If something sounds too good to be true, it very well might be. For people who are in the United States without status at the moment, you may have heard of something called “10 Year Cancellation of Removal” as a way to get a green card. This blog is here to warn you about the risks of this method if you’ve heard of it, and to explain its possible benefit if you haven’t.
Cancellation of removal is indeed a path to a green card. But, there’s a huge catch that many people will not fully explain to you. You can only get cancellation of removal if you are in Immigration Court proceedings. This means the only way to get cancellation is for you to put yourself in a situation where, if you lose, you will be ordered deported. It’s really an all or nothing and the consequences of losing are disastrous.
Assuming you have no choice and are already in removal proceedings, or are possibly willing to take the risk, what does it take to qualify for cancellation of removal? First, you must have resided in the United States continuously for at least ten years before removal proceedings begin. This is a strict requirement, just being close to ten years won’t count unfortunately. You don’t have to have had legal status during any of this time though or have entered the country legally. Second, you must be a person of good moral character and not have committed certain criminal offenses. As long as you don’t have a criminal record, these requirements usually aren’t a big problem. With a criminal record of any kind it will depend on the exact nature of your convictions.
The last requirement is the most difficult, and the one that is not often fully explained if someone is recommending this as a way to get a green card. The final requirement is that a qualifying relative would suffer “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” if you were deported. Qualifying relatives are United States citizen and green card holder parents, spouses, and children. Thus, it is the hardship to these persons that the Judge will be looking at. The other key thing is just how severe the hardship must be. “Exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” is about as hard to show as it sounds. The mere fact life will be more challenging without you for your family or that they will lose your income is not going to be enough. A classic case that could potentially work though is where there’s a family member with a severe medical condition who would not receive adequate treatment if they left with the applicant and who is cared for by the applicant. A wide-range of hardship can be considered by the court, from medical, to emotional, to financial, to social, and hardship to multiple relatives can be considered cumulatively. But, all told, the hardship must rise to this high standard. The difficulty is compounded by the fact that the government has limited the number of people who are allowed to get cancellation of removal to only 4,000 per year.
Of course, cancellation of removal is not impossible. Many people do win it each year and if you or someone you know is facing removal from the United States it would be good to speak with an attorney about this possibility. But, if you are not at risk of deportation it would be best to think long and hard about exposing yourself to such a risk even though someone is promising you they can get you a green card.
Disclaimer: Although I'm an attorney, unless I am retained by you, I am not your attorney. The information in this blog is solely general legal information. Especially in immigration law, the particular facts of your individual case are vitally important and general legal information alone should not be used to make a personalized decision. In addition, the law can change rapidly, and what is found in a particular post may not be the most current reflection of the law. Thus, please speak with an attorney before either taking or choosing not to take any action relevant to your case.