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Immigration Travel Tips for the Undocumented, Permanent Residents and Those with Work Visas

Posted by attorney JoAnn Barten

Undocumented Foreign Nationals: Before leaving the U.S., undocumented foreign nationals and foreign nationals who overstayed their allowed visit deadlines should be aware they can lose any hope of immigrating lawfully in the future for violating the immigration laws related to illegal travel and illegal presence in the U.S. Once the foreign national has been illegally present in the US for a total of more than one year, a visa must be obtained to return to the U.S. In many cases receiving a visa to enter is nearly impossible. With little hope of receiving permission to come back to the U.S., many undocumented foreign nationals choose to illegally return to the U.S. with the help of a coyote. This is where harsh consequences of the U.S. immigration laws harm the foreign national for future immigration applications. Upon illegal re-entry to the U.S., the foreign national has violated the "permanent bar," which means s/he is automatically prevented from being approved when immigrating through a family member or employer. There is no exception for travel for funerals, to care for sick relatives, receive medical treatment or visit family. When immigrating through a family member, the applicant is allowed to apply for a waiver requesting forgiveness of the permanent bar once the person has lived outside the U.S. for a minimum of 10 years. Lawful Permanent Residents & Work Visa Foreign Nationals: Permanent Residents may travel abroad and return to the U.S. on their Lawful Residency Cards. However, all other non-U.S. citizens must have authorization to return. Persons with work visas should schedule visa interviews at the consulate before leaving the U.S. Upon return to the U.S., Customs & Border Protection ("CBP") will review criminal records at the port of entry, either at the land border crossing or at the airport. Longtime permanent residents and persons with work visas may be removed (deported) from the U.S. for criminal convictions. This has come as a shocking surprise to many foreign nationals who have made the U.S. their permanent home to find themselves in the position of threatened removal. Convictions can come back to haunt the immigrant even if the criminal conviction was from many years ago, or if it was a deferred judgment, or the jail time, probation and fine was paid, or if it seemed like a crime of little consequence.

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