Grounds of Deportability vs. Grounds of Inadmissibility in U.S. Immigration Law

U.S. immigration laws contain numerous grounds upon which non-citizens may either be deported back to their country of origin (the technical term for which is "removed") or refused entry into the United States.

U.S. immigration laws contain numerous grounds upon which non-citizens may either be deported back to their country of origin (the technical term for which is "removed") or refused entry into the United States. 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). In some cases, they can even be applied to green card holders returning to the U.S. after foreign travel.

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 specify that people who are in the U.S. without legal permission (also referred to as "undocumented" or "illegal") shall be deported.

Both Inadmissibility and Deportability Can Lead to Removal

If the immigration authorities believe that you are deportable, or were inadmissible during your last U.S. entry, 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 might 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 Removal (Deportation): Process & Laws.

Grounds of Inadmissibility Found in U.S. Immigration Law

Here's a brief summary of the types of personal characteristics or history that can 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 any 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.
  • Constituting a threat of terrorism or espionage or seeming likely to engage in any subversive activity against 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 Found in U.S. Immigration Law

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

  • Having gained legal status by committing marriage fraud.
  • Being a terrorist.
  • Having been convicted of any of certain crimes.
  • Having helped smuggle aliens into the U.S.
  • Having not deserved an earlier grant of legal status, because of having been 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, though it isn't often enforced).
  • 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 Can I Lose My Green Card and Be Deported?

In short, while there are clear distinctions between the grounds of inadmissibility and the grounds of deportability, both can present problems for non-citizens in the United States. Consult an experienced immigration attorney with any questions or for a personal analysis.

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