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Leap year calendar mix-up strands teen in Mexico

Throughout the nation, including the Miami area, there are many who are interested in legally residing the United States. Anyone who is seeking to do this is likely aware of how difficult it is to accomplish. U.S. immigration laws are very strict, complicated and at times do not seem to make sense. A teen who was trying to follow the rules to stay in the country legally is experiencing first hand just how strict they are.

Current U.S. immigration law dictates that upon reaching the age of 18, within 180 days, the individual must return to his or her native country and apply for a long-term visa, to remain in the country legally. The failure to do so would render the individual an undocumented immigrant, potentially subject to deportation. Should the application not be made within 180 days of turning 18, the individual must remain in the country of their birth for three years before they can return to the U.S.

The young woman in this instance was born in Mexico but has lived in the U.S. since she was 4-years-old, with her father who is a naturalized citizen. Now an 18-year-old, with a grade point average near 4.0, she is preparing to graduate from high school. In order to attain legal residence in the U.S., the young woman and her father returned to her native country to apply for a long-term visa. Because she wanted to attend as many days of school as possible, they had put the trip off until the end of the school year.

The problem? They returned to Mexico a day late. The mistake was reportedly due to their immigration attorney being thrown off by the extra day added this year in February due to leap year.

Because the date was missed, unless the teen is able to secure a "humanitarian patrole" visa waiver, she will have to wait the prescribed three years to return to the U.S. This type of waiver can be issued by the Department of Homeland Security's Citizen and Immigration Services and specifically pertains to those who have violated immigration law. Even if she receives one of these waivers, because they can take anywhere between three to eight months to issue, she will likely miss her graduation.

This situation highlights just how complicated and rigid U.S. immigration laws can be. Though the teen in this situation ran into difficulty despite having hired an immigration attorney, she still made the right decision in obtaining legal counsel. Most would agree that the addition of a bright young person such as the teen would be good for the nation and hopefully she will be able to return sooner rather than later.

Source: ABC News, "Immigration Technicality May Keep Homecoming Queen From Graduation," Dana Hughes, May 30, 2012

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