Immigration 101: Admissibility


The first step in figuring out if you are removable or eligible for adjustment of status is to determine whether or not you were “admitted” to the US. By definition, an admission means that you made a lawful entry into the country after inspection by immigration officials. In plain English, it usually means that a US immigration official gave you permission to enter the country. If you arrived at a US airport or border crossing, and an officer from Customs and Border Protection looked at your passport, stamped it, and allowed you to continue on your way, you were probably “admitted” to the US. If you entered the country by secretly crossing the border and avoiding contact with immigration officials, you probably have not been “admitted.”

There are a number of exceptions to the general rule that an entry with permission by immigration officials is an admission. For example, if you entered the US unlawfully, but were later granted adjustment of status, you have been admitted. However, if an immigration official granted you “parole” at the border and allowed you to enter the country, you have not been admitted. These exceptions are not always obvious. A knowledgeable immigration attorney can determine whether you have been admitted.

If you are currently in removal proceedings, determining whether or not you have been admitted to the US is a crucial first step in your case. It is more difficult for the government to prove that you are removable if you were admitted to the US than if you were not. If you have been admitted, the government can’t remove you unless and until it proves that you’ve done something that makes you “deportable.” If you weren’t admitted, the government only has to prove that you are “inadmissible.” The list of things that make someone inadmissible is much broader than the list of things that make someone deportable, which means that people who were admitted have a better chance of defending themselves against removal than people who weren’t.

If you were lawfully admitted to the US, ask yourself whether any of the grounds of deportability and removability apply to you. If you entered without lawful permission, the question is whether any of the grounds of inadmissibility apply.


           If you were not lawfully admitted to the US, you are subject to removal or ineligible to apply for adjustment of status if one or more of the statutory grounds of inadmissibility applies to you. The most common grounds are summarized in our articles on criminal and non-criminal grounds of inadmissibility. Many of the inadmissibility grounds have narrow exceptions or specialized rules that could apply to your case, depending on your specific circumstances. You should contact an experienced immigration attorney to determine if any of the grounds of inadmissibility apply to you, and if so, whether any exceptions apply.

Remember that inadmissibility doesn’t always sink your case. You may be eligible for a waiver, or, if you’re in removal proceedings, another form of relief from removal.

This article is part of our ongoing “Immigration 101” series, in which we break down topics in US immigration law. For more articles in this series, click here.

The content in this post was originally written by Stuart Nickum and adapted by Lena Barouh.

Tags: attorney, admissible, ice, deportation, removal, immigration 101, uscis, immigration, inadmissible, waiver

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