There are certainly cases of illegal immigration wherein people cross the border without documentation. For instance, people may hike around a border fence or climb over it. They know that they are supposed to have documentation, but they’ve decided to intentionally skip that step of the entry process.
Over the past 10 years – when assessed as a period of time – these types of cases have interestingly been in the minority. The stories may make the news, but they’re just not as common in real life – at least when compared with other tactics for sustaining unlawful immigration statuses.
Overstaying a visa
Instead, most unlawful immigration happens when someone does get a visa, enters the country legally, and overstays their welcome. Visas have restrictions. A student may only be allowed to stay in the country as long as they’re going to school, for example. An employee may only be able to use their visa as long as they’re still working at a specific company – meaning that getting laid off could be very problematic for them. Tourists often simply have a set length of time that they’ve been approved to stay and they’re supposed to leave when that time runs out.
However, there are cases where people neglect to leave when their visa expires. Maybe a student drops out of school but never flies back to their home country. Maybe a tourist gets a job where they’re paid in cash, so they start working and stay long after their tourist visit was supposed to end. This is how people find themselves out of status far more often than they do illegally crossing a border.
When you look at the long-term data for roughly a decade prior to 2019, visa overstays outnumber illegal crossings by about 2 to 1. There has apparently been an increase in illegal crossings recently, and data trends are always changing. However, that increase also has a lot to do with the fact that the same people repeatedly try to cross and get caught — and they’re counted every time.
Accidents and oversights
Additionally, there are those who have accidentally overstayed a visa. They may not even know that they’re out of status. Perhaps they did not realize that leaving school would put them in violation of a student visa, for instance. It’s quite important for anyone who finds themself in this position to seek legal guidance in order to better understand all of the legal options at their disposal.