People have this misconception that if they’ve been here in the United States for 10 years, they are eligible for a green card. I think what they are confusing that with is an application called Cancellation of Removal. That application is always done in a removal proceeding context, in a deportation case. It can only be done if you’ve been physically present in the United States for 10 years and you have a qualifying relative that you can show extreme and unusual hardship if you are removed from the United States and you’ve been a person of good moral character. The only way you can make that application is if you’re in a deportation case. You could apply for an application and be placed into removal proceedings if you get denied your application.

For example, if you applied for a political asylum and that was referred to an immigration judge and you were eligible for cancellation because you’ve been here for 10 years. That’s rare because most people apply for political asylum relatively soon after they enter the United States. For Cancellation of Removal, you have to show that you have been physically present for 10 years without having been outside the United States for more than 90 days at a time and you can demonstrate to either a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen, spouse, parent, or child that would be an extreme or unusual hardship for them if you are not allowed to stay in the United States. In addition, you need to show you’ve been a person of good moral character, so you’ve never been arrested for a crime and you’ve filed your taxes, paid child support, etc.

If you can demonstrate those three things, then the judge would decide in discretion whether you should be allowed to stay. If the judge does believe that you’ve met the criteria and deserve to stay in the United States, you win a green card. If the judge does not believe that it’s a hardship to your family if you’re not allowed to stay, they you will get deported from the United States. Though many think that you can apply for it by just submitting an application to the immigration service, you cannot do that. The only way you can do that is in the context of a removal proceeding. If you have questions about whether you’re eligible for Cancellation of Removal and are in a removal proceeding or want to know if you can be placed into removal proceeding, I’d be happy to discuss those options with you and your situation and give you a thorough answer as to whether I think this is a good situation for you.

Cheryl R. David is an experienced immigration attorney working in New York City. Please contact us for your free initial consultation.