What Is Undocumented Status?

A popular buzzword in American media nowadays is that of the undocumented status.

While many people may recognize themselves as being undocumented, many may not understand why or if they even are.

Regularly, immigrants wonder if their status will affect any future applications they may file.

For more information about undocumented status and the Green Card Lottery, visit our article on the subject.

What Is Undocumented Status

Plainly, undocumented status means that a person is residing in the United States with expired immigration documents, nullified documents or no documents at all.

There are a great many different terms to describe this condition in the U.S. and they wax and wane in popularity depending on what viewpoint is used.

Here are some synonyms for undocumented status:

  • Undocumented worker
  • Illegal Alien
  • Illegal foreign resident
  • Undocumented student

The term “illegal” applied to these people is often taken the wrong way. Some may argue that a person in the United States without documents came into the country and stayed in disobedience of the law.

However, there is a huge difference between someone who walked past border security without ever applying for entry and someone who applied, but lost their status.

A person who enters the United States as a visitor comes into the country entirely legally, but if they stay just one day after the date they are supposed to leave, their status changes to undocumented. It seems somewhat unreasonable to immediately call that person “illegal”.

There are many other circumstances where the term “illegal” seems inappropriate.

For example: if a child is brought into the United States by their parents and their status expires, does it even make sense to say that the child is illegally in the country?

How, for instance, could that child possibly understand the complexities of the U.S. immigration system to even understand that they had done something wrong. Many adults have a difficult time understanding the immigration system.

These are issues that are being addressed right now in the U.S. Congress and it is hoped that better and more descriptive terms are adopted soon.