Were you admitted to the United States on a work or tourist visa; are you a legal permanent resident with a green card; were you granted asylum or refugee status; or are you attempting to legally be admitted to the United States? If so, the United States government may remove you from or deny your admission to the United States if you have been convicted of certain crimes or have violated the immigration laws.
However, you may qualify for relief from removal in the form of a “cancellation of removal” if you meet certain criteria. In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), which set more stringent standards for cancellation of removal. If you are facing the possibility of removal (i.e., deportation) from the United States and you are concerned about your and your family’s welfare, you should talk to a dedicated immigration firm like CF Abogados, who can help determine your eligibility for cancellation of removal and assist you in filing a cancellation of removal application.
Cancellation of Removal for Permanent Residents
Even if you are a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), you may still be removed from the United States if you have violated the immigration laws or were convicted of a crime. As an LPR, you may be eligible for cancellation of removal if:
- You have been an LPR for more than five years;
- You have been continuously present in the United States for at least seven years; and
- You have not been convicted of an aggravated felony.
An “aggravated felony” for immigration purposes includes murder, rape, drug trafficking, firearms offenses, money laundering (over $10,000), kidnapping, theft (where the sentence of imprisonment is at least one year), obstruction of justice, and smuggling. These are just some of the crimes that are considered aggravated felonies for immigration purposes. Even if a conviction is designated as a misdemeanor by the state, it may still be considered an aggravated felony for immigration purposes. An immigration attorney can help you determine whether a conviction will affect your eligibility for cancellation of removal.
A successful LPR cancellation of removal application will allow you to remain in the United States as an LPR. If you are an LPR who is facing removal, it is important to consult with dedicated immigration attorneys like those at CF Abogados.
Cancellation of Removal for Non-Permanent Residents
If you are not an LPR and are in removal proceedings, you may qualify for “non-LPR cancellation of removal” if:
- You have lived in the United States for at least ten years;
- Your removal would cause “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” to your qualifying U.S. citizen or LPR relative(s);
- you have “good moral character;” and
- You have not been convicted of certain crimes or violated the immigration laws.
The first requirement is that you have ten years of “continuous physical presence” in the United States. Your presence can be documented through your own testimony, testimony and written declarations from people who know you, school or medical records, and financial records like rent receipts, credit card statements, tax records, and pay stubs. Your ten years begins the day you arrive in the United States and stops the day Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) serves you with a Notice to Appear. Your continuous physical presence also stops when you are convicted of certain crimes, you leave the United States for more than 90 days during one trip, or your multiple trips outside the United States total more than 180 days.
The second requirement, that your removal would cause exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to your qualifying U.S. citizen or LPR relative(s), is generally the most difficult requirement to meet. First, your qualifying relative(s)—spouse, child, or parent—must be LPRs or U.S. citizens.
Second, the hardship must be exceptional and extremely unusual. Your removal will undoubtedly cause very serious financial and emotional hardship to your qualifying relative(s). Unfortunately, non-LPR cancellation of removal demands more. Normal financial and emotional hardship is generally not sufficient because it is considered usual. However, medical or educational hardship may be considered exceptional and extremely unusual.
How the hardship is considered also depends on whether your qualifying relative(s) will remain in the United States if you are removed or accompany you to your home country.
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If your qualifying relative is ill, you are their only means of support, and they plan on remaining in the United States despite your removal, your removal may cause sufficient hardship. Also, if your ill qualifying relative will be forced to accompany you to your home country if you are removed, where they will not have access to adequate medical care, your removal may cause sufficient hardship. Your hardship claim must be supported by documentation such as medical records and letters from doctors.
If you have U.S. citizen children who are in school and who will be forced to accompany you to your home country if you are removed, your removal may cause sufficient hardship. Factors include whether your children can or cannot speak the language of your home country, whether they can or cannot attend public school there because they are U.S. citizens, and whether you can or cannot afford private school for them. Again, your hardship claim must be supported by documentation such as school records, letters from teachers, proof that your children cannot attend public school in your home country, and testimony.
You must also prove that you have “good moral character.” Your good moral character for the ten years prior to your final hearing before an immigration judge is considered. An immigration judge will consider negative factors, such as criminal convictions or violations of the immigration laws, against positive factors, such as taxes, education, employment, rehabilitation, and participation in your church and community.
To prove good moral character, you will need detailed letters of support from employers, co-workers, neighbors, teachers, religious leaders, friends, etc. If you have been convicted of a crime, proof of rehabilitation, such as completion of alcohol treatment, is necessary. It is also very important that you have paid your federal income taxes. Other proof of good moral character may include educational, religious, or charitable awards and certificates.
If you were convicted of an aggravated felony, you are classified as “inadmissible” and not eligible for non-LPR cancellation of removal. If you were convicted of a “crime involving moral turpitude” (conduct that is “inherently base, vile, or depraved”), you cannot qualify for non-LPR cancellation of removal unless the crime is considered a petty offense. An immigration attorney like those at CF Abogados can determine whether your criminal record disqualifies you for non-LPR cancellation of removal.
How Can You Start Cancellation of Removal Proceedings?
Whether you are an LPR or are present in the United States without status, and are put into removal proceedings because you either were accused of violating the immigration laws or were convicted of a crime, you may still be able to remain in the United States.
The threat of being removed (i.e., deported) from the United States may make it hard for you to think about what you can do to fight deportation. However, if you believe you meet the qualifications for cancellation of removal, you should fight to remain in the United States.
Your first step should be to contact a dedicated immigration attorney like those at CF Abogados, who can explain the confusing removal process and identify potential immigration relief.
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