The immigration registry is administered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The registry serves as a pathway to obtaining a green card or permanent legal resident status even if they have entered or stayed unlawfully in the country.

However, this option is only available for immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for a substantial period of time and meet specific eligibility requirements.

Who is Eligible for a Green Card through the Immigration Registry?

The following is a list of requirements in order to obtain a green card through the immigration registry:

  1. Must have entered the U.S prior to January 1, 1972;
  2. Must have continuously resided in the U.S. since January 1, 1972;
  3. Must be a person of good moral character;
  4. Must not be eligible for naturalization or citizenship; and
  5. Must not be removable (commonly referred to deportation) or inadmissible as defined in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Upon meeting all of the above criteria, the eligible person must complete the Application to   Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, form I-485. In some cases, a pending I-485 petition may allow applicants to seek work authorization and to travel outside of the U.S. with the opportunity to re-enter.

What Conditions can Disqualify a Person from Eligibility for the Immigration Registry?

The following is a list of situations that could disqualify a person from seeking a green card through the Immigration Registry:

  • Involvement in certain criminal activities such as narcotics, smuggling, or human trafficking;
  • Participation in terrorist activities as defined by U.S. law;
  • Involvement in a Nazi regime or other genocidal program;
  • Being removable under the Immigration and Nationality Act;
  • Being ineligible for citizenship through naturalization;  and/or
  • Failing to attend a removal hearing or failing to leave after agreeing to a voluntary departure may result in a waiting period before one can apply through the Immigration Registry.

What Documentation is Needed to Apply through the Immigration Registry?

The following is a list of documentation that is needed to accompany form I-485 in seeking a green card through the Immigration Registry:

  • Two passport-style photos of the applicant;
  • A copy of the applicant’s government issued photo identification;
  • A copy of the applicant’s birth certificate;
  • A copy of the applicant’s passport page with a nonimmigrant visa (if applicable);
  • A copy of the applicant’s passport page with the admission (entry) stamp (if applicable);
  • The applicant’s form I-94, Arrival/ Departure Record (if applicable);
  • Evidence and/or documentation that the applicant entered the United States prior to January 1, 1972; and
  • Evidence and/or documentation to establish the applicant’s continuous residence in the U.S. since entry.

Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer?

Immigration law is an area of law that experiences frequent changes. Applying for lawful status can be a complicated process as indicated in the above steps. So a local immigration lawyer in your area can assist you in determining your eligibility and in filing the appropriate forms to obtain a green card. Additionally, an immigration lawyer can assist in determining any risks you may have in being removed and explain your rights.