An immigration lawyer’s published advice for aliens seeking a “green card” for legal residence in the United States serves as an important lesson about immigration reform. Allen Wernick writes in the NY Daily News, “Most immigrant visa applicants want to interview here. That’s because if the USCIS denies your adjustment of status application, you can renew that application in immigration court.” The appeal system in the U.S. allows applicants for immigration benefits a virtually endless number of bites of the apple up to and including appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. That fact helps to explain why the immigration court has a long backlog and federal court dockets are heavily impacted with immigration cases.

The corollary of Wernick’s comment is that if you apply for an immigrant visa outside of the U.S,. and you are found ineligible because of a criminal record or a finding that you will not be able to support yourself in the U.S. without public assistance, or some other reason, you remain outside of the U.S. and have no formal appeal process.

This is an important distinction to keep in mind when considering amnesty legislation. If persons who have become illegal aliens by sneaking into the country or ignoring the limit on a legal entry are required to leave the country and apply to come back legally, the overseas review process will keep ineligible aliens from returning. But if they are not required to leave first, they will have a perpetual appeal process available to them to continue their illegal stay in the U.S. including with permission to work.

The Senate’s immigration reform bill (S.744) does not include any requirement to leave the country.