Los Angeles Immigration Attorney - Lawful Entry

Did I Enter the U.S. Illegally? Proving “Lawful Entry”

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To qualify for a U.S. green card, in most cases, you need to have entered the country lawfully. It’s important to understand what exactly “lawful entry” means. For immigrants that otherwise qualify for a green card but may have illegally worked in the U.S. or failed to maintain lawful status, being able to prove lawful entry is important.

Visa Overstay

Many people enter the country on a visa and overstay. This still qualifies as lawful entry and can help you qualify for a green card. If you have a relative that is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or is serving in the U.S. military, you may qualify for a waiver that allows you to immigrate to the United States.

Lawful Entry without Documents

Entering the country without documents and without receiving a visa or proof of your entry can sometimes qualify as lawful entry. Here’s an example.  

You entered the country without a visa or other type of immigration document, maybe as a passenger in someone's car or walking through. In this case, the officer might have simply waved you in. You presented yourself for inspection and the officer admitted you into the country. Even though a formal inspection didn’t occur, under the law, this counts as lawful entry.

The hard part in these cases is proving it. Without a I-94 Arrival/Departure Record, a stamp in your passport, or a visa, there isn’t any documented proof of your entry into the country. You will need to present secondary evidence in the form of declarations. This can be tricky and I would recommend you seek the advice of an attorney if this is your situation.

Entering the U.S. with False Documents

It’s also possible to qualify for lawful entry if you entered the country with fake documents, depending on the type of document you used and when you entered the country. Here’s an example.

You hire a notario who gives you a fake residency card and enter the country with it. The officer looks at the card, inspects it, and you are let into the country. This is an immigration violation and does have a punishment. But because you were inspected and admitted, it can still qualify as lawful entry and later allow you to lawfully immigrate to the United States.

However, consequences vary depending on what type of document you used and when you entered the country. If you in any way pretended to be a U.S. citizen—whether with a fake U.S. birth certificate, fake U.S. passport, or simply in an oral statement—then you committed a serious crime under immigration law. If this occurred after 1997, then there is no waiver and you may not qualify to immigrate to the United States. However, if it occurred before 1997, then you can request a waiver.

In this case, you will need to file the waiver to forgive the use of false immigration documents. This waiver can be filed at the same time as the immigration petition or later. In the current political climate, however, I would recommend filing everything together and having an immigration attorney help with your case. 

Immigration Help: Proving Lawful Entry

If you have any questions about your entry into the United States, I'd be happy to help. I’m a dedicated and passionate immigration attorney, fluent in English and Spanish, located in the Los Angeles area. Call (310) 803-3040 or visit https://abaudlegal.com/appointment/ to schedule an appointment.

Sharon is the best lawyer I've had the pleasure to work with!

Sharon is the best lawyer I've had the pleasure to work with. She was very professional, but also offered emotional support during sometimes tough episodes and harsh deadlines. Indeed, I would definitely recommend her. Thanks Sharon! Mallory, the kiddos and I appreciate all your hard work!

Eloy F. , Los Angeles, CA

About the Author Sharon Abaud, Esq.

If you have any questions about your Immigration Status, I'd be happy to help. I’m a dedicated and passionate immigration attorney, fluent in English and Spanish, located in the Los Angeles area. Your immigration case matters to me.

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