HOUSTON — President Donald Trump declared a national emergency at the southern border last month and that has some viewers asking what it takes to gain legal status in the United States.

New immigration numbers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection for February show the number of migrants crossing the border illegally is the highest in more than a decade. About 66,000 people were caught crossing the open parts of the border while almost 10,000 weren’t let in at legal ports of entry.

Edward Nickelson from Houston wants to know, “With the number of illegals that are coming across the border; it’s on the news all the time. What is the actual process? How long does it take? And what is the cost to do it legally?”

Statistics from CBP verify the number of people being caught and turned away at the southern border has gone up compared to last year.

To answer Nickelson’s question, we turned to immigration lawyers Mana Yegani and Gordon Quan.

Quan said there are three ways to seek legal status in the U.S.:

  • Family
  • Employment
  • Humanitarian grounds

He said the fastest way is through immediate family. For example, marrying a citizen. Quan said the relative petition is $535 plus a $1,225 Adjustment of Status application fee.

The whole process takes about a year. For employment and asylum seekers it’s more complicated.

Yegani said the government doesn’t charge to apply for asylum. There is a $1,225 fee to apply for a green card, but a person must first be approved for asylum. The process can be as little as six months to 10 years.

We can verify there is a process to become a legal resident. Each case is analyzed and the length of time depends on the availability of visas and the court system.