What is Considered Legal Entry to the US?

What is Considered Legal Entry to the US?

There are numerous routes for entering the US legally. Of course, the reverse is also true: there are myriad ways to enter the US unlawfully. Let us go over the legal routes of entry into the US before taking a brief look at fraudulent/unlawful entries.

Legal Entry into the US

For the most part, immigrants require documentation issued by USCIS to enter the US legally. There are exceptions to this rule, notably entering as a refugee or asylum seeker or with a permit, such as Advance Parole or Humanitarian permit.

Nonimmigrant Visa

The first option is a nonimmigrant visa. As the name implies, this does not permit the holder to remain in the country permanently. Instead, nonimmigrant visas have a set period of residence, although this can be several years.

You can enter the US legally on a nonimmigrant visa for work, education, personal, or humanitarian reasons. It is unnecessary to go over the different types of nonimmigrant visas here, as USCIS provides clear definitions of what they cover.

There are two things worth mentioning about nonimmigrant visas, though. The first is overstaying your visa (in most cases) can lead to you being classified as an unlawful resident. In turn, this can lead to you being deported or asked to leave the US.

The other thing is that, in some cases, you can adjust your status to permanent resident. While this is not related to entering the US legally, it does mean you can remain in the country permanently and legally. For more information, you can refer to our other posts about adjustment of status.

Immigrant Visa

The US’s immigrant visa is known informally as a green card. It gives you legal permanent residency (LPR) status, meaning you can remain in the country, get a job, and access some social security benefits, permanently.

Typically, the US issues green cards up-front for work or family reasons. You need a petitioner who is a US citizen or LPR to receive a green card through these methods or an employer who is willing to sponsor you.

Another route is to apply for the Green Card Lottery (also called the Diversity Visa Lottery). This provides you and your immediate family with green cards without the need for a US-based sponsor.

As mentioned, you can convert some kinds of nonimmigrant visa into a green card. After 3-5 years, depending on how you first obtained your green card, you can begin the process of naturalization to become a US citizen.

Refugee/Asylum Seeker

Refugees and asylum seekers deserve their own category of legal entry because they don’t require up-front documentation. Asylum seekers do not typically have documentation when they arrive in the US, but their status means they’re not counted as undocumented immigrants. Once they are processed and deemed refugees, they are then counted as legal entrants.

Unlawful/Fraudulent Entry into the US

The most obvious type of unlawful entry into the US is via undocumented entry. It means someone crosses the border without a visa or permit or as an asylum seeker, typically to find work or reunite with family.

However, the type we will focus on more here is supplying fraudulent documents as part of a visa or asylum application. This might be something like a false reason for entering the country or false documentation to support a legitimate application (e.g. a false passport, false tourist visa, false humanitarian permit).

If USCIS discovers (and it usually will) that an applicant has falsified documents, the standard outcome is deportation. There are some circumstances in which this is not always the case, though, particularly with asylum seekers.

In these cases, fraudulent documents alone are not often grounds for denial of asylum. Instead, falsified documents are considered alongside other evidence to determine whether someone should be granted refugee status.

While it can be tempting for people wanting to enter the US to provide false information or documents, the consequences can understandably be quite severe. If you are concerned about your entry into the US, make sure you speak to a qualified immigration attorney so you know what to do.

Final Thoughts on Entry to the US

For most, legal entry into the US is obtainable with the correct documents and application procedure. However, some do not have the time or resources to apply, making fraudulent entry seem like the only option.

If you are planning to enter the US and need advice about the best route for doing so, contact San Diego Immigration Law Office. We are qualified immigration attorneys, and we can discuss your case and needs.

Reach out to book an appointment and let us see what we can do to assist.