What are the penalties for illegal re-entry?

Illegal re-entry occurs if you return to the U.S. after the government removed you from the country. It can result in criminal penalties. 

Cornell Law School explains that the penalties depend on why and how you left the country. The court will consider the circumstances surrounding your deportation or removal carefully before sentencing you. 

Lesser offenses

You could receive a sentence of up to 10 years in prison if you have a criminal record with convictions for three or more misdemeanor charges involving crimes against the person or drugs or if you committed perjury regarding your legal right to be in the country as a refugee, asylee or permanent legal resident. This sentence also applies if you were facing charges but did not go to trial and the Attorney General removed you from the country because he or she felt it was in the best interest of the country. Finally, you can get up to 10 years if you have a felony conviction and illegally re-enter the country. 

More severe offenses

If your criminal record includes a conviction for an aggravated felony, then you could face a sentence of up to 20 years in prison for illegal re-entry. 

Important note

If you when you were previously in the U.S., you received a criminal sentence that you did not serve, you will have to serve that sentence in full upon returning to the country. After you complete that sentence, you could face further criminal charges for illegal re-entry and face an additional prison sentence of up to 20 years depending on your situation.