Have I Accrued Unlawful Presence in the United States?

Legal balancing beam shadow cast on a prison wall covered in the American flag

There are two ways you can accrue unlawful presence in the United States.

The first is if you are in the United States without having been inspected or admitted into the country by an immigration officer. In other words, you are unlawfully present if you entered the United States by crossing the border at a place other than a designated port of entry and/or without having been inspected by an immigration officer. If you crossed the border without inspection, you began to accrue unlawful presence in the United States on the day you entered the country.

The second way to accrue unlawful presence is if you remain in the United States past the period of time granted to you when you entered the country. Specifically, you are unlawfully present in the United States if you came into the country with a visa, were admitted and inspected by an immigration officer, but you did not leave by the date you were supposed to leave by. If you stayed in the United States past the specific date you were required to leave by, you typically start to accrue unlawful presence in the United States the day after you were supposed to leave.

If you depart the United States after having accrued more than 180 days but less than one year of unlawful presence, you may be barred from entering the United States for a period of three years. If you depart the United States after having accrued more than one year of unlawful presence, you may be barred from entering the United States for a period of ten years. If the three or ten year unlawful presence bar apply to you, you usually cannot get a U.S. visa, enter the U.S., or obtain any immigration benefits (such as permanent residency).

However there are legal exceptions to the three and ten year bar, such as for immediate relatives, VAWA self-petitioners, and certain special immigrants, to name a few.

If you believe that you have accrued unlawful presence in the United States and are subject to the three or ten year bar, it is very important that you contact an experienced immigration attorney. Contact the Law Office of Casais and Prias at (305) 722-8015.