We met Amy (not her real name) in early 2016 – she wanted to know if she could apply for lawful permanent resident status. She had been married to a US citizen for the last 10 years and was the mother of four US citizen children. In the mid-1980s, she came to the United States with a visa, but all of her documents had been stolen in the early 1990s. As you may already know, in order to apply for a green card, you generally need to show that you had a lawful entry to the United States. Amy wanted to apply for a green card, but didn’t know how to prove her lawful entry. That was our missing piece.

We filed multiple FOIA requests, in the hopes of obtaining her enter records from USCIS or CBP. She contacted her Embassy to see if they could help her. After a year of waiting for results, we received some records for Amy, but nothing that showed her lawful entry. We were seemingly stuck.

Amy then told me that she had a son who had served in the US military and I immediately thought of Parole in Place (PIP). PIP is a great program that allows immediately family members of US service members to have their unlawful entry waived so that, if everything else is in order, they can apply for their green card in the United States. In Amy’s PIP application, she provided a statement talking about her entry. She was honest and talked about entering by plane and having a visa at the time.

The PIP request was denied. Why? Because Amy had entered lawfully and PIP is only for those who entered the US unlawfully.  The denial stated that there was a “presumption of a lawful entry” in her case.  Well…if USCIS says a presumption of a lawful entry, is that good enough for a green card? I hoped so and we filed an adjustment of status application for Amy.

While waiting for an interview to be scheduled, one of our appeals on FOIA resulted in a few additional documents being released. One of the items the government gave to us was a screenshot from an old INS screen. It had Amy’s name on it, a date, and it said “inspected/private aircraft.” Bingo.

Amy had her interview earlier this week – five years after she and I first met. The officer was uncertain about the screenshot – it’s not a typical document that would be provided to show a lawful entry. However, after a quick conversation with a supervisor, the officer came back and told us that the document was acceptable. The missing piece was the screenshot and her immigration puzzle was complete – Amy’s green card was approved! After being in the US for over 30 years, Amy is now a lawful permanent resident and we couldn’t be happier!

-Tracie