By: Raad Ahmed
A Primer on Immigration Law:
Immigration law is complex, ever-changing, and especially difficult to grasp if one’s native language is not English. Yet there are a few issues that tend to arise again and again in immigration proceedings. Below, some of the most common legal sticking points: For most foreign nationals, the most important thing to grasp about US immigration law is this: Having a visa that is valid for a given period of time does not necessarily mean you are authorized to be in the country for that period. Your immigration status (which is distinct from your visa status) is determined by other factors.
When a non-US citizen enters the country, they are issued a document called an I-94. This is the document that determines how long they are authorized stay — they cannot go by the date on their visa, though many mistakenly do so. If, as is often the case, the I-94 permits the bearer to be in the country for six months from their date of entry, the fact that they might have a ten-year visa is irrelevant.
A few words on the different types of visas: Broadly, there are immigrant visas and non-immigrant visas. Immigrant visas are meant for those who intend to remain in the United States permanently. Obtaining this type of visa is the first step toward becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident, which is the legal status conferred on a person in possession of the famous “green card.”
Other visa types fall under the category of “non-immigrant visa”: These are meant for people who are intending to stay in the US only for a limited duration, and who have a specific purpose for their visit. Employment visas and student visas are common examples of non-immigrant visas. It is worth noting here that, though a foreign national may be in possession of a two-year employment visa, that visa will be considered null if her relationship with that employer is terminated. In this case, the I-94 (see above) will determine whether she is remaining in the country illegally.
What if a foreign national is in the country illegally? What are the repercussions? As it turns out, they are not cut and dried. Removal, or deportation, is a risk one runs by overstaying a visa, but it is by no means the only possible outcome, and it is by no means automatic. Overstaying a visa can also result in a bar to readmission. For a finite amount of time, the person will be legally prevented from entering the country.
Here is a common example: If a person remains in the country unlawfully for between 180 days and one year, and they choose to leave the country before the US begins removal proceedings against them, they will in most cases be barred from reentering the US for three years from their date of departure.
Similar negative repercussions can even befall those with green cards. Lawful Permanent Residents who commit certain crimes may face similar bars to readmission, or be removed entirely. Moreover, once a bar to readmission or a removal is put in place, it is necessary to comply with all applicable laws and wait times governing readmission.
In nearly all cases, it’s advisable to speak with an immigration attorney to stay in compliance with all relevant immigration regulations. Entire lives and livelihoods are at stake, and people who try to go it alone often find that it’s simply too easy to lose track of the details. #immigration laws #employment visas #green card