Before applying for a green card based on the registry provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act, make absolutely certain that you are eligible. If not, you will be simply bringing your unlawful presence to the attention of the immigration authorities, which could result in your deportation from the United States. See Eligibility for a Green Card Under the Registry Provision of the I.N.A. for information on who is eligible. Consult a lawyer if you have any questions or doubts.
Once you decide to apply, there is no special immigration form designed solely for registry applicants. To file, you must complete Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and attach the same materials that other adjustment applicants do (such as a fee and photographs), as well as documents described below. Note, however, that you will not be required to include a medical exam report in your application.
You may want to hire an attorney at this point to help with the application process and avoid any problems. Lawyers add some cost, but can save you from problems with the process down the road.
The documents you gather are the most important part of the application process. Simply asserting that you have lived in the United States since January 1, 1972—without providing any documents to substantiate your testimony and those of your witnesses—is useless. To prove your continuous residence in the United States, you must submit as many of the following documents as possible with your adjustment of status application:
You will submit your application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services by mail. Then you will wait several months for an interview. During those months, you will be called in for biometrics (fingerprinting), and the prints will be sent to the FBI for a check of your criminal and immigration record.
For more information and tips, see our article on completing an I-485 application.
If you are able to provide clear and concrete evidence that you have been living in the United States all these years, USCIS will grant your application. Your permanent residence will begin as of the date your application is approved.
If you are unable to convince USCIS that you qualify for registry and it decides to start removal proceedings against you, consult an immigration attorney immediately (if you haven’t already).