Are You An Illegal Immigrant?
In the United States, illegal immigration refers to the act
of foreign nationals violating American immigration policies and laws through
the entering or remaining in the country without receiving proper authorization
from the Federal Government. You may be termed an “illegal immigrant” in one of the following three
· Illegally Entering the United States: referred to as “Border Crossing Card Violator” these individuals enter the
United States migrate via illegal entry. A common method of border crossing is
to hire professional organizations who smuggle illegal immigrants across the
United States’ borders. The Mexican/American border is the most common access point
for illegal immigration. This
method of illegal entry accounts for roughly 6.5 million illegal immigrant
statuses in the United States.
your Visa: The individual entered the United States in a legal fashion
(obtained a Visa) but stayed beyond the allotted time period in the nation or
violated the terms of legal entry. Roughly 5 million migrants entered America
with a legal visa; tourists and students are the most common groups to secure
visas before travelling to the United States. Their status of a legal migrant
changes to “visa overstay” once the individual remains in the United States
after their authorized time of admission has expired. The time allotted by a
visa will vary based on the visa class the individual secured. The majority of
these illegal immigrants enter the country with tourist or business visas.
Crossing Card Violations: This method accounts for a smaller number of
illegal immigrants. The Border Crossing Card is a form of identification that
enables an individual to cross into the United States for a limited amount of
time. These entry accounts for the majority of registered non0immigrant entry
Illegal Entry or Over-Staying:
An immigrant may be classified as illegal for the following
three reasons: the individual enters without inspection or authorization, the
individual stays beyond an authorized period following legal entry, or the
individual violates the terms of legal entry.
The laws revolving around illegal entry or overstaying are
found in Section 1325 in Title 8 of the United States Code. This section,
titled “Improper Entry of Alien” will provide a fine or imprisonment (or both)
for any immigrant who:
Enters or attempts to enter America at any
time or location other than what was designated by the United States Government
(immigration official, or
Any individual who eludes inspection or
examination instituted by the United States Government and its immigration
Any individual who attempts to enter the
United States by providing a false or misleading representation of oneself or
through a willful concealment of fact.
For instance, if you provide a false passport, driver’s license or
pretend to be anyone else, you will be charged with attempting to enter the
United States in an illegal fashion.
The maximum prison sentence for an individual caught in the
act of violating immigration policy is 6 months for the first offense and
additional 2 years for any subsequent offense.
How does the United
States Enforce Illegal Immigration Laws?
The United States government is attempting to crack-down on
illegal immigration. If you have over-stayed your visa or illegally crossed the
border, chances are, the United States government will uncover documentation
that leads to your imprisonment or deportation. The following methods are used
by the United States government to curb and reveal cases of illegal immigration:
Protection at the
Border: The United States Customs and Border Protection agency is
responsible for arresting individuals who attempt to illegally enter the United
States. The United States Border Patrol is a uniformed law enforcement agency
that is responsible for deterring, detecting and subsequently apprehending
those individuals who enter the United States in an illegal fashion—without
permission from the government and outside the designated points of entry.
Investigations: The United States government conducts audits on employment
records (the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency initiates the audits) to
reveal any discrepancies with regards to identification records and the
documentation itself. Workplace audits may result in deportation if absolute
evidence of illegal immigration is uncovered. Immigration authorities, during
workplace investigation, will alert employers of mismatches between an
employees’ Social Security card and the actual identification information of
the card holder. In addition to employment records, an immigrant’s visa is
perpetually updated and observed by the United States government. Simply put,
the government will know, through your employer, as to when your visa expires.
What is the
Punishment Associated with Illegal Immigration?
Individuals who are caught illegally immigrating will face
detention, imprisonment or deportation. The United States, per year, holds
roughly 300,000 illegal immigrants in immigration detention centers. An illegal
immigrant’s deportation is determined in administrative or removal proceedings,
held by the government in accordance with United States immigration law. A
removal proceeding is typically conducted in an Immigration Court and held by
an immigration judge. If the individual is found guilty of illegally
immigrating, he/she may be sent back to their home country and barred from
re-entry to the United States. Complications in deportation will arise when the
parents are deemed illegal immigrants, but their children were born in America.
If you do not have a Visa, a Green Card or citizenship in
the United States and are currently living in the country, you are subject to
deportation. Getting deported is a very serious aspect of immigration law; it
is the process of the United States government removing illegal immigrants from
the country. Deportation may eliminate your ability to secure a visa in the future.
