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Farmworker Immigration Issues


    Getting Permanent Legal Immigration Status

    The most common way that farmworkers and their families get permanent legal immigration status is through family petitions. People who work at low‑wage jobs such as at farms and in factories rarely qualify through employment applications. These types of applications are generally for high‑skill jobs for which the employer cannot find a U.S. worker. Also, H-2A temporary visas do not lead to legal permanent residency.

    Who Can File an Immigration Application for a Family Member?

    U.S. citizens can petition for spouses, married and unmarried children of any age, and — if the citizen is at least 21 years old — parents, brothers, and sisters.

    Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) (people who have a "green card") can petition for only their spouses and unmarried children of any age.

    No one can petition for cousins, aunts and uncles, grandchildren, other distant relatives, or friends.

    Note: Many people who have entered the United States illegally have a difficult time applying for legal status or a work permit even if they have a family relationship listed above. An immigration attorney can advise you about your eligibility.

    When My Relative Files a Relative Application (I-130) for Me and It Is Approved, Can I Get Permission to Work Legally in the United States?

    It depends. Most people have to go through a waiting period, because there is a limited number of green cards that can be approved each year. The only people who might qualify immediately to file applications for a green card and for work authorization are parents, spouses, and unmarried children (under 21) of U.S. citizens. The other categories (including all relatives of LPRs) have to wait several years until they qualify to get work authorization and a green card. For example, as of May 2017, these are the waiting periods for Mexicans:

    • 2 years for spouses and minor children of LPRs

    • 22 years for adult children of U.S. citizens

    • 21 years for adult children of LPRs

    • 20 years for siblings of U.S. citizens

    What Should I Do If I Want More Information about Immigration?

    To learn more, go to the toolkit Immigration Basics. You should also talk with an immigration lawyer, such as the lawyers at Farmworker Legal Services (FLS) or the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC). Lawyers at FLS or MIRC will not charge you and can advise you if you qualify for an immigration program. If they cannot help you with the paperwork, they can refer you to an organization that can help you. Please do not pay someone who is not a lawyer or approved by the federal Board of Immigration Appeals. Many farmworkers have lost time and money because they got advice from a person (like a notary or a tax preparer) who did not know the immigration laws.

    Becoming a U.S. Citizen

    For information about becoming a U.S. citizen, read Citizenship and Naturalization.

    This information was provided by Farmworker Legal Services (FLS). FLS is a legal aid office with lawyers and other legal staff who provide free legal assistance and referrals to migrant and seasonal farmworkers throughout Michigan.