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A Way to Legalize Your Immigration Status: Cancellation of Removal for Non-Legal Permanent Residents


What is cancellation of removal for non-legal permanent residents?

Cancellation of removal for non-legal permanent residents is a way for a non-legal permanent resident to get a green card. A green card is the document that gives a non-citizen legal permission to work in the United States. In order to do this, a non-legal permanent resident must file an application with an Immigration Court.

Who is eligible?

To be eligible for cancellation of removal for non-legal permanent residents, a person must:

  • Have been physically in the United States without interruption for 10 years before going to Immigration Court.
  • Have shown good moral character during that 10-year period. This means no convictions for particular crimes.
  • Be able to show that deportation would cause exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to a spouse, parent, or children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents (green card holders).

All of the above requirements must be met.

What is good moral character?

To determine moral character, an Immigration Judge looks at a person’s criminal history.

Examples of people considered to be not of good moral character include the following:

  • Habitual drunkards
  • Persons who have engaged in prostitution, commercialized vice, and/or immigrant smuggling
  • Persons previously deported from the United States
  • Immigrants who have committed a crime involving moral turpitude (includes crimes involving fraud, larceny, and intent to harm persons or things)
  • Immigrants who have committed a crime involving controlled substances, such as drugs
  • Immigrants who have committed a crime that is an aggravated felony
  • Immigrants suspected of being drug traffickers
  • Immigrants with multiple convictions where sentences add up to a total of five years or more of jail or prison time
  • Immigrants with two or more gambling offenses
  • Immigrants whose income comes primarily from illegal gambling
  • Immigrants who have given false testimony to obtain an immigrant benefit
  • Immigrants who have been in jail or prison for a total of 180 days or more during the 10 years they have physically been in the United States.

What is meant by exceptional and extremely unusual hardship?

Exceptional and extremely unusual hardship would be a situation where a qualifying U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident relative would suffer substantially beyond that which would ordinarily be expected to result from deportation from the U.S.

An Immigration Judge may consider the following factors to determine whether exceptional and extremely unusual hardship exists:

  • The age of the U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident relative
  • The health of the qualifying relative
  • The circumstances of the qualifying relative
  • The ability of a minor qualifying relative to speak, read, or write in the applicant’s native language
  • The age of the applicant (the person applying for cancellation of removal)
  • The applicant’s length of residence in the United States
  • The conditions in the country where the applicant will be deported
  • The economic and political condition of the applicant’s native country
  • The applicant’s financial status, including business and community ties.

Do I need show any documents in order to apply for cancellation of removal?

Yes. You may submit supporting documents showing:

  • Evidence of your physical presence in the U.S. for the past 10 years, such as bank books, leases, deeds, licenses, receipts, letters, birth records, school records, employment records, and tax records
  • Your good moral character for that entire 10-year period, such as affidavits of witnesses attesting to your good moral character and affidavits of employers describing the nature and duration of your employment and earnings
  • Your relationship to qualifying relatives, such as birth records, marriage certificates, and evidence of relatives’ immigration status as U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.

What happens if the Immigration Judge grants my application?

If you are granted an application for cancellation of removal, you will get a green card.

This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue of Looking Out for Your Legal Rights®.

This information last reviewed 10/28/11.


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