Understanding Your Options

If you wish to visit, live, or work in the United States, you may have already begun to learn about the process required to obtain an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa. Although immigration law is a complex and dynamic system, two basic questions run throughout:  Who is permitted to enter the country and who will be kept out? Who does the United States allow to remain here after entry and who can be deported?

In trying to answer the first question, the first legal hurdle you may face concerns whether or not you are "inadmissible."  Generally, inadmissibility issues arise when health, criminal, security, immigration violations, or public charge questions emerge in your case.  Some people are turned away at the border, while others gain entry but later must go before an Immigration Judge for a hearing or address these issues in an interview with a U.S. immigration officer.  For some individuals, there may be waivers or pardons that would allow them to overcome their inadmissibility problems.

The other legal difficulty you may face can occur after you have gained lawful entry; because of some action you have taken, such as allowing your visa to expire, working without authorization, or being convicted of a crime, the government may now wish to "remove" you for violating the law.  In addition, individuals who have entered illegally, such as without inspection or by fraud, are also removable.  In either of these cases, you have the right to a hearing before an Immigration Judge to decide whether you will be removed from the country.  Sometimes, you can be granted a waiver or the right to seek relief from removal.  Many of these waivers will depend on the strength of your ties to the U.S. and/or a showing of hardship to your family members, along with other potential requirements such as evidence of persecution, the amount of time physically present in the U.S., or residency.