If you maintain a presence in the United States for a certain period without an agent of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services admitting or paroling you or outside of a “period of stay” that the Secretary authorizes, the law considers your presence “unlawful.” An unlawful presence may result in a period of or permanent inadmissibility to the United States.
The rules pertaining to unlawful presence bars can be complex and confusing. The USCIS explains the three main types of bars to admissibility and what to do if any apply to you.
The three types of unlawful presence bars
The USCIS website details three main types of unlawful presence bars. They are as follows:
- The Three-Year Bar: Per the government agency, you will be inadmissible to enter the United States for three years if you leave the country after staying for more than 180 days but less than one year, unlawfully, during a single visit before the USCIS begins removal proceedings.
- The 10-Year Bar: You will receive a 10-year bar to admissions if, during a single stay, you acquire at least one year of unlawful time in the U.S and, if, after the said stay, you leave. The bar will apply regardless of whether you leave before, during or after the government initiates removal proceedings.
- The Permanent Bar: The USCIS will permanently bar you from entering the United States if the number of days in which you were unlawfully present in the country amounts to more than a year. The number of days does not have to be consecutive. The bar becomes permanent if you attempt to or do reenter the U.S. without parole or admittance.
When an unlawful presence bar applies to you
An unlawful presence bar does not apply to every person who maintains an unlawful presence in the United States. It only applies if you seek certain benefits, such as citizenship or naturalization. If a bar applies to you, you cannot enter the United States via any port of entry, obtain a visa from the Department of State, or receive any other immigration benefits, such as an adjustment of status. However, waivers and other types of relief do exist to help individuals in a situation such as yours.
Receiving a bar to admissibility can interfere with your goals, familial relationships and happiness. If you believe a bar may apply to you, seek the help you need right away.