requirements generally include:

  • No criminal record: The applicant must not have been convicted of any major crimes, especially crimes that usually result in removal or deportation.
  • Residence requirement: The applicant usually must have lived in the U.S. continually for a very long period of time (such as 10-20 years)
  • "Persecution" requirement: The person must be facing immediate persecution or harm if they return to their country of origin. The persecution must be real and not imagined or exaggerated

Lastly, these requirements may change or evolve every year as global political conditions shift over time. For instance, U.S. immigration authorities may issue more amnesty rulings for persons originating from selected countries. The next year, they may limit amnesty rulings for the same countries if conditions have changed.

How Do I Apply for Amnesty?

You will generally need to file with the appropriate U.S. immigration body, such as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (U.S.C.I.S). Depending on your situation, you may need to submit a number of forms, such as Form I-698, Application to Adjust Status from Temporary to Permanent Resident. This will depend on each individual applicant’s situation.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Amnesty Issues?

It’s in your best interests to hire an immigration lawyer if you are considering applying for amnesty. In order to avoid possible removal or deportation, your attorney can inform you of whether or not an amnesty request would be possible for your situation. Also, your attorney can represent you if you need to appear before an immigration court or immigration judge.