Old Applications with Immigration May Save You Today
by Elizabeth R. Blandon

Did you or your family members file applications with Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS, formerly Immigration and Naturalization Service, INS) or labor certification applications with the Department of Labor? Those applications may make you a legal permanent resident or even a U.S. citizen today.

Citizenship. If either of your parents obtained citizenship while you were younger than 18 years of age, you may be a U.S. citizen also. Under the Child Citizenship Act, a young person is a U.S. citizen automatically when the last of the following events occurs: the parent naturalizes or the child obtains legal permanent resident status. In effect, weeks after obtaining a green card, a child can obtain a U.S. passport.

Residency. You may be able to apply for permanent residency based on an application filed before April 1, 2001 even if you entered the U.S. illegally, remained in the country longer than the date permitted by CIS, or worked without authorization. This applies even if that old application was denied or withdrawn. It also applies to all the children and the spouse listed on that application (and perhaps even to spouses acquired after that application was filed). For example, in 1998, Mr. Don Juan walks gallantly across the border from Mexico with his 2 children from a marriage with Mrs. One. In 2000, he marries a U.S. citizen, Mrs. Two, and they file a case in February 2001. The wife argues over his nightly excursions with female friends and she withdraws the petition and divorces him months later. In 2008, he marries Mrs. Three, another U.S. citizen. Normally, he would not be able to become a legal permanent resident based on his marriage to Mrs. Three because he entered the U.S. without permission. However, because of the petition filed by Mrs. Two, he and his children can all apply for residency. More importantly, his children can apply for residency even if they are now over 21 years of age.

Motions to Reopen. If you never received information relating to an old application filed with CIS or INS, the application may have been denied. In some circumstances, the case may have been referred to Immigration Court. Foreigners have been ordered removed and never received notice about a hearing. Fortunately, attorneys can file documents with the court to reopen those proceedings and even stay removals when the foreigner is facing an unwanted return flight home.

Of course, benefits and limitations apply depending on each person’s circumstances; no two cases are the same. The information provided here is not legal advice. Ms. Blandon’s Weston office is located off of Weston Road behind Pollo Tropical.