Under U.S. immigration laws, amnesty is a type of status that is granted to certain immigrants and non-citizens. Amnesty is basically like a pardon or "forgiveness" ruling- rather than having a non-citizen subject to removal or deportation, amnesty allows the person to stay in the country for a designated period of time, or indefinitely. Amnesty is usually granted for persons seeking to escape political or religious turmoil in their home country.

When Is Amnesty Granted?

Amnesty is not granted automatically. In most cases, amnesty is granted well after the person has entered the country. It can even be granted in cases of illegal immigration, although this is only done under very specific circumstances.

Amnesty may be granted if:

  • Persecution exists: The alien is facing immediate, real persecution if they were to return to their home country. This is usually based on political persecution. The alien must be facing imminent harm or death if they return to their original country.
  • Residency is fulfilled: The person must be living in the U.S. for a certain period of time. This is usually applicable to persons who originally entered into the country illegally.
  • No criminal history: The person must have no history of major criminal charges. Multiple misdemeanors or citations can sometimes be just a serious as felony charges.
  • Not a "civil charge": The state must determine that the alien will not become a "civil charge." This means that the person will not be a burden to state resources such as welfare or other assistance programs. Aliens who are employable therefore stand a greater chance at obtaining asylum

Can Amnesty Privileges Be Lost?

Yes – a person can still be subject to deportation or removal even after they have been granted amnesty. For instance, if the person commits crimes after being granted amnesty, they could still be removed from the country if they were granted a temporary visa. As mentioned, repeat offenses for less serious offenses can have the same effect as a felony charge. This may be different for cases involving a person who has been granted permanent residency.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with Immigration Amnesty Provisions?

Amnesty requirements are enforced quite strictly by U.S. immigration boards. You may need to hire an immigration lawyer if you or a loved one of yours needs assistance with an amnesty application. Your attorney can provide the legal guidance and advice that is necessary in such situations. Also, your lawyer will be able to represent you in the event that you need to attend an immigration hearing, court meeting, or an interview.