Entry is one of the most important issues in U. S. immigration law. The circumstances surrounding an immigrant’s entry can make or break his or her ability to later become a lawful permanent resident.
Navigating the road to a green card often resembles trying to pass through a confusing maze. And how you start your journey can affect the final outcome.
If you plan to seek immigration benefits, either on your own or with the help of an attorney, you need to be prepared to answer the following questions:
1. When Did You Enter?
Your entry date often determines your right to seek benefits under various programs.
- If you entered on or before January 1, 1972, you might be eligible for Registry.
- If you entered ten or more years ago, you might be eligible to apply for Cancellation of Removal if the government ever tries to deport you.
2. How Did You Enter?
Did you enter with or without inspection by U.S. authorities?
Your answer might affect your ability to qualify for certain immigration programs. If you entered with temporary permission – like a business, student, or tourist visa – this visa might enable you to speed up the lawful permanent resident process.
- If you entered under the Visa Waiver Program, you might be limited from seeking immigration benefits while still in the United States.
- If you entered without inspection, you might be subject to being deported. On the other hand, you might be eligible to become a lawful permanent resident but only after paying a hefty fine.
3. Why Did You Enter?
The reason why a person enters the United States often leads to specific consequences
Sometimes the reason for seeking admission will help a person obtain a green card. Yet, other times, the reason may destroy an immigrant’s application for benefits.
- If you entered the country to escape persecution or torture, you might be able to seek immigration benefits under asylum.
- If you entered to live or work here permanently, but used a temporary visa, you may face problems related to fraud when you apply for permanent residence.
- If you were tricked or forced into entering the United States, you might be considered to be a victim of trafficking or forced servitude under immigration law.
4. Did You Ever Leave After Your First Entry?
Some immigrants have left the United States after their first entry.
If you fall into this category, then the analysis of your situation can be more complicated. Sometimes leaving and re-entering will undermine your immigration petition, even when you were admitted the first time.
You can expect the government to ask questions such as:
- How many times did you leave the United States?
- Why did you leave the United States each time?
- When did you leave the United States each time?
- How long did you leave the United States each time?
- When did you re-enter the United States each time?
Last but not least:
How did you re-enter the United States each time – with government permission, including immigration parole, or without inspection and lawful admission?