If you have been living in the United States for a number of years, have a relatively clean criminal history, and are currently in removal proceedings, you should speak to an attorney about whether you qualify for cancellation of removal. It is a one-time form of relief from removal that carries different requirements depending on your immigration status.
Cancellation of removal for green-card holders
If you were previously given a green card but now find yourself in removal proceedings based on a recent criminal conviction or immigration violation (such as alien smuggling), you may be granted cancellation of removal if you satisfy the following requirements:
- (1) You have had your green card for at least five years;
- (2) You have held some kind of immigration status for at least seven years;
- (3) You resided in the United States continuously during that seven-year period;
- (4) You have not been convicted of an aggravated felony;
- (5) You deserve relief from removal as a matter of discretion.
If you are not sure whether a prior criminal conviction amounts to an aggravated felony, speak to an immigration attorney. The laws in this area are always changing, so there may be a solid legal argument to be made in your case.
Whether you qualify for a favorable exercise of discretion depends on the individual circumstances of your case, so you should speak to an attorney about which factors you should highlight. In general, you want to show the immigration judge that you are a valuable member of your family and community, and that you have learned from your mistakes.
Cancellation of removal for non-green-card holders
Even if you do not have a green card, there is another form of cancellation of removal that you may wish to consider, although it is much more difficult to get. You must be able to show:
- (1) You have been living in the United States continuously for ten years;
- (2) You have been a person of good moral character during that period;
- (3) You have not committed certain types of crimes (see below);
- (4) Your removal will result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to certain family members living in the United States (namely your spouse, parents, or unmarried children under the age of 21, if they are U.S. citizens or green-card holders); and
- (5) You qualify for relief from removal in the exercise of discretion.
Note about the hardship requirement
Most of the people who apply for this form of cancellation of removal will satisfy all of the requirements except for one: the hardship requirement. The exceptional and extremely unusual hardship standard is very stringent, and few people will meet it. But for many, there simply may not be any other options, so you should speak to your attorney and put together the best possible case for why you meet that standard. If nothing else, you can build a solid case for appeal and wait to see if any other possibilities for remaining in the United States become available to you in the future.
Note about prior criminal offenses
There are many types of criminal convictions and immigration violations that can disqualify you from cancellation of removal for non-green-card holders: crimes involving moral turpitude, virtually any kind of drug offense, aggravated felonies, certain firearm offenses, crimes involving domestic violence or stalking, failure to register, document fraud, or falsely claiming citizenship. If you think any of these may apply to you, speak to an attorney.
If you would like to explore whether you may be eligible for cancellation of removal, contact me today.
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