Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IRAIRA) 1996

The above Act which came into force on April 1st 1997 is a major piece of legislation which has tightened immigration controls quite considerably.

It has introduced the concept of unlawful presence in the United States which is presence which has not been sanctioned by the appropriate visa category.

If one is unlawfully present for a total of 6 months, there is an automatic bar from the US of three years. Unlawful presence for a total of 12 months triggers a 10 year bar. If one overstays by as little as one day, one's visa is automatically voided and one must obtain a new visa at the consulate of one's home country.

It has severely restricted the avenues of relief to other foreign nationals, particularly in the area of criminal convictions.

It has also introduced a new system of removal which now replaces deportation.

Caution: A procedure known as expedited removal now exists which enables officials at the port of entry to refuse entry and remove one from the US. The consequence of this procedure is a five year bar from the US.

For Immigrants, a new, much stricter Affidavit of Support has been introduced which mandates that the sponsor must have sufficient income or assets to support the alien and his/her family at a level of 125% of the official poverty level for that year. It is enforceable by a family member or government agency in a court. In addition, new vaccination requirements have been introduced.

The funding of the Immigration and Naturalization Service has been greatly increased and it is now the largest Federal Agency in the United States.

Return to Visas menu