The United States Government may deport you for the following reasons:
If you enter the United States while being
deemed “legally inadmissible” by the immigration laws of the federal government
Entering the country without a legal visa
Failure to renew a conditional permanent
Aiding an illegal immigrant with entering the
Conviction of a criminal offense
Endangering national or public security
Participating in a fraudulent marriage for the
purpose of securing an immigrant visa
There are several ways to become a legal resident of the
United States. The exact procedure to obtain legalization will depend on your
location, your background and your residency status. In most cases, before you can obtain a
Green Card (permanent residence) you must obtain a legal status. If you are
residing–because of illegal crossing or an expired visa–in the United States
as an illegal immigrant, you must obtain legalization thru your family (if
permanent residents or American citizens), your place of employment, the United
States military, thru marriage or from an educational endeavor.
This will enable you to
maintain residence in the United States for a certain period of time. It is crucial
to understand that all visas have expiration dates—Green Cards and Citizenship
are permanent, not Visas. Before your expiration date, you must secure a Green
Card through marriage, the military or a family member, employment or business.
To acquire legalization you must engage in or be categorized
as one of the following: a family-based immigrant, a member of the United
States Armed Forces, a worker or student with exceptional skills, an
employment-based worker, or an asylum seeker/refugee. The visas associated with
these categories are all temporary; however, they will enable you to live in
the country legally and apply for permanent residency in the future.
A number of people become legalized by way of their family
members. The following individuals may be eligible to legally live in the
Any immediate relatives of American citizens,
including spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents of
American citizen petitioners 21 years or older.
Family members of green card holders, including
spouses and unmarried children of the sponsoring individual
A family member of an American citizen who fits
into a preference category, including unmarried children over the age of 21,
brothers and sisters of an American citizen petitioner over 21 and married
children of any age.
Members of special categories, including
battered children or spouses, individuals born to foreign diplomats in the
United States, a widower of a United States’ citizen or a K non-immigrant.
Process of Legalization
To promote family unity, United States immigration law
enables citizens to petition for qualified relatives to live permanently in
America. As stated above, eligible relatives include, spouses, unmarried children
under the age of 21 and parents of the U.S. citizen if over 21. These
individuals possess special immigration priority; they do not have to wait in
line for a visa to immigrate because the government offers a chance to immediate family members of citizens or green card holders to reunite the family.
Being an immediate relative of a US citizen allows you to
apply for residency through the filing of Form I-485 (Application to Adjust
Status or Register Permanent Residence). While filling this form out your American
citizen petitioner must file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative). When
filing Form I-130, your petitioner must provide proof of status to demonstrate
permanent residency and must submit evidence to qualify your relationship.
Permitted evidence includes: a birth certificate, divorce decree or marriage
When your relative or spouse is petitioning, the government
will observe the following preference categories:
Preference: All unmarried, adult sons and daughters of American Citizens
(Adult encompasses all individuals over the age of 21)
Preference (2A): Spouses of green card holders and unmarried children under
the age of 21 of permanent residents
Preference (2B): Unmarried adult sons and daughters of green card holders
Preference: Married sons and daughters of a United States citizen
Preferences: Sisters and brothers of adult American citizens.
A visa will become available to the above preference
categories depending on their priority dates (the date the I-130 form was
If you are living
outside of the United States and are an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen
you can apply for permanent residency by engaging in consular processing. This
procedure connects the USCIS with your Department of State to issue a permanent
visa assuming the approval of Form I-130.
A fiancé visa is one of the most common ways to obtain
citizenship. If you are planning on marrying a US citizen, your partner will
file the petition to award you with permanent residence. When filing the
petition, your partner must satisfy the following requirements:
The petitioner must be a citizen of the United
The petitioner must show that they intend on
marrying you within 90 days of your entry into the United states
You and your fiancé are both available to marry
and previous marriages have been legally terminated by death, annulment or
You met each other in person at least once
within 2 years of filing the petition.
If you are living outside of the United States and are an
immediate relative of a U.S. citizen you can apply for permanent residency by
engaging in consular processing. This procedure connects the USCIS with your
Department of State to issue a permanent visa assuming the approval of Form
Every year, thousands of people are legalized through an
employment opportunity. The approval for a work visa will require certification
from the United States Department Labor. The United States Government, before
issuing the visa, will investigate the need for the specific job. The
Government must see a lack of U.S. workers who are able, qualified, willing or
available to satisfy the job requirements in that particular area. The
Government will ensure that no American workers are displaced through the
issuance of the visa.
A visa will also be given for employment if you are
considered a “highly skilled worker” or in possession of extraordinary
abilities in a specific field. These workers are typically sought-after by the
United States government. For instance, in 2002, a number of computer
technicians and programmers were awarded a work visa.
