Special cases

Refugees, Exclusion & Deportation

Special cases

The number of refugees permitted to enter the US each year is determined by an agreement between Congress and the President, and the rules concerning refugee status are complex. Moreover, the US can refuse you of entry to the US, on arrival at a port or airport or when applying for a visa. There are many grounds for exclusion.

Refugees have no automatic right of entry and, although theoretically there’s no quota, numerical limits may be imposed.

A refugee is granted permission to come to the US before his arrival, while political asylum seekers apply for their status after arriving in the US as non-immigrants or illegal aliens. A refugee becomes eligible for a green card after a year; those who are granted political asylum are eligible for a green card two years after asylum is granted (which can take a long time).

People from countries experiencing conditions of war or natural disasters may be given a safe haven in the US and granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This allows them to live and work in the US for a specific period, but doesn’t make them eligible for a green card.

Exclusion & deportation

Exclusion is the term used for refusal of entry to the US, on arrival at a port or airport or when applying for a visa. There are many grounds for exclusion. If you’re excluded, it may be possible to obtain a waiver allowing you to enter the US.

There’s a big difference between exclusion (being refused entry to the US) and deportation, which is the term used for expelling a foreigner from the US. If you’re excluded, you may be able to reapply successfully later; if you’re deported, you won’t be allowed to return for at least five years. It’s far easier to exclude someone from the US than it is to deport a legal resident (John Lennon didn’t leave the US for many years, as he feared exclusion because of a minor drug offence). Grounds for deportation include violating the terms of a visa, e.g. by working illegally, and committing a crime.

Sometimes the CBP gives foreigners who have violated immigration laws the option of voluntary departure, rather than being deported. This means that you agree to leave the country without a deportation hearing and can apply for another visa after you’ve left. With the exception of those who enter the US under the Visa Waiver Program, nobody can be deported without first being given the legal right to a deportation hearing in a US court. You should take legal advice before deciding whether to waive your right to a deportation hearing. The holder of a green card can be deported if he is convicted of a serious crime or participates in politically subversive activities.

If you exceed your permitted stay by six months or less, you can be barred on your next attempt to enter the country and may be banned from returning to the US for three to five years. If you overstay by a year or more, you can be excluded for ten years.

This article is an extract from Living and Working in America. Click here to get a copy now.

Further reading

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