Foreign nationals who wait patiently, sometimes for several years, for a US green card to become available to them would probably not believe that some aliens do not complete the green card application process when one is readily available. But it does happen. These eligible aliens often are already in the US and put off the green card application process due to financial difficulties, scheduling issues, or just plain old procrastination. However, if the foreign national is in the US without legal status, failing to get the green card in a timely manner can have devastating consequences.
In San Francisco, California a french sidewalk vendor was recently arrested by immigration officials and is in jail. He will likely be deported back to France, without even being allowed to plead his case before an immigration judge. Murat Celebi-Ariner, a French national, entered the US on the 90 day visa waiver program and never left. He married a US citizen, but never applied for the green card to which he may have been entitled. He has been in the US illegally ever since his 90 day visa period expired. ICE officials recently picked him up and, since he is out of status, can hold him pending deportation back to France. Because he entered under the visa waiver program, he has waived his right to go before an immigration judge. Thus, he will not be afforded the chance to adjust his status via his US citizen wife, as many aliens in proceedings are permitted to do.
Should Celebi-Ariner have applied for his green card as soon as he was eligible? Probably. However, visa waiver program participants do run the risk of being deported during the adjustment of status process if they file the application after their 90 day stay has expired. Immigration officials have the right to send them home, without the benefit of a deportation hearing, if they were out of status when they applied. Although this is not currently common practice among USCIS district offices, adjustment of status applicants who entered on the visa waiver program need to be aware of the risks associated with both applying for a green card, and failing to apply for one.
If you would like more information on applying for a green card, please contact us for a free immigration consultation today!