Keep Yourself Off a Deportation List

There are several ways an immigrant in the United States can find him or herself on a deportation list. Here are the common reasons it happens, and how to proceed.

Any non-citizen in the United States can be deported or legally removed from the country under specific conditions. This includes individuals that have a visa or permanent resident alien status but are not U.S. citizens at the time of deportation. Avoiding deportation is not difficult provided that all laws of the United States are followed and the individual meets all criteria of his work or study visa while in the country.

When individuals fail to follow these requirements, their name is placed on a deportation list. Although individuals on the deportation list are eligible for removal from the United States, there are still processes that have to happen before the actual physical removal occurs.

Overstaying a Visa

Overstaying on a visa, usually a study visa or a work visa, will result in deportation. Each visa has an expiry date and the visa holder is required to either apply for an extension of the visa or leave the country by that date. Individuals that fail to complete either of these options will be deported should they be found within the United States after the visa has expired. Typically, removal from the country under these conditions will also result in denial of the chance to return to the United States at any later date or time. This includes being prevented from obtaining any further work or study visas. Individuals who marry a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, but fail to apply for their own change in status from a visa holder to a permanent resident alien or citizen, will also face deportation regardless of their marital status.

For more on this, please see Consequences of Overstaying on a Temporary U.S. Visa.

Illegal Entry

Entering the United States illegally is a crime, and will result in deportation. Illegal entry can include proving incorrect information about the reason for your visit to the United States to gain entry or failing to cross a border at a legal entry point. In addition, a permanent resident that has stayed outside of the United States for a long period of time may also be considered to have entered illegally if he cannot prove that he had the intent to return prior to leaving. This may include retaining a residence or applying for an extended stay outside of the country prior to leaving the United States.

Individuals who are in the process of applying for citizenship or permanent resident status are required to obtain permission and documentation to leave the U.S. should they be in the country at the time of the application. Failure to do so and returning to the United States can result in deportation.

Failure to Pass a Background Check

Once in the United States, a foreign citizen can apply for a visa, permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship. In all these applications, a thorough background check is completed on the individual to ensure that he has no serious or significant criminal history in his country of residence or any other country in which he had lived. Failing to provide accurate information on the application about any types of listed criminal charges can also result in deportation. Falsifying information of any type on the application is considered a crime of its own and will result in deportation if the omission or misinformation was intentional.

Committing a Serious Crime in the United States

At any time, a non-citizen in the United States can be deported if found guilty of a serious crime. These crimes are considered to be felony offenses and can include:

  • Money laundering
  • Rape
  • Murder
  • Sexual abuse of a child
  • Firearm offenses
  • Burglary or theft
  • Stealing property
  • Trafficking in explosives, firearms or humans
  • Trafficking in drugs or other controlled substances
  • Prostitution
  • Hiding or abetting family members or others to illegally enter or remain in the United States
  • Kidnapping
  • Racketeering
  • Gambling offenses that are subject to sentencing of one or more years
  • Slavery
  • Disclosure of classified information or gathering national defense information
  • Fraud
  • Tax evasion
  • Failure to appear in court
  • Obstruction of justice
  • Terrorism or terroristic threats

Other crimes may also fall under the heading of aggravated felony offenses. These will result in automatic deportation from the United States if you are proven guilty of the charge or charges. In general, most crimes that are considered violent and are punishable for a year or more in prison will result in deportation.

See An Aggravated Felony Can Get a Non-Citizen Removed (Deported) for more detail and defense options.

What Happens If You're Added to a List?

If your name is on the deportation list, you will be served with a "Notice to Appear." The hearing will be completed by an immigration judge and you should make every effort to have an immigration attorney representing you at the hearing. The immigration judge will hear the facts of the case including charges against you or the reason you are being considered for deportation. The judge will also consider the option of relief from removal, which is the option to remain in the United States based on the specific factors presented during the hearing.

For some individuals, the judge may allow Voluntary Departure which allows the foreign citizen to leave the United States on his own without a deportation on his record. The judge can also cancel the removal, which allows the individual to stay within the United States. This option is possible if the reason for deportation is not a violent crime or serious felony charge and the individual has been in the United States for at least 10 years on a continual basis (with a good work history). In addition, his record should be clear of any other types of immigration violations or criminal offenses. For people being deported to countries where the return could be life threatening, asylum, adjustment of status, or cancellation of removal can all be ordered by the judge in lieu of deportation.

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