Unlawful Presence Bars & Waivers

In 1996, Congress passed a law that bars certain persons who have accumulated a certain period of “unlawful presence” in the US and then left the country from becoming US permanent residents for a period of time unless they first obtain a waiver.

Persons who have accumulated 180 days or more of unlawful presence after April 1, 1997, and have then left the country, cannot return to the US for 3 years. Persons who have accumulated one year or more of unlawful presence after April 1, 1997, and have then left the country, cannot return to the US for 10 years. Persons who illegally return to the US without seeking a waiver must wait outside the US for a period of 10 years before they can apply for a waiver. The same rule applies to persons who illegally reenter the US after being deported.


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A person can accumulate unlawful presence by (1) entering the US without inspection; (2) by overstaying the expiration date on his I-94; or (3) by violating his status if he is notified by the government that he has done so.

Persons who commit fraud or a material misrepresentation are barred from the US for life unless they obtain a waiver.

A waiver may be obtained by submitting Form I-601 to the USCIS and demonstrating that the person’s US citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent(s) would suffer “extreme hardship” unless the person was granted a waiver.


In 2013, it became possible to obtain an I-601A provisional waiver within the US. A 2016 rule expanded the qualifying relatives needed in order to apply for a provisional waiver.

We hope that the materials linked to below help you to better understand both concepts.

Unlawful Presence & Waivers is divided into the following subsections:

Related pages:



unlawful presence

More success stories…



  • Unlawful Presence Bars and Waivers – Unlawful presence can complicate your return to the US, and applies to persons who: (1) entered the US without inspection; (2) overstayed their visa; or (3) violated their temporary visa status.



  • I-601A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers – The Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver (I-601A) allows certain persons to apply for waivers of unlawful presence in the US before going to their home countries for their green card interviews.






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