If you were ordered removed (or deported) from the U.S., you must remain outside of the country for five, ten, or 20 years and in some cases, you may not be able to return to the U.S. at all.
However, some deportees can return to the U.S. on a visa even before their required time outside the country expires. To do this, you should understand the circumstances surrounding your order of removal, what options are available to you, and what type of waiver (or legal forgiveness) you will need. Keep reading on for more information about how long you will need to wait to reenter the United States.
First, Determine Whether an Order of Removal Was Issued
If you are unsure whether or not an Immigration Judge (IJ) issued an order of removal against you, you should try to find out, as part of determining when you might be able to return to the United States. In some situations, an IJ will grant voluntary departure, which allows the noncitizen to leave the country before a set date. If you leave by that time, you avoid having a removal order issued against you. If you were granted voluntary departure, but failed to leave by the appointed date, the voluntary departure automatically converts to an order of removal. You can check if the IJ issued an order of removal by calling the Immigration Court hotline at 1-800-898-7180 and following the electronic prompts.
Keep in mind that, even if you voluntarily depart the U.S., you may still be inadmissible for a number of years depending on how much unlawful presence you accrued while in the United States. To learn more about this please read “Consequences of Unlawful Presence in the U.S.—Three and Ten Year Time Bars.”
Circumstances of Your Removal Will Determine How Long You Must Wait to Reenter
If you do have a deportation or removal order issued against you, it is possible that you are not allowed to enter the U.S. for five, ten, or 20 years. It is even possible that you have been permanently barred from reentering the United States.
The Five-Year Ban: If you were summarily removed or deported upon arrival at a U.S. port of entry because you were found inadmissible, or if you were removed or deported after having been placed in removal proceedings upon arrival in the U.S., you may be ineligible to return to the U.S. for five years.
The Ten-Year Ban: If an IJ issued a removal order at the conclusion of your removal hearing in Immigration Court (even if you did not attend these proceedings) you may not be able to return for ten years.
The Twenty-Year Ban: Although you can be permanently banned from entering the U.S. if you are deported and attempt to reenter the U.S. prior to the expiration of the ten-year ban, it is possible that an IJ could add an additional ten years to your original ten-year ban. As a result, the issuance of multiple removal orders can often result in a 20-year prohibition from entering the United States.
The Permanent Ban: If you were convicted of an aggravated felony, entered without permission after being removed, or reentered the U.S. after having previously been in the U.S. unlawfully for more than one year, you may be permanently barred from entering the United States.
Options After Issuance of a Removal Order
If you were ordered removed from the U.S., there are some limited options that might enable you to return legally. You can attempt to return to live in the U.S. permanently (on an immigrant visa or green card) through sponsorship by an employer or a family member. You may also qualify for a nonimmigrant visa, such as a tourist visa or a student visa. To do any of these, however, you would need to apply for a waiver that could “forgive” your prior removal order and give you permission to reenter the U.S. with the visa or green card.
To learn more about applying for permission to enter the U.S. after deportation, see Nolo’s article “After Removal: Possibilities for Reentry to the U.S.”
Somewhat surprisingly, you can apply for a waiver even if you have been permanently barred from return. In this case, however, unlike with other people barred from return, you must wait until you have been outside the U.S. for ten years before applying for the waiver.
An Immigration Attorney Can Help You Reenter the U.S.
Returning to the U.S. after removal can be a complicated and difficult process. If you are in removal proceedings, it is best to seek legal assistance prior to your final immigration hearing date. In some circumstances, you can still stop the entry of an order of removal and the resulting time bar. You should contact an immigration attorney to discuss your case and the options available to you. Some attorneys may work with you remotely even if you are not physically present in the United States.