Reentry to the U.S. After Removal (Deportation)

Someone who has been removed (deported) from the United States cannot apply for a new immigrant visa, nonimmigrant visa, adjustment of status, or other admission to the United States without facing legal restrictions.

Updated by , J.D., University of Washington School of Law

A foreign-born person who has been removed (deported) from the United States will have huge trouble returning. Such a person cannot realistically apply for a new immigrant visa, nonimmigrant visa, adjustment of status, or other admission to the United States without facing legal restrictions. For starters, the person must wait a set amount of time (five, ten, or 20 years in most cases) before applying for U.S. reentry. Then again, there's also the possibility of filing for a waiver of inadmissibility to overcome such bars. This article will discuss the various hurdles and ways to clear them.

Sources of Law on Waivers of Past Removal

The Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.) is the basic collection of immigration laws in the United States. I.N.A. § 212 is the law defining the circumstances under which an alien may be inadmissible and the length of time an alien must wait before applying for a waiver and reentry.

Case law created by U.S. immigration courts has further addressed the circumstances under which a non-citizen may be granted a waiver of inadmissibility. Each case is considered based on its specific circumstances and some individuals will be allowed an opportunity to reenter the United States after removal while others may not.

Using Form I-212 to Request Reentry Following Removal

By filing Form I-212 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), along with supporting documents and a fee, an alien can ask the U.S. government for permission to apply for entry before the required waiting time is complete.

Form I-212 is called an "Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States after Deportation or Removal." You will need to support your application by showing numerous factors in your favor, such as:

  • family ties in the United States
  • your rehabilitation after any criminal violations
  • your good moral character and perhaps responsibility for a family.

A non-citizen who left the U.S. voluntarily and was not legally removed or deported by the U.S. government can apply to reenter the U.S. without filing Form I-212.

Using Form I-601 to Request a Waiver of Inadmissibility

If you are separately inadmissible to the U.S. (on top of facing a time bar based on your prior removal), you might also need to submit USCIS Form I-601 along with your application for reentry. The name of this form is the "Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility."

Because there are many grounds for inadmissibility, the requirements for obtaining the waiver will depend on the reason you were removed.

Waivers Following Serious Criminal Offenses

Some people have a better chance than others of receiving waivers to reenter the United States. Getting a waiver following an aggravated felony is extremely difficult. Similarly, aliens accused of terrorist activity are not likely to receive a waiver of inadmissibility.

The term "aggravated felony" is defined in I.N.A. § 101(a)(43), or 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43). Among other things, the term includes offenses such as murder, sexual abuse of a minor, rape, drug trafficking, and illicit trafficking in firearms or destructive devices. An alien who is removed for an aggravated felony will be barred from reentering the United States for twenty years (even if removed only once).

What USCIS Considers Upon Receiving an Application for Reentry

There is no "typical" case for reentry, nor any specific eligibility criteria you need to meet. Each case will be considered by the U.S. government authorities based on its unique circumstances. Among the factors considered will be:

  • basis for removal
  • length of time since the removal
  • length of residence in the U.S. (only LEGAL residence can be considered)
  • moral character of the applicant
  • applicant's respect for law and order
  • evidence of reformation and rehabilitation
  • family responsibilities of applicant
  • inadmissibility to the U.S. under other sections of law
  • hardship involved to the applicant and others, and
  • need for the applicant's services in the U.S.

Your best bet is to hire an attorney who can create a full picture of why you deserve a waiver based on the combined circumstances in your life and immigration case.

Illegally Returning to the U.S. After Removal Is a Felony

Under federal law (8 U.S.C. § 1325), anyone who enters the Unites States illegally is committing a misdemeanor and can be sentenced to a fine or to six months in prison.

The law accompanying § 1325 is 8 U.S.C. § 1326, which makes the offense of reentering or attempting to reenter the United States after being removed or deported a felony offense in many instances. You will likely be permanently barred from the United States if you illegally reenter after a prior removal.

You Will Need to Hire a Lawyer

Applying to reenter the United States following removal is extremely complicated, and far more difficult than applying to enter the United States for the first time.

An experienced immigration attorney can evaluate the strength of your case and help prepare the necessary forms and documents to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible. An attorney can also help you understand the restrictions previously imposed by USCIS and save the frustration of filing an application to reenter before you are eligible.

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