Helping illegal immigrant parents

Photo: denna/

Q. My parents are illegal immigrants. I was born here. They pay taxes and have lived here for almost 30 years. Is there anything I can do?
— Worried

A. We’re guessing the election of Donald Trump has heightened your concern for your parents.

Although your parents qualify for green cards based on their relationship to you, a U.S. citizen, there are barriers that may prevent or delay them from becoming lawful permanent residents (green card holders), said Rose Greenman, a Hackensac-based immigration attorney.

She said if they entered the U.S. with a valid visa (such as a visitors’ visa), but overstayed it, they may obtain their green card through a process called `adjustment of status’ that does not necessitate them leaving the country.

On the other hand, Greenman said, if your parents entered the country without inspection, they must go abroad and apply for their immigration visa at the U.S. Consulate through “consular processing.”

“Because your parents entered the country illegally thirty years ago, they may be prevented from the re-entering the U.S. for ten years once they leave for consular processing,” she said. “Under recent immigration development, the Secretary of Homeland Security may waive the ten-year bar to admission in certain circumstances making them eligible to apply for advance approval of the waiver in the U.S., rather than enduring a lengthy separation while they remain abroad.”

It sounds like it’s time for your parents to speak to an immigration attorney.

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This post was first published in December 2016. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.