OK, your answer is below. My apologies for the delay, but as you will notice, this can be complicated. I thank you very much for your patience and understanding.
During this process, please remember that I do not work for the government. My job is to be honest with you about your situation, and sometimes that means I have to deliver bad news. When you are giving a rating, please do not rate the state of the law or the outcome of your situation. I cannot control those things. I am just a messenger.
I know a negative outcome might create negative feelings for you, but those feelings should be directed to the US laws, not me. Thank you for your understanding.
Kindly remember to give me a positive rating before leaving this site today. I do not get a salary here, so your positive rating is the only way I am rewarded for doing my job. If that does not happen, it is as if I never worked, which I am sure you agree would not be an ideal outcome. So please do not forget to give me 3 or more stars, or any smiling faces, in order to help me get credit for doing my job. Thank you!
ANSWER: The problem here is that these folks entered the US illegally. As such, there is no direct method by which they can gain legal status without leaving the US, with one exception - through an immediate relative (US citizen spouse, child over 21 or parent if the person is a child under 21 years of age).
If they are immediate relatives of a US citizen, that US citizen can petition for the alien. Then the alien would have to file for a Provisional Waiver of Inadmissibility (form I-601A). If the waiver is approved, the person can leave the US and apply for an immigrant visa abroad. note, however that these require a showing that the US citizen will suffer extreme hardship if the alien cannot come back. Extreme being the key term here. If the alien leaves the US without an approved I-601A, they will be subject to a ban of 3 to 10 years, for their accrued unlawful presence for 180 days or more.
As far as what you can do as a friend or employer, there is nothing that can be done without the alien leaving the US. And if they do that, they are going to be subject to a ban. The only way back would be to seek a non-immigrant visa waiver (Hranka Waiver), but those too are not so easy, under the circumstances you've described here. Why? Because the waiver considers the violation and the extent to which the violation occurred. The longer they have stayed, the harder it is to get a waiver because the violation continued for some time.
As far as your friend from the UK who has been here for years, it may very well be that he was already legalized somehow, but he does not know it. It would be very difficult to come to the US through a port of entry from overseas, without having been admitted legally. If he came legally, and then fell out of status, but later married a US citizen, then he is eligible for a green card. He would have to apply for the same.
If he was never married or his spouse has passed away, then he might be eligible for a green card through the Registry. Here is information on that, including the eligibility requirements (copy and paste the link in a new web page): http://www.uscis.gov/green-card/other-ways-get-green-card/green-card-through-registry
I know this can be confusing. If you want a 30 minute phone call to discuss this or anything else, let me know. I can send you an offer for that.
I hope I have answered your questions. Kindly rate my customer service with a positive rating so I get credit for doing my job. This is very important. You can do that by giving me 3 or more stars, or any of the smiling faces. And you can keep asking questions even after you have given a rating.
REMINDER: You are not rating the state of the law or the outcome of your situation, which I cannot control. You are rating my customer service. Believe me that I always want to give you good news. But if the outcome is not what you wanted, blame the government and the law, not me. I am only a messenger.
Negative ratings are reserved for Professionals who are rude or unprofessional. Giving me a negative rating does not help you get a different answer or outcome. So do not give a negative rating if you need more help, or if I misunderstood your question. Instead click REPLY so I can continue to assist you.
A BONUS is appreciated, if you feel I've earned it.
If you have questions in the future, write “FOR JAMES" in the question and I will be your personal Expert in this category.