For those who are in removal proceedings, in some cases they can ask the courts to change their residence status to permanent. Those most likely to have their status adjusted are those with family ties, in particular if are a parent or spouse. Applicants must otherwise be judged admissible. It allows for immediate change, as opposed to having to repatriate to their home country to apply.
The first thing you must do is determine which immigrant category you fit into. For example, some are in the United States for reasons of asylum, others have people who are financially dependent, and so on. An attorney will help you determine your specific category.
The next step is having someone file a petition on your behalf. Which petition will vary according to your category. If you are marrying a citizen or permanent resident, or have children in the U.S. you will have to have a permanent resident or citizen file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. Note that if the purpose is marriage, be prepared for a lot of questioning and probing from the USCIS, who are always on the watch for “immigration marriages.” If you are investing in a business, you will need to file Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur. If you are a refugee or seeking asylum, you will file under Humanitarian programs. These do not require applications, as such, but you will usually have to provide supporting evidence to be considered. Finally, some requests do not fall under any existing category and are collectively referred to as Special Class applications. If you are the child of an American soldier and a Vietnamese woman or a widow, your application will fall under Special Class.
How you entered the U.S. will affect how you file. If you entered with a proper visa, any kind, you entered legally. If it is later determined that you took out a visa to marry someone in the U.S, your application will be judged fraudulent, particularly if you knew your spouse before entering the country. If you entered the country legally with a visa, and you seek an adjustment before the visa runs out, you can opt to return to your home country and apply at the local consulate. Consulate filing can sometimes be speedier than filing in the U.S., especially if the country of origin does not have many residence seekers. If you entered legally with a visa, and you are seeking adjustment after the visa has run out, do not choose the consulate application path. You will almost certainly have problems, and may even find yourself with a 10 year ban.
*Note: the content of this blog does not constitute legal advice. Always consult an attorney directly to explore your immigration options.