Unless you were born in the United States or were born in a foreign country and obtained a Report of Birth Abroad as the child of one or both U.S. Citizen parents, you will need a
Visa or Green Card to enter the live in the country.
It has become increasingly difficult to obtain an employment based Visa. Also, most categories of Visas for family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents are subject to annual quotas and are backlogged.
As a result, many immigrants decide to enter the United States illegally, sneaking through the U.S. borders, eluding inspections by immigration officials. This phenomenon is also known as "entry without inspection", or "EWI", or E.W.I. immigration.
The consequences of an entry without inspection are severe. Federal law provides that immigrants present in the United States after a E.W.I., are unable to obtain an adjustment of status even if they are immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen.
Moreover, there is accrual of unlawful presence. The penalties vary depending on the duration of unlawful stay in the U.S.
A person who is unlawfully inside the U.S. for more than one-hundred-eighty days, but less than 1 year, is barred from reentering the U.S. for a period of three years after leaving the U.S.
A person who is illegally inside the U.S. for more than 1 year is barred from reentering the U.S. for a period of ten years after his departure from the U.S.
A recent change in the law introduced a Provisional Waiver of Unlawful Presence for beneficiaries of an approved I-13 petition filed by an immediate relative that is a U.S. Citizen. This new procedures allow EWI entrants to apply for a waiver before the Consular interview, so that family are not separated during the waiver adjudication process, which could take up to 1 year.
An immigrant that entered the U.S. without inspection has only a few options available to fix his or her immigration status.
Cancellation of removal is available to e.w.i. illegal immigrants that have lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years, are of good moral character, and can prove that their removal from the country would result in extreme and unusual hardship to a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident family member.
Under the Violence Against Women Act, the victim of physical and/or psychological abuse by a U.S. Citizen of Lawful Permanent Resident spouse is able to self-petition for a Green Card regardless of his or her legal or illegal entry in the country. Vawa cases are generally filed by women, although can be filed by male individuals as well.
The U Visa is designed for victims of serious crimes that cooperate with law enforcement agency in the persecution of the offender. The U Visa creates a path to a Green Card. After 3 years of holding U Visa status it is possible to apply for adjustment of status.
Asylum can be sought from legal and illegal entrant. An asylum application must be generally filed within 1 year of entering the United States.
Finally, under a recent immigration policy change, spouse of U.S. citizens that are serving in the U.S. military can be granted adjustment of status through a mechanism called "parole in place".