Grounds of Deportability vs. Grounds of Inadmissibility

A non-U.S. citizen living in the United States can be deported based on either set of "grounds".

The U.S. immigration laws contain numerous grounds upon which non-citizens may be deported back to their country of origin (the technical term for which is "removed"). In fact, the laws divide these grounds into two separate categories:

The grounds of inadmissibility, found in Section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.). These apply to a person seeking admission to the United States, including both literally seeking entry at the border and also seeking the right to stay legally, such as with a green card application (lawful permanent residence). 

The grounds of deportability, found in Section 237 of the I.N.A. These apply to a person already legally living within the United States, perhaps with a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa or a green card. They also contain a statement that people who are in the U.S. without legal permission shall be deported.

Both Can Lead to Removal

If the immigration authorities believe that you are inadmissible or deportable, removal proceedings may be started against you. You will have a chance to argue your case and in some cases to ask for a waiver (legal forgiveness). However, this may occur in the context of deportation and removal proceedings in immigration court. In any case, you'll need a lawyer's help with this type of issue.

Once an immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen, that person cannot be removed unless he or she used fraud to gain citizenship or an earlier immigration benefit.

To learn about the waivers and other methods for defending yourself from removal, see our section on Removal (Deportation): Process & Laws.

Grounds of Inadmissibility

Here's a brief summary of the types of personal characteristics or history that may make someone inadmissible.

  • Having entered the United States without permission
  • Having committed fraud in order to gain an immigration benefit
  • Having helped smuggle other foreign-born people into the U.S.
  • Carrying a communicable diseases of public health significance, such as tuberculosis.
  • Having been convicted of certain crimes.
  • Having a physical or mental disorders that presents a danger to the immigrant or to others.
  • Being likely to become a "public charge," that is, require financial assistance from a government body.
  • Threat of terrorism or espionage. Anyone who is deemed likely to engage in any subversive activity against the United States will be turned away when trying to enter into the United States.

Again, this is just a brief summary, intended to highlight potential trouble areas. Do not attempt to analyze your personal immigration situation based on this list.

For more on being "inadmissible", see Who Can't Get Into The United States?

Grounds of Deportability

Here's a brief summary of the types of personal characteristics or history that may make someone deportable.

  • Having gained legal status by committing marriage fraud
  • Being a terrorist
  • Having been convicted of certain crimes
  • Having helped smuggle aliens into the U.S.
  • Having not deserved an earlier grant of legal status, because the person was inadmissible at the time
  • Having failed to timely notify U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of one's changes of address (Yes, that's really in there)
  • Having falsely claimed to be a U.S. citizen in order to gain a benefit from the government

To read more about the grounds of deportability, see our article, Can I Lose My Green Card and Be Deported?

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