The United States government penalizes foreign-born individuals who remain in the country by overstaying their visas or who unlawfully enter the country. The government calls these actions “unlawful presence,” and they serve as reasons for immigrant inadmissibility.
If the government deems you to be inadmissible, it means that you may not enter the U.S. Typically, inadmissibility carries specified time bans that prevent you from entering the country for a certain amount of years.
Inadmissibility due to unlawful presence time bans
The government issues time bans based on the amount of unlawful time you spent in the country. If you spend more than six months but less than a year in the U.S., you face being unable to enter the country for three years. If you spent more than a year in the U.S., you face a ban of 10 years. Anyone caught trying to gain reentry into the U.S. during a ban may face a permanent ban from the U.S.
Exceptions to time bans
Immigration laws contain complex guidelines and penalties. The laws regarding unlawful presence may strive to remove and ban anyone who remains in the country illegally, but immigration laws also offer exceptions to the inadmissibility policy.
These exceptions include:
• Children under the age of 18
• Existence of an asylum application
• Pending application for a green card or change in status
• Victims of domestic violence who overstayed due to the abuse
• Received a Temporary Protected Status or official protection against removal
• Trafficking victim
Getting around penalties for unlawful presence
If you face inadmissibility due to unlawful presence, you may be able to seek a waiver that allows you to remain in the country. Waivers may also allow you to seek a green card or visa. Although the penalties for unlawful presence may seem harsh, they do offer some flexibility.