How to get a green card if you are undocumented
Don’t wait! Talk to an immigration lawyer to figure out what your options are. If you are in foster care, and your lawyer does not know much about immigration law, ask for one who does. The laws are complicated, and it’s important to find a lawyer who has experience in this area.
If you are in foster care:
Ask your social worker and lawyer about getting Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). This protects you from deportation, allows you to work, and makes it possible to get a green card. To see if you are eligible, ask your social worker and lawyer. If you have a lawyer who doesn’t know immigration law, ask for a new one.
To be eligible for SIJS, there are some requirements, which must be accepted by a judge.
- You can’t be reunited with one or both of your parents because of problems at home (abuse, neglect, or abandonment).
- It’s not in your best interest to go back to your home country.
- You must be under 21 years old and unmarried. (You can have kids of your own.)
- If you are adopted, or live with other family members, it may still be possible to get SIJS.
- If you get SIJS, you cannot help your parents come to the United States later.
You cannot get SIJS once you are emancipated or married. Also, you can hurt your chances if you commit crimes or lie about your immigration status.
If a family member is a U.S. citizen or has a green card:
They might be able to help you get your papers. If they have a green card, the relative must be your husband, wife, or parent. If they are a U.S. citizen, they can also be your brother or sister (as long as they are over 21). Note that aunts, uncles, etc. can’t help you.
If you come from an abusive household:
You may have options under the VAWA Act. This law helps you if your parent, husband or wife is a U.S. citizen or a green card holder but they won’t help you get your immigration papers. You have to have lived with them at some point, and if they are your parent you have to be under 25. The abuse does not have to be physical.
If you have been the victim of a crime:
You may be eligible for a T visa or U visa. You have to help the police as they investigate the crime. The T visa is for people who have been trafficked – which usually means being forced to work, or being a prostitute under age 18.
If you are working, you should pay taxes. Immigration authorities will not see your tax information.
Paying taxes now will improve your chances of becoming legal in the future. By law, your tax info is not shared with the immigration police. You will need an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN); to get one, call 1-800-829-3676 and ask for form W-7.
WARNING: Having a child will not help you get papers! For a child to help its parent, the child must be at least 21 years old.
Last Reviewed: February 10, 2017