Can I get my green card just because I have been living in the United States for 10 years? Is there an automatic 10 year Green Card? What is Cancellation of Removal?

A common misconception among undocumented immigrants is that if they have lived in the United States for at least 10 years, they can obtain their work authorization and then their green card. While after 10 years there is some remedy available, there are many more requirements than just 10 years of residence. But beware, taking advantage of what some lawyers call the “10-year law” may place you in irreparable harm and lead to deportation. Read this article and find out why.

There is a form of relief from deportation called “Cancellation of Removal”. However, this is only available to immigrants who are currently in deportation proceedings (the Government calls this removal) because the purpose is to stop your removal from the U.S. One of the requirements for cancellation of removal is that you have to have continuously lived in the United States for 10 years or more. This is likely where the name  “10-year law” comes from.

However, an additional requirement, that is very hard to meet, is the hardship requirement. You must prove that your deportation would cause exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to a United States Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident spouse, parent, or child. Cases that are usually approved involve a very, very ill spouse or child. Normal hardship, like separation from your family, isn’t enough.

When you are not at immediate risk of deportation and an attorney tells you that you qualify for a green card because you have been in the U.S. for 10 years, you should be wary. What the attorney may be doing is submitting an application for asylum claiming that you are afraid to return to your home country. At this point, you have been in the U.S. for 10 years or more and are likely ineligible for asylum. This is because you are required to file for asylum within one year of entering the U.S. (some exceptions apply).  You will then be called for an interview to discuss your fear of returning to your home country. Your fear has to be more than general crime in your home country, but that someone is targeting you specifically.

In the majority of these situations, individuals are not granted asylum at their interview. They are referred to an immigration judge and placed in deportation proceedings. You will then have to prove the things I listed above and many other requirements. This will be your last and only chance. If you do not meet these requirements, you can be ordered deported. You may know many people who have gotten an employment authorization document from this, but in the long run it almost always ends in tragedy. Don’t fall for the 10-year law trick.

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