Myths About Immigration: Most immigrants are here illegally.

There are many translators that work directly or indirectly with immigrants so I thought it would be interesting to write a series of posts on myths relating to immigration, especially immigration coming across the Mexican/ U.S.  Border.

Myth 1

Most immigrants are here illegally.

According to the Department of Homeland Security today approximately 75% of immigrants come to the U.S. legally with permanent (immigrant) visas. Immigrants come as tourists, students or temporary workers. Those that enter on a visa are subjugated to scrutiny by immigration officials before entering the country and become undocumented only when they don’t leave the country before their visas expire. Approximately 50% of all the undocumented immigrants enter legally. Most foreigners living in the United States have followed the immigration laws and have the authority to be here. When someone stays longer than their visa they become what is called “out-of-status”. There is no difference under the law between someone who is “out-of-status” and someone who crosses the border illegally.

“A visa is an official mark or stamp on a passport that allows someone to enter or leave a country usually for a particular reason” (Merriam-Webster).  Upon arrival to the U.S., an immigration officer decides whether to give you permission to come into the country and, if so, how long you can stay. It’s possible that the officer could refuse you entry. The final decision to enter the country is made by the officer. If the immigration officer allows you into the country you will then receive a Form I-94. It is this form, not your visa that states how long you can legally stay in the U.S. The visa states the dates in which you may enter the U.S.

Some of the consequences of overstaying a visa are:

  1. Overstays may be barred from returning to the US for ten years or three years depending on the period of overstay
  2. Overstays may be further restricted from Extension of Stayor Change of Status
  • Overstaying will void your existing visa
  1. Overstays generally are unable to obtain a new visa except in their country of nationality
  2. Overstays may not be able to Adjust Status in the U.S.
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