U.S. immigration law requires people who want to visit or move to the United States to follow certain legal avenues – including filing applications for special permits like visas, as well as to obtain legal residency in the U.S. In some cases, the U.S. government considers people to be unlawfully present in the country.
What is Unlawful Presence in U.S. Immigration?
Unlawful presence, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is “the period of time when you are in the United States without being admitted or paroled or when you are not in a ‘period of stay authorized by the Secretary.’”
What Happens if the U.S. Government Says You’re Illegally Present in the Country?
If the government finds that you’re unlawfully present in the U.S., you can be barred from reentering the country for:
- 3 years if you have been unlawfully present for between 180 days and 1 year during a single stay
- 10 years if you have been unlawfully present for more than 1 year during a single stay
- Permanently, if you reenter (or even try to reenter) without being admitted legally after you’ve been in the U.S. for more than a year unlawfully, spread out over all your stays
You’re considered unlawfully present in the U.S. if you’re here for any reason without being admitted or paroled, or if you have stayed longer than what’s authorized (like overstaying a visa, for example).
Are There Exceptions for Unlawful Presence?
There are some exceptions for people who fall into certain categories. If an exception applies to you, you’re not accruing days of unlawful presence. Some of those exceptions include:
- Minors. Kids don’t accrue unlawful presence until they’re over the age of 18.
- Asylees. If your asylum application is pending, you’re not accruing unlawful presence.
- Battered spouses and children. If you can show a connection between your status violation and abuse, you won’t accrue unlawful presence.
There are other exceptions, too, but those are a little more rare – but if you’re not sure if they apply to you, you can talk to a Milwaukee immigration attorney for guidance.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Immigration?
If you need to talk to an attorney about immigrating to the United States, we may be able to help you. You can call our office of experienced immigration attorneys to set up a consultation today – we’re available at 414-383-6700.