Thousands of visitors come to the U.S. daily, from all over the world. Some folks may come to the U.S. to remain for a long period of time for work, and others only come to visit. For those that want to only visit, there are many different ways to enter the U.S. For example, they may enter via a Visa Waiver Program or by obtaining a Visitor Visa from the U.S. Consulate in their country. The Visa Waiver Program allows people from certain countries to enter the U.S. without first obtaining a visa. However, for those who are not nationals of those qualifying countries, they must first obtain a visa before entering the U.S.
When a person enters the U.S. on a B-2 visitor visa, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) will designate a date of departure, usually about six months from the date of entry. However, the CBP has the discretion to limit the time allowed in the U.S., even with a visa. If a visitor remains in the U.S. past the time allotted by the CBP at the time of entry, they may start to accrue unlawful presence in the U.S. Accruing unlawful presence could potentially affect their ability to return to the U.S. in the future.
Many times visitors will remain in the U.S. after the time allotted under their visa without realizing the consequences of this action. After time, they will meet and marry a U.S. citizen or their children will be born in the U.S. as a citizen. Fortunately, for these people, there may be a way to adjust their status in the U.S. and obtain their Permanent Lawful Residence without ever leaving the U.S.! The law states that for those that were lawfully admitted to the U.S., and have immediate relatives in the U.S. can apply for adjustment of status. Immediate relatives are spouses, children, or parents of U.S. citizens. So although a visitor may have overstayed their visa, they may still qualify to obtain their green card while in the U.S.
Of course, this benefit is at the discretion of USCIS and can depend on other peripheral factors such as preconceived intent. Also, there may be certain instances where a visitor may have been admitted to the U.S. on a different type of visa, such as a crewman visa. However, such issues are outside the scope of this article. Therefore, it is important to speak to an experience immigration attorney before applying for a green card.