Immigration amnesty laws exist to grant a temporary or permanent resident status to persons fleeing political or religious persecution in their home country. This is often referred to as "political asylum" status, although technically the terms asylum and amnesty are different. Laws such as the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) have shaped the way that amnesty laws are applied.

Asylum can apply to persons who have yet to migrate to the U.S. but are already experiencing political threats in their home country. That is, a person can apply beforehand for an asylum visa. On the other hand, amnesty is usually granted to someone who is already in the U.S., but had been an illegal immigrant because they enter the country in an illegal manner.

Who is Eligible for Amnesty?

Amnesty laws are often subject to an individual case-by-case application for each applicant. Usually, requirements include: continuous residency in the U.S. for a specified period of time (anywhere from 10-20 years); no criminal charges; and the person must be facing real (not imaginary) persecution if they return to the original country.

Also, in some cases, the state must determine that the person is or has not been a "charge" to the state, (i.e., dependent on welfare or otherwise a threat to national safety).

What Are Some Points to Consider when Applying for Amnesty?

One important point to consider when applying for amnesty is to consider what the effects of applying for amnesty might be. For instance, an amnesty application may involve an investigation into your background and residency history. This will disclose information about you and possibly your loved ones that might affect your immigration status.

For instance, an amnesty application might subject you or someone you know to a removal investigation. Thus, you may want to consult with a lawyer to determine whether amnesty is an appropriate choice for your situation.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Amnesty Laws?

Immigration amnesty laws tend to be highly specific, and may only apply to a certain portion of the overall population. It’s in your best interests to hire a immigration lawyer if you need assistance with amnesty laws. These laws can often be subject to change as global and political conditions change also. Your attorney can keep you informed on the best options for you, and can represent you if you need to attend a court hearing or other legal proceeding.