The Department of Homeland Security has signaled in recent weeks that it will more aggressively enforce the country’s laws on removing immigrants who are in the country illegally.

While the administration’s immigration enforcement efforts have focused largely on removing undocumented immigrants, the stepped-up enforcement makes it all the more important for immigrants and nonimmigrant visa holders to carry proper documentation as required by federal law. Specifically, federal law requires every foreign national, including lawful permanent residents age 18 or older, to carry documentation evidencing their immigration status. This can be:

  • Form I-551 (green card or permanent resident card).
  • A valid, unexpired Form I-94 record of admission.
  • Form I-766 Employment Authorization Card.
  • A foreign passport containing a valid CBP admission stamp or parole stamp.
  • A nonresident alien Mexican or Canadian border crossing card.

Background: DHS issued a memorandum on Feb. 20 detailing its immigration enforcement priorities, saying it would prioritize removal for undocumented immigrants who have been convicted or charged with a criminal offense, have committed acts that could constitute a criminal charge, have engaged in fraud or misrepresentation before a government agency, have abused public benefit programs, have not complied with a legal obligation to leave the country or otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security. DHS stressed that it would not focus removal efforts, for now, on undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.

BAL Analysis: The federal rules requiring foreign nationals to carry the documents listed above are not new. BAL has not yet seen an increase in the enforcement of these rules, but the general posture of the federal government suggests that DHS may begin enforcing rules requiring immigrants and nonimmigrant visa holders to carry documents evidencing their immigration status. Those with concerns about carrying original documents on a daily basis should at minimum consider carrying a hard copy or having access to an electronic copy. Anyone who has lost any of the documents listed above or believes there is an error on their immigration document should contact BAL immediately.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact

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