Imagine this: You’ve lived in the United States for months or years on an expired visa, but you’ve worked hard, led a good life and been a responsible person. You have family, friends, a career and a community here. You eventually decide that you don’t want to live with the constant fear of deportation, and you try to have your immigration status adjusted.
There’s just one hitch: You have to leave the country and return lawfully, using a valid visa, first. Once you leave, however, you may be barred from re-entering the United States for either three or 10 years, depending on your circumstances.
These bans are part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) — and they make it very difficult for immigrants who have been here unlawfully to make the situation right again. Under the IIRIRA, if you overstayed your visa for 180 days, you face a three-year ban. Those who overstayed their visa for a year or longer face a 10-year ban.
By punishing people for overstaying their visa, the IIRIRA is effectively encouraging undocumented immigrants to take their chances rather than seek legal status. There are exceptions to the rules, however. You may qualify for an exception if you:
- Have been in the U.S. for an extended period while seeking asylum
- Are (or were) a minor when you exceeded your visa
- Were protected under the Family Unity program
- Are a battered spouse or child
- Were brought in or kept in the U.S. as a victim of human trafficking
Immigration is an exceptionally complicated area of the law. Regardless of your immigration situation, you can benefit from experienced legal assistance. You also need someone to aggressively protect your interests. Find out more about our services by continuing to explore our website.