Wilson Law Group is separating fact from fiction in a series of blogs clarifying some common misconceptions in immigration law.  We hope you find our clarifications helpful. 

One common misconception is that after living in the United States for ten years, a person automatically qualifies for permanent residency or can avoid removal from the U.S.  We wish it were that simple, but it is not.  To be clear, ten years of presence in the United States does not in and of itself lead to a green card or qualify someone for relief from removal. 

Rather, ten years is just one of several requirements to qualify for a form of relief from removal called “cancellation of removal for nonpermanent residents.”  Colloquially, this form of relief is often called “Cancellation of Removal.”  The name is appropriate because a grant of Cancellation of Removal has the effect of cancelling the foreign national’s removal from the U.S. and adjusting his or her status into that of a lawful permanent resident. 

There are various requirements for Cancellation of Removal, which come with a high legal and discretionary standard.  Specifically, a court may grant Cancellation of Removal to someone who:

  • Has been physically present in the U.S. for a continuous period of not less than ten years;
  • Has been a person of good moral character during such period;
  • Has not been convicted of a disqualifying offense under the relevant sections of the Immigration & Nationality Act; and,
  • Establishes that removal would result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to the alien’s spouse, parent, or child, who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident of the U.S. 

Thus, physical presence for at least ten years is just one of the requirements.  In addition, the relief of Cancellation of Removal is discretionary, which means the immigration court can deny the application even if an applicant meets all of the above requirements. 

Although having ten years in the U.S. does not alone qualify a person for permanent residency or relief from removal, there may be many other instances in which a history of a decade or more in the U.S. may be extremely beneficial.  For example, a lengthy history in the U.S. is one of the factors that U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement has identified as a factor to consider when exercising prosecutorial discretion.  U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services may also view a lengthy history in the U.S. as a favorable factor in deciding other applications for benefits in the United States, such as a U nonimmigrant visa. 

If you have any questions about whether you qualify for Cancellation of Removal or other immigration benefits, the attorneys at Wilson Law Group would be happy to evaluate your particular situation.  We invite you to contact our office at 612-436-7100 to schedule a free consultation.