Navigating the Maze of Lawful Entry: Your Ultimate Guide

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Information on Legal Entry to the US and Compliance with Immigration Laws

Under US immigration laws, lawful entry means you were “inspected and admitted or paroled.” Understanding what these means can significantly affect your application to adjust your status.          

Adjustment of status is when a person changes their legal status from a nonimmigrant to an immigrant. Proof of lawful entry is required for approval to adjust status. This article delves into the intricacies of lawful entry, outlining the process and shedding light on potential consequences for violating immigration laws. Additionally, it explores nonimmigrant visas eligible for adjustment of status.

If you have legal questions about lawful entry to the US, Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, can help you. We can answer your inquiries about lawful admission and help ensure you are lawfully admitted to the United States.

Procedures of Lawful Entry: Inspection, Admission, and Parole

Entry into the US in violation of its immigration law can jeopardize your immigration benefits and your rights to remain in the country. Unlawful entry, constituting illegal entry, is a federal offense carrying severe consequences such as hindering green card applications, deportation, and a ban on re-entry.

If you are applying for a Green Card, proving lawful entry is imperative. So, how do you prove lawful entry?

1. Inspection

Inspection determines a person’s eligibility for lawful entry into the US. This involves presenting yourself physically to a US immigration officer at a port of entry. The immigration officer will assess whether you, a non-citizen or non-permanent resident, are eligible to enter the US. By presenting oneself to an immigration officer at a US port of entry, a non-citizen initiates the application for admission. During inspection, you are required to present all the documentation to establish your identity and admissibility.

Following inspection, one of these scenarios may happen. You are:

  • Admitted to the US

  • Paroled into the US

  • Denied entry

  • Deferred admission to the US

2. Admission 

A person is “admitted” to the US when the following conditions are met:

  1. The foreign national applied for admission as an “alien” at the port of entry and
  2. The immigration officer inspected the applicant as an “alien” and authorized entry according to the law.

Form I-94 (the arrival/departure record) is the most common document to prove that a non-citizen or non-lawful permanent resident is admitted to the country. Other documents that can prove admission include the following:

  • Admission stamp in the passport

  • Employment authorization card

  • Temporary resident card

  • A border-crossing form

If the immigrant can meet the procedural requirements for admission, the “inspected and admitted” requirement for adjustment of status is satisfied.

3. Parole

Parole is granted when, without other evidence, after foreign nationals are inspected, the immigration officer cannot decisively determine whether the individual can be admitted to the country. The grant of parole is temporary and doesn’t equate to admission to the US.

The Process of Adjustment of Status

An application for adjustment of status can only be made if you are physically present and residing in the US. If you are outside the country, you should obtain your visa through consular processing.

The adjustment of status application involves the following steps:

  1. Determine Green Card Eligibility: Requirements for eligibility depend on the immigration category you are applying for.
  2. Sponsor’s Petition: Have your sponsor file a petition on your behalf for the Green Card category.
  3. Visa Availability: Ensure the availability of a visa; you generally can’t apply for an unavailable visa.
  4. Form 185 Submission: File Form-185 with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  5. Biometric Appointment: Attend a scheduled appointment for fingerprinting and an eye scan.
  6. Interview: Attend your interview with the immigration official if applicable, depending on the information provided in your Form-185.
  7. Additional Documentation: Submit any supplementary evidentiary requirements if requested.
  8. Await Application Result: Wait for the result of the application. Upon approval, an approval notice will be issued, with the Green Card sent separately. If denied, a decision notice detailing the reason and potential avenues for appeal will be provided.

An individual applying for adjustment of status must provide evidence they have legally and lawfully entered the US and have never committed any violation of their immigration status.

Nonimmigrant visa holders currently in the US can seek an adjustment of status. Upon approval, they are admitted for permanent residence and issued with Green Card without returning to their home country.

Immigrant Visa Categories in the US

There are over 20 categories of nonimmigrant visa classifications, including:

  1. Business/tourist visa: For individuals traveling to the US for business, pleasure, or medical treatment.
  2. Work visa: This is for individuals who want to temporarily work in the US as a nonimmigrant.
  3. Student visa: This is for foreign citizens who desire to study in the US.
  4. Exchange visitor visa: This is for individuals who participate in exchange programs.
  5. Transit/ship crew visa: This is issued to those traveling in immediate and continuous transit to the US and going to another foreign destination.
  6. Religious worker visa: This is for those seeking to enter the US to work temporarily in a religious capacity.

Ensure you have all the required documents when applying for a nonimmigrant visa. While there are documents required for the specific type of visa applied for, the following are general requirements:

  • Online application form

  • Valid passport

  • Photograph

  • Visa fee

Other documents that you may need to provide, depending on the circumstances, are the following:

  • Social media details

  • Previous US visas

  • Invitation letter

  • Travel itinerary

  • Sponsorship documents

  • Property documents

  • Proof of filiation

  • Letter from physicians

  • Proof of admission to a US educational institution, among others.

For US nonimmigrant visa applications, consult with an immigration lawyer. Meanwhile, if you are a lawful permanent resident and you’re anticipating traveling outside the US for one to two years, make sure to inquire about travel documents & re-entry permits from your lawyer.

Immigrant vs. Non-Immigrant Visas: Entry Process Differences

Immigrant and non-immigrant visas serve distinct purposes when entering the United States. Immigrant visas are for those intending to live permanently in the U.S., including immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and special agricultural worker applicants. 

These visas require a more extensive application process, emphasizing the applicant’s eligibility for permanent residency. Non-immigrant visas, on the other hand, are for temporary stays, such as tourism, business, or study. 

The entry process for non-immigrant visas typically involves proving the temporary nature of the visit and the intention to return home, often requiring less documentation than immigrant visas.

Impact of Immigration Policy Changes on Lawful Entry

Changes in immigration policy can significantly affect the process of lawful entry into the U.S. For instance, alterations to the visa waiver program or the criteria for issuing an advance parole document can streamline or complicate entry for certain groups. 

Policies affecting the discretionary act exercised by immigration officers, such as granting parole for significant public benefit reasons or on humanitarian grounds, directly influence the entry process. 

Moreover, changes in requirements for physical presence, the issuance of parole stamps, or the conditions under which unmarried children of visa holders can enter the U.S. reflect the dynamic nature of immigration law. 

These policy shifts can either facilitate or hinder the process, impacting applicants’ ability to obtain a valid visa or utilize discretionary acts for entry.

How Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law Can Help

Immigration laws can be complex and perplexing. A mistake in filling out a document may cause delay or severe consequences for those applying for adjustment of status.

If you have questions on travel documents & re-entry permits or want to know more about adjustment of status, Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, is here to help you. We can walk you through understanding the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Illegal immigration reform, the Immigrant Responsibility Act, and more. We have years of experience proving lawful entry into the United States and have successfully argued cases before immigration judges.

Our dedicated team employs a personalized approach to address your legal issues comprehensively. Contact us today for a consultation.