Immigration Law Questions? Ask an Immigration Lawyer.
Unfortunately, the only forgiveness that existed for entering illegally was under INA 245(i) which states that if he had an I-130, I-140 or Labor Certification properly filed for him ON or BEFORE April 30, 2001, AND he could prove that he was inside the U.S. on December 21, 2000, then he could pay a $1000 penalty and adjust status to U.S. Lawful Permanent Residency. If he did not have any of those types of applications filed for him before that date, then he has three options:
1) Wait for an immigration law to come out that will help him. I have high hopes that next year or maybe the following, something good will come out.
2) Apply for Asylum (he had to have done this within the 1st year be being in the U.S. unless there are changed country conditions), Withholding of Removal, Convention Against Torture, or Cancellation of Removal. The first three things are if he fears to return to his home country because he believes that he will be specifically targeted due to his race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion and that he runs a high risk of great bodily injury, torture, or death as a result. The last, Cancellation, he would have to prove that he has at least 10 years in the U.S. AND he must also prove that if he is deported, a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident that depends upon him will suffer exceptional and extremely unusual hardship. This hardship must be something more than emotional separation hardship or financial hardship, so it is difficult to get.
3) If he marries a U.S. Citizen (for love, of course), he could file an I-130 here in the U.S. (which will give him no legal status, but he might be able to get a drivers license with the receipt), but once that I-130 is approved, really the only thing he can do is leave the U.S. and apply to come back in at the U.S. Embassy/consulate in his home country as the spouse of a U.S. Citizen. At that point, they will want to deny him because he entered illegally and stayed. So he would have to apply for an I-601 waiver (forgiveness) and to get this waiver he will have to prove that his spouse will suffer extreme hardship if he is not allowed back in to the U.S. These waivers are very difficult to get. The reason they are difficult to get is because the hardship probably will need to be more than just economic hardship or emotional separation hardship. So because they are difficult to get, no one wants to risk leaving the U.S. and getting stuck outside for 10 years if it isn't granted.
You can look at this link to get more information on I-601 waivers. It is from the U.S. Embassy in Syria, but it is a good description and the process should be similar in all U.S. Embassies.
and here is another link:
I am truly sorry for the bad news, but the options are very limited at the moment.
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