Have you heard about the three or ten year bar? The majority of people who are doing an immigration process have heard this phrase and have been surprised to discover that perhaps this bar applies to them. The concept is very simple. When a person enters the United States without any kind of permission or visa, and accumulates more than 180 days but less than a year of unlawful presence, that person is subject to a bar of three years. But if that person remains in the country without permission for more than a year, then that person is subject to a bar of ten years. This bar takes effect when a person leaves the country, whether it be voluntarily or due to an order of deportation by an immigration judge or ICE.
This means that, if that person wants to obtain some type of immigration benefit in the United States, in order to qualify he or she would have to leave the country for the required time, whether it be three or ten years, before being able to reenter with a valid visa. Sounds very worrisome, right? It truly is, since a lot of people are afraid to start the process because they do not want to have to face this bar and be separated from their family and friends for many years. But then, what can be done if you are subject to this bar? There are options available for you, since if you are married to a United States citizen or a permanent resident, or if you have parents who are citizens or permanent residents, you can qualify to request a waiver.
The majority of people we represent in family-based immigration processes are subject to the ten year bar because they entered the country, whether it was with permission that has since expired or without any permission at all, and remained for more than a year. And as mentioned before, in certain cases those people can qualify to request a waiver through a qualifying relative. For example, if you are an immigrant who is married to a United States citizen or a lawful permanent resident, and you are subject to the ten year bar, you can obtain a waiver if you can prove that your qualifying relative, in this case your spouse, would suffer extreme difficulty if you have to remain outside of the country for ten years in order to fulfill your bar before returning to the United States with a visa.
“Extreme difficulty” is a phrase that has not been defined by the code of immigration law, and that we will explore in another blog, but if you can demonstrate it, then you will receive a waiver and you will not have to spend three or ten years outside of the country. Instead, you will be able to be admitted as a permanent resident and only wait the processing time for your case. If you have questions regarding whether the three or ten year bar applies to you or your relative, we are happy to analyze your case and to help you find the best options in your situation.