Immigration laws regulate how a person from another country may qualify for a visa, and under what circumstances they may be deported. There are a number of different types of available temporary and permanent visas, and depending on the purpose for a person’s entry into the United States, there will generally be a visa that suits their needs.
People who are already in the United States must abide by immigration laws. Many immigrants who already legally reside in the United States have what is known as a green card, or a permanent visa. Those with green cards may seek to be citizens; however, they must refrain from any activities that may bring deportation or removal upon them. Resolving an immigration law issue can be more easily accomplished by contacting an immigration lawyer.
Citizenship and naturalization applicants are people who are applying to be citizens of the United States. Having an understanding of the naturalization process, as well as the correct information regarding citizenship, is especially important. The links below will provide information for those interested in United States citizenship, and learning more about eligibility requirements as well as the application process:
- Applying for U.S. Citizenship;
- What is Naturalization;
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”); and
- What If I Can’t Receive Citizenship?
What Is Legal Immigration?
Legal immigration refers to instances in which a non-citizen is in the country legally under permanent resident status; in other words, a green card holder. Permanent resident status may be granted to certain classes of legal immigrants, and is considered to be the most important step towards receiving permanent U.S. citizenship. Most green card holders start off with a more temporary visa, and then have their residency status changed after being in the country for some time.
A permanent resident alien is any person who is not a citizen of the United States, but that is living in the United States under a recognized and valid immigration visa. This grants them permanent resident status in order to work and live in the United States indefinitely.
Generally speaking, proof of such permanent residency status is evidenced by possessing a permanent resident card, also known as a green card. Permanent resident status may also refer to immigrants who have entered the country under a conditional residency status, and have had their status adjusted to that of a permanent resident.
Permanent residents receive many abilities and privileges that are inherently granted to United States citizens. An example of this would be how they may work at any job legally in the United States, as well as own property.
Additionally, they do not have to return to their home countries. As long as their green card remains valid, as a permanent resident, they may travel to and from their home country freely. Additionally, permanent residence status can result in being able to apply for U.S. citizenship.
How Do I Apply For Legal Immigration?
Permanent residency status requires first filing an immigration petition with the United States Immigration Services, as well as meeting other eligibility requirements in order to apply to be a permanent resident.
There are different types of residencies, and the following are some examples of ways to obtain permanent residency status:
- Family Member Based Permanent Residency: Family members of U.S. citizens, or family members of permanent