If you are a resident of another country and did not enter the United States through lawful means or your present authorized stay in the country has expired, the U.S. government may consider you unlawfully present. This could be a problem since U.S. authorities may deport you and bar you from reentering the U.S. for three years, ten years, or perhaps forever.
However, you may have a defense against a claim of unlawful presence. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website describes some ways the government exempts immigrants from the unlawful presence rule.
Being a minor
According to U.S. law, a minor immigrant does not acquire unlawful presence while in the United States. To be a minor, you must be under 18 years old. However, it is still possible for a minor to face deportation from the United States under certain conditions, such as an expiration of a nonimmigrant visa.
People applying for asylum
In some situations, an immigrant who suffered persecution in another country may seek asylum. If the pending petition for asylum is for serious reasons, the government will not consider a potential asylee to be unlawfully present in the U.S.
Certain crime victims
Under the Violence Against Women Act, women who have been the victim of violence can establish a claim to be in the U.S. These claims can also cover dependents such as children. Also, an immigrant who came to the U.S. involuntarily with human traffickers may find an exception if the trafficking was the central reason for the immigrant to be in the country.
Immigration issues can be complex, so cases will likely vary from person to person. It is important to understand your options as you may avoid deportation and a future prohibition from reentering the United States.