Vista Legal Services

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At Vista Legal Services we handle every kind of immigration service, including:

  • Family Immigration
  • Citizenship
  • Deportation
  • Waivers
  • U-Visas
  • Visitor Visas
  • Criminal Defense

Serving Los Angeles and Orange Counties and the Inland Empire.

Illegal Reentries

By Attorney Gerald Gornik

When a person wants to immigrate to the United States there are often many obstacles to doing so. In my years of practice as an immigration attorney it has been my experience that one problem has destroyed more hopes than any other: illegal re–entry to the United States.

There are two important rules to remember. The first rule: If a person entered illegally and lived here more than a year and leaves, he can’t come back unless the government grants a waiver. The second rule is harsh, and one that many immigrants don’t know about: If a person has lived here illegally more than a year, leaves, then returns without permission he or she is prohibited from ever obtaining permanent residency.

Many people who are here illegally assume that leaving and coming back will not make their bad situation any worse. But it will. Obviously, the act of entering the United States without authorization is against the law. However, just because a person has entered the U.S. illegally once doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be able to obtain legal status. If a person has a path to residency through a relative, one illegal entry often won’t be fatal to one’s immigration dreams. However, an illegal reentry may.

If the person entered illegally, unless he or she is the beneficiary of a petition filed before May 2001, he or she must go through consular processing and eventually leave the U.S. to attend the final interview. For that person, it is as if an invisible gate slams shut behind them the minute they step outside the U.S. That person cannot return to the U.S. for ten years unless a waiver is granted.

If the person does return without authorization – which can only be obtained after the waiver is granted—he or she is prohibited from obtaining a green card for life. That means that for most people who must go through consular processing, successfully immigrating will depend on having a waiver granted. It is for this reason that having a well–prepared waiver is so important. The complexity of the law regarding illegal entry and reentry is yet another reason why anyone who intends to immigrate should consult with a good immigration lawyer.