If you entered the United States without permission, you might be eligible to apply for a waiver of unlawful presence. Depending on the circumstances of your situation, you might be able to obtain the waiver, and then obtain permanent resident (green card) status. Best of all, you might be able to remain in the United States while your application is pending. If you are approved for the waiver, you would travel to a U.S. consulate outside the United States for an immigrant visa, and then you would return to the United States with the visa and become a permanent resident. Your time outside the United States, in most cases, is approximately 2 weeks.
In order to be eligible to apply for this type of waiver, you must have either a spouse or parent who is a U.S. citizen. You must also meet certain other requirements in order to be eligible. For example, certain criminal convictions might make you ineligible to apply for this type of waiver.
In order to be granted the waiver, you would need to convince U.S. immigration officials that the denial of the waiver would result in an “extreme hardship” to your U.S. citizen spouse or parent. The question of what qualifies as “extreme hardship” is complicated. For more information about extreme hardship, please see my previous postings on the subject:
The process of obtaining a waiver of unlawful presence is complex. In order to avoid problems and to have the best chance of success, you should work with an experienced immigration attorney. I have handled many immigration waiver cases and I have a strong record of success. I would be glad to speak with you about your case. Please contact my office for details. Thank you.