Undocumented immigrants are persons who have traveled to the United States and do not have the proper documents, such as a travel visa, passport, green card, or other important papers. This is also known as "illegal immigration," and can often pose a major problem for the foreign alien. U.S. immigration laws are very strict, and violations of documentation requirements can lead to various consequences for the immigrant.

A person can be an undocumented immigrant either by:

  • Entering the country illegally OR
  • Staying in the U.S. after their visa has expired (i.e. "overstaying a visa")

What Are the Consequences of Illegal Immigration?

Undocumented immigrants may face various consequences for entering or staying in the U.S. without the proper documents. These consequences may include:

  • Immediate removal from the country (deportation).
  • Not being allowed to re-enter the U.S. until a certain amount of time has passed (such as 5 years after the removal).
  • In some cases, criminal consequences can result, especially if the person is also being implicated in criminal charges.

In addition, harboring a known undocumented immigrant, or hiring illegal immigrants can also lead to legal consequences. This is especially a concern for employers, who may face fines, a loss of business license, and other consequences for knowingly employing an undocumented immigrant.

Are All Undocumented Immigrants Subject to Immediate Removal?

Not necessarily. While most undocumented immigrants will be subject to immediate removal upon discovery of their illegal status, some illegal immigrants may be granted amnesty. This is similar to a pardon and is generally granted to persons who originally entered the U.S. for political asylum purposes. However, eligibility for amnesty is very limited, and often requires that the person had been staying in the U.S. continually for many years.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Immigration Documentation?

Immigration laws are strictly enforced, and violations can lead to very serious measures. You may need to hire an immigration lawyer if you or a loved one has any questions or concerns regarding immigration documentation. Your attorney can provide you with the legal advice and guidance to ensure that your documentation is valid and updated. Also, your lawyer can represent you in case you need to attend an interview or an immigration hearing.