Can You Re-Enter The U.S. After Deportation by Marrying a U.S. Citizen?

An immigrant that has been deported may have an option to get back into the United States by marriage to a U.S. citizen.

Once an immigrant has been removed (deported) from the United States, the immigration laws make it very difficult for that person to return. In most cases, the immigrant becomes “inadmissible,” and must spend several years outside the United States before a return is legally allowed.

This is true even if the immigrant might normally be granted an immigrant visa or green card, for example through marriage to a U.S. citizen. But there is some hope in such a case. The immigrant may be able to apply for a waiver of admissibility, allowing early return and receipt of an immigrant visa or green card.

For How Long Will the Deported Immigrant Be Inadmissible?

After having been removed from the United States, the inadmissibility laws set varying amounts of time during which a removed immigrant will be barred from reentering the U.S. legally.

Unfortunately, the legal terminology is quite technical. We’ll give you a brief rundown here, but analyzing the law and applying it to your own situation will require an attorney’s help. For example:

  • People who were deported or removed from the U.S. after April 1, 1997, and then illegally reentered, are barred from immigrating through a family member with no waiver available (although you can request special permission to reapply after ten years). This is the so-called “permanent bar.” (See Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.) Section 212(a)(9)(C).)
  • People who were ordered removed based on being deportable (a separate list, within the immigration laws, from the grounds of being inadmissible), or who left the United States while an order of removal was outstanding, are inadmissible for ten years following their departure from the United States. (See I.N.A. Section 212(a)(9)(A).)
  • People who were ordered excluded or deported before the 1996 passage of a law called IIRIRA are inadmissible for ten years following their departure. (See I.N.A. Section 212(a)(9)(A).)
  • People who were ordered removed because they were found to be inadmissible, most likely upon an attempted entry to the United States, are inadmissible for five years after their removal date. (See I.N.A. Section 212(a)(9)(A)(i).)
  • People who were ordered removed after an earlier removal, or who were convicted of an aggregated felony, are inadmissible for 20 years following their departure from the United States. (See I.N.A. Section 212(a)(9)(A).)
  • People who, without reasonable cause, failed to attend their removal proceedings in immigration court are inadmissible for either five or ten years from their departure or removal, depending on whether the judge issued an in absentia order of removal. (See Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A). Section 212(a)(6)(B).)

Is a Waiver of Inadmissibility Available?

If you are married to a U.S. citizen, then you are considered an "immediate relative" under the immigration laws. That means that, in theory at least, you are eligible for an immigrant visa (green card).

However, anyone can be denied a green card if found inadmissible. So, as part of your application for a green card, you’ll need to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility. Such a waiver is available in most of the situations described above. But you’ll need to present convincing and sympathetic reasons why the waiver should be granted.

Consult an Immigration Attorney

If you’ve been removed or deported from the United States and have any thoughts of returning, consult with an immigration attorney first. In fact, look for an attorney with a subspecialty in reentry after removal, who both understands the laws and has succeeded with past waiver requests. This is a tricky area of the law, and you’ll need help from someone who is knowledgeable and experienced.

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