If I am an undocumented professional, can I be sponsored by an employer?

In this week's Consulta Migratoria® column I answer a question from a reader seeking to obtain permanent residency in the United States through employment.

Each case is different and the answers vary depending on each person's immigration history.

Here I provide general answers to your questions. Please consult with an immigration attorney to receive personalized legal advice before starting any procedure.

This is the column:

I am Peruvian and at the age of 16 I entered the United States on a tourist visa and stayed in the country illegally. Now I have a master's degree in civil engineering and I work as an engineer in training in a small company where we provide engineering services. I have two years of experience and one year working in this company. Next year I will become a professional engineer after I pass the required exams. Can my current employer help me to obtain permanent residency - Daniel H.

Daniel, you are an example of self-improvement and I congratulate you for having obtained a master's degree in civil engineering.

In order to give you a more complete answer, I need to know more information about you and your current employer's situation to determine if they can help you obtain permanent residency in the United States.

For example, it is essential to know the following about the job and the employer:

  • exact description and remuneration of the job for which you will be hired
  • the number of employees
  • the economic solvency of the company

It is also necessary to analyze whether or not there are authorized workers in the United States who are available to do this kind of work.

How living in the U.S. illegally affects your case

Assume your employer is willing to sponsor you through a labor petition, all requirements are met, and you are approved. The next step is to apply for an immigrant visa inside or outside the United States.

The fact that you have been living in the country illegally is an important point to consider in this process, because you may have to go out of the country to look for it.

Here you run into the problem of the penalty law, which prevents you from returning to the United States for a period of three to 10 years.

If you have to apply for an immigrant visa abroad and are subject to the penalty law, you need to find out if it is possible to apply for a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver. You will have to meet several requirements, including demonstrating extreme prejudice to a spouse or parent who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident if you are not granted permanent residence.

I recommend that you and your prospective employer consult with an immigration attorney before beginning any immigration proceedings.