Illegal immigration usually involves coming into the United States without a visa or a green card, then remaining indefinitely. Government officials at ports of entry into the United States check your documentation when you arrive, so if you don't have any, you can't get in.Therefore, most illegal immigrants come to the United States in ways that avoid officials, such as by crossing the border from Canada or Mexico, or arriving unannounced by boat.
You Can Be Deported
If you come into the country illegally and the authorities find out, the result is usually deportation. The United States will send you back to your original country. Generally, there will be a hearing first. You usually have the right to present your case to a judge in immigration court. Typically, removal from the country is the only punishment.
Difficult to Return
If the United States deports or "removes" you to your home country, this can prevent you from being able to get back into the country legally. You may not ever be able to get a visa. If you return without a visa and not through a port of entry, and get caught, immigration law bars you from ever getting a green card or becoming a U.S. citizen.If the authorities discover you living in the United States after you've been deported, you lose your right to have your case heard by a judge in immigration court and law enforcement can charge you with a criminal offense. This could include fines or imprisonment as well as removal.
Voluntary Return to Your Home Country
If you leave the United States and return to your home country voluntarily, not because you were removed or deported, you can apply for a green card from your home country to re-enter the country legally. If you're caught in the country illegally, you have the right to leave the country voluntarily, without going through removal proceedings.However, if you were in the United States illegally for six months and U.S. Immigration knows about it because you were discovered here, you can't return for three years. If you were an illegal immigrant for a year or more, and if the government knows that, you must wait 10 years or you could be permanently barred from returning.
Congress occasionally offers amnesty to illegal immigrants. When this occurs, the government forgives your illegal presence in the United States and you can apply for a green card regardless of how you got here.Under some circumstances, you might also be able to get the three-year or ten-year rule waived. Exceptions exist if you've lived in the United States illegally for 10 years or more, if you have a family here, and if your removal to your home country would cause them great hardship.
An Immigration Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding illegal immigration to the United States is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an immigration lawyer.