undocumented immigrant

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Undocumented immigrants are individuals who have either illegally entered the United States without inspection, or legally entered the United States with valid nonimmigrant visas but those visas have expired. For instance, an individual issued a student F-1 visa can become undocumented if they do not fulfill the minimum course of study requirement or if they work without authorization. See: 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f).

Undocumented immigrants live in the United States without legal immigration status. They are not provided work authorizations and there are no pathways for them to gain citizenship. Immigration officers have the power to interrogate, search, arrest and detain them. See: 8 U.S.C. § 1357(a). When undocumented immigrants are arrested and detained “pending a decision on whether to be removed from the U.S.” the attorney general may release them on bonds of more than $1,500 or parole. See: 8 U.S.C. § 1226. 

If they are inadmissible or deportable without any exceptions, the court will order them to be removed. Once the court finally ordered them removed, they are composed to leave the U.S within 90 days. See: 8 U.S.C. § 1231

There are more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. According to the yearbook of the department of homeland security, usually about 300,000-400,000 (less than 4%) of the undocumented population are removed per year since 2010.

Undocumented immigrants may change to legal status by claiming asylum or temporary protected status. 

[Last updated in April of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]