It's harder still when an immigrant is undocumented. However, a new bill recently proposed by a collection of Democratic lawmakers sets out an easier path to the legalization of such immigrants who lack the required papers.
One woman's story was recently highlighted in the McAllen, Texas Monitor. Marlene Chavez, a resident of Mercedes, Texas, fell in love with and married a man from Ecuador while studying abroad there.
After waiting two years to bring her husband into the US, Chavez ran out of time and moved back to the US without her husband. She has been working diligently to wade through the red tape necessary to pave the way for her husband, but she is not optimistic.
Marriages like hers can take as long as five years to clear the system.
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Once those requirements are met or initiated, the incumbent becomes eligible for a six-year visa followed by a green card.
The bill also sets out tougher penalties for employers who hire illegal workers, creates rules that require foreign investors given US visas to create jobs on American soil and adds restrictions on hiring foreign workers.
"I'm really hoping reform goes through because it's not just about my problem with how long it takes," Chavez said on December 15, as reported by the Monitor the next day. "There's so many people who are having issues that are far worse. This is not illegal immigration; this is people who have been here for years. We are a humanitarian nation and we need to act like one."