Immigration Violations: Illegal Entry, Visa Overstay and Unauthorized Employment

The United States Department of Homeland Security estimates there are between 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants with Immigration Violations in the United States today. 

Every day, each lives with the strong possibility of arrest, deportation, and the loss of any hope of obtaining a green card or becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States. 

In most cases, an immigrant who violates U.S. immigration law loses important procedural rights to the immigration process, including the right to adjust their status while staying in the United States. 

Known as being “unlawfully present” in the U.S., non-citizens who violate immigration laws are forced to leave the United States and apply for immigration through a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country. 

However, because these individuals have an immigration violation on their record, they are often labeled “inadmissible,” and barred from re-entering the United States for either three or ten years. 

But immigration violations do not necessarily have to end in deportation. 

U.S. immigration law offers some way to permanent residency, even with an immigration violation on their record. 

If you have ever violated any U.S. immigration law, SelfLawyer suggests you read this article carefully because we discuss:

  • The Three Primary Types of Immigration Violations
    • Illegal Entry
    • Visa Overstay
    • Unauthorized Employment, and

Obtaining a green card after immigration violation is one of the most complicated areas of U.S. law. 

The procedural requirements are full of pitfalls, and the facts to be established are extremely difficult to prove. 

For this reason, SelfLawyer strongly encourages anyone wishing to get a green card with an immigration violation on their record to talk to an experienced immigration lawyer before making any contact with U.S. immigration officials.  

The Three Primary Types of Immigration Violations

Of the estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States today, it can be assured that most have violated immigration laws in one of these ways:

Illegal Entry

United States immigration law defines illegal entry as when you cross any United States border without being lawfully inspected by an officer of the United States Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). 

As soon as you cross a U.S. border without inspection, you have violated U.S. immigration law and are what’s called “unlawfully present.” 

Illegal entry can have serious consequences on your immigration status:

  • You could be arrested and deported by U.S. immigration officials;
  • You may be required to return to your home country to get a new visa; 
  • You might not be able to adjust status even if you are otherwise eligible; and 
  • If you leave the U.S. for any reason (voluntarily or after being deported) U.S. immigration authorities could find you “inadmissible” from reentering the United States for a period of time: 
    • If you entered the U.S. illegally and stayed less than 180 days total, you can obtain a visa if you return to your home country and apply through a U.S. Embassy or Consulate; 
    • If you entered the U.S. illegally and stayed longer than 180 days but less than one year, you are inadmissible from reentering the U.S. for a three-year period;
    • If you entered the U.S. illegally and stayed longer than one year, you are inadmissible from reentering the U.S. for a ten-year period;
    • If you entered the U.S. illegally, were caught and deported, and then reentered the U.S. again, you are inadmissible from reentering the U.S. for life.

Visa Overstay

Most foreign-born visitors who come to the United States do so through a “nonimmgration visa.” 

Regardless of the visa type, at the point of entry, a United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer tells you the exact expiration date your visa expires and the date you must leave the United States. 

This date is documented in the United States Department of Homeland Security Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record).  

Visa overstay occurs when a person fails to leave the U.S. on or before the date their visa expires. 

At this point, you have violated U.S. immigration law and are “unlawfully present.”

Visa overstays can have serious consequences on your ability to adjust your immigration status:

  • You could be arrested and deported by U.S. immigration officials;
  • You may be barred from extending your stay;
  • Your current visa could be revoked or canceled;
  • You may be required to return to your home country to get a new visa; 
  • You might not be able to adjust status even if you are otherwise eligible; and 
  • If you leave the U.S. for any reason (voluntarily or by deportation) U.S. immigration authorities could find you “inadmissible” from reentering the United States for a time period: 
    • If you overstayed your visa by more than 180 days (but less than one year), you are inadmissible from reentering the U.S. for a three-year period;
    • If you overstayed your visa by more than one year, you are inadmissible from reentering the U.S. for a ten-year period. 

Unauthorized Employment

Unauthorized employment is defined as any employment performed by a person who is not expressly authorized to work in the United States. 

A person violates U.S. immigration laws when that person works for a total of 180 days or more in a five-year period before being granted legal permission to work. 

It is often difficult to determine when an immigrant has violated U.S. immigration laws through unauthorized employment. 

Exceptions to Unauthorized Employment

The following categories of non-citizens are exempt from this unauthorized employment provision of U.S. immigration law:

  • Self-petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA);
  • Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens(spouses, parents, and minor children);
  • G-4 international organization employees;
  • NATO-6 employees and their families;
  • Special immigrant juveniles under federal law; and 
  • Aliens who are otherwise eligible for employment-based immigrant visas.

Calculating 180 Days

Calculating the 180 days can be confusing. 

For example, under immigration law, employment begins on the first day you are hired and ends on either the termination date or the date you were granted legal authorization to work. 

Thus, when calculating your 180-day limit, every day you have a job counts as a day of employment, including weekends, vacation days, and sick days. 

If you worked for multiple employers at different times, all periods of employment should be added together to determine days of unauthorized employment. 

Moreover, employment is not necessarily defined by compensation.

Any position that does not truly count as volunteer work is viewed as employment, even without compensation.

Lying on Immigration Application

All unauthorized employment counts against you on your green card application. 

Under U.S. immigration law, you are required to show all employment in the last five years. 

Not listing an employer in order to fall under your 180-day total is a violation of immigration law, making you ineligible for permanent resident status. 

Lying on your application is considered reason enough to revoke your green card (even if several years have passed since it was granted). 

Consequences of Unauthorized Employment

Unauthorized employment can have serious consequences to your ability to adjust your immigration status:

  • You could be arrested and deported by U.S. immigration officials;
  • You may be barred from extending your stay;
  • Your current visa could be revoked or canceled;
  • You might not be able to adjust status if you are otherwise eligible; and 
  • Lying on your application to avoid an unauthorized employment violation may result in “admissibility” resulting in you being barred from reentering the United States for three- or ten-years.

Consult an Immigration Lawyer If You Have Immigration Violations

As you can see, seeking permanent residency with past immigration violations is complicated. 

Moreover, your life and the well-being of your family hangs in the balance. 

For these reasons, SelfLawyer strongly encourages you to get an immigration lawyer’s help before starting the process of getting your green card while having immigration violations on your record.

If you want to discuss your case with a licensed immigration attorney, you can contact us.

 

Related links:

How to Apply for a Green Card

Form I-485 Processing Time [2020]

I-130 Form, Petition for Alien Relative – Complete Guide [2020]

I-765 Form – How to Get a Work Permit [2020]

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