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Punishment for Illegally Entering Countries 2023

Monetary Fines - United States

Paying a fine is a common punishment for illegally entering countries. For instance, the U.S. Code Title 8, Section 1325 states that the criminal penalty for improper entry by an alien includes paying a fine, whether it’s a first-time or subsequent offense.

Civil penalties levied against aliens may also involve a fine, ranging from $50 to $250 or more depending on whether it’s a first-time offense. Additionally, if a person illegally enters the U.S. by committing marriage fraud, they’ll be fined up to $250,000.

Detention - UK

Typically, detention is an administrative procedure whereby immigration officials keep illegal immigrants in custody while they wait for expulsion or permission to enter. However, it can also be a criminal procedure if the immigration detainee is awaiting trial or sentencing.

The U.K. is one of the top countries with a well-developed immigration detention system. Detainees are usually held in prisons, Immigration Removal Centers (IRCs), and Short-Term Holding Facilities (STHFs). In the past, the U.K. did not have a time limit on immigration detention, but the country’s parliament recently voted to limit immigration detention to 28 days.

Imprisonment - Hungary

Countries like Hungary have strong anti-immigrant laws and impose the harshest punishment for illegally entering a country - jail. Besides having border fences meant to minimize illegal entry, Hungary also changed its immigration laws so that illegal entry is now a crime, punishable by up to 8 years in prison. The country’s parliament also passed a law that makes it a crime to help an illegal immigrant claim asylum.

Community Service - Italy

Unlike penalties such as imprisonment and corporal punishment, community service is a more humane punishment for illegally entering countries. It’s also an approach that Italy has considered as an effective solution to dealing with illegal immigrants.

The idea behind it is to reduce the expenses associated with hosting illegal immigrants. If free community service is mandatory for asylum seekers, this helps deter illegal immigrants that burden the country’s resources.

Corporal Punishment - Malaysia

Although corporal punishment infringes on human rights, countries like Malaysia have used caning as an immigration control tool. Generally, this is not a common punishment for illegally entering countries, because as mentioned, it’s prohibited under international human rights law.

Deportation - Canada

Deportation and removal are always the final punishment for illegally entering countries. So, even if the illegal immigrant pays a fine or receives some form of punishment, such as imprisonment, they’re still returned to their home country. For instance, Canada has carried out mass deportations of non-citizens in the past.

Bans - Australia

Once illegal immigrants are caught, processed, and deported, they may be punished further with re-entry bans. For instance, if you’re an illegal immigrant in Australia and you get a re-entry ban, it means you may not be able to enter the country for at least three years. Sometimes the ban can be permanent. Violation of the re-entry ban is usually treated as a criminal offense.

- EU - Determined by a member country.
Schengen Area Member Countries must introduce penalties for unauthorized crossings of external borders at places other than designated border crossings. Illegally crossing borders to seek asylum is exempted from penalties.
EU Member Countries Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania, and the UK are not part of Schengen Area; non-EU Member Countries Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein are part of Schengen Area.

- Rules in countries not listed:
- China (Yes, in serious circumstances)
- Djibouti (First illegal entry, unclear; illegal reentry, yes)
- Guinea (First illegal entry, no; illegal reentry, yes)
- Macau (First illegal entry, no; illegal reentry, yes.)
- Netherlands (Illegal entry, no; failure to present travel document, yes)
- Nigeria (Generally, no; entry after denial of entry, yes.)
- Paraguay (Illegal entry generally, no; if false documentation used, yes.)
- Togo (First illegal entry, no; illegal reentry, yes)

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What happens if you go to another country illegally?

The most common penalty you will face when entering another country illegally is paying a fine. However, some countries have detention rules in place and others have even harsher penalties, such as corporal punishment or complete bans.

Frequently Asked Questions