Process for Acquiring
a Green Card through Employment:
The majority of employment categories will require your
employer to obtain a labor certification then subsequently file Form I-140,
(The Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) for you.
Green Cards may also be offered to entrepreneurs/investors
who are seeking to make a substantial investment in an entity or enterprise
that creates new jobs.
Visas for Students:
If you are interesting in becoming a full-time student in
the United States, you will need to acquire either an M-1 Student Visa or an
F-1 Student Visa. To acquire temporary legalization with a student visa you
must meet the following criteria:
You must be enrolled in an educational program,
a vocational program or a language-training program.
Your academic institution must be approved by
You must be enrolled as a student (full-time) at
the academic institution.
You must be proficient in the English language
or be enrolled in classes leading to fluency
You must have enough money to support yourself during
the course of study
You must maintain a home abroad that you have no
intention to give up.
The F-1 Student Visa enables you to enter America as a
full-time student at an accredited university, college, academic high school,
elementary school or language training program. You must be enrolled in a
course of study that culminates in a degree or certificate. Your school must
also be authorized by the United States Federal Government to accept
The M-1 Student Visa is for vocational students or students
of non-academic programs (other than language courses).
Citizenship and the
Members and certain veterans of the United States armed
forces may be eligible for citizenship through their military service.
Qualifying military service refers to participation in the United States Army,
Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and certain branches of the National
Those who honorably serve in the United States Armed
Services (at any time), will be deemed eligible to apply for citizenship;
however, the applicant must satisfy the following requirements:
Be at least 18 years of age
Be able to read, write and speak basic English
Maintain permanent residency at the time of the
Possess strong moral character
Have a knowledge of U.S history and government
Have resided in the United States, continuously,
for at least give years and have been physically present in the country for at
least 30 months out of the 5 years preceding the application.
Spouses and children of military members are also deemed
eligible to apply for citizenship assuming they pass the following criteria:
Be at least 18 years of age
Establish that his or her spouse or parent is
deployed abroad as an active service member
Be present in the United States pursuant to
admission for permanent residence or at the time of naturalization
Be able to read, write and speak English
Have a basic knowledge of United States’
government and history.
Asylee or Refugee Status:
If you were admitted to the United States as a qualifying
member of an asylee or as a refugee, you may apply for permanent residence 1
year after your entry into America. If you were granted asylum in America, you
may apply for permanent residency 1 year after you secured your status.
To apply for a Green Card you must file the Form I-485
(Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status). If your asylum
status is granted, you should file, in addition to Form I-485, a completed Form
I-693 (Report of Medical Exam and Vaccination Record), a completed Form I-602
(Application by Refugee for Waiver of Grounds of Excludability), a copy of your
I-94 Card, a completed Form G-325A, two passport-style photos and certified
copies of court records if you were ever arrested.
Form I-485 is also required if you are applying for a Green
Card through Refugee status. In addition to Form I-485, you should enclose with
your application two photos, Form G-28, Form G-325A, Form I-693 (only needed if
there were medical grounds of inadmissibility at the time you arrived in
What Happens After I
After you acquire legalization you must obtain
permanent residency (a green card) to live in the United States. All visas have
expiration dates—if you stay in the United States past your expiration date your status will become illegal. Once you stay in the United States for
at least five years as a permanent reesident, demonstrate proficiency for English and knowledge for
United States’ history and government, you may obtain citizenship. The primary
motives for immigrants to acquire citizenship is to vote in public elections
and assist their relatives immigrate to America.
Other Ways to get a
The majority of immigrants attain permanent resident through
their job or family; however, there are several other ways to attain a green
Indian Born in Canada
Native or Citizen
the Armed Forces
born to Foreign Diplomat of the United States
Child of a U.S. Citizen
Immigrant Visa Program
HAITI Act of 2010
Family Equity Act
Criminal Activity (U Nonimmigrant)
Trafficking (T Nonimmigrant)
What are my Rights
and Responsibilities as a Legal Immigrant?
Once you have obtained legalization you are allowed to live in
the United States and enjoy the following rights:
The right to live in America provided that you
do not commit any crimes or engage in any actions that would make you removable
according to immigration law
You have the right to work in the Unites States
at any place of your choosing.
You have the right to be protected by all
American laws, including those found at the federal, state and jurisdictional.
As a legal immigrant of the United States you are
responsible for the following:
You must obey all laws of the United States,
including all federal, state and jurisdictional.
You are required to file income taxes and report
your income to the United States Internal Revenue Service, as well as state