The answer is simple: they married an American citizen – at least in my case- or became an underage child of a US citizen. But that only works if you entered with a valid visa. Had I crossed the border undocumented as many inmigrants from Central America or Asia, there would have been no way under current immigration law that I would have been able to adjust my status. Correct that: there is an exception – if I had been a victim of physical and sexual abuse by my citizen/permanent resident husband, i might have been granted an U visa, but not a green card.
Other cases would be people who entered the US with a visa, and applied for political assylum as soon as they entered the US. Extremely hard to prove, but an option for the desperate – and the path from assylum recipient to green card holder takes years. But the reality is that if you are truly undocumented (as never have been granted an US visa) there are little to no options to regularize your status under current immigration law.
Faking a legal document such as a US visa is a serious felony, and a hard one to pull off (have you seriously looked at the security features of one?). Having a felony conviction is cause for removal of the US – even if you are a documented inmigrant.
Nazi refugees managed to do so – but that was in the 1940’s. In the XXI century, faking a visa is extremely, extremely difficult. Adjusting the status to a green card holder (a process that involves clearances with the FBI and department of state) will yield the fact that you were never issued a visa to begin with, and with it goes the chance to ever adjusting your status.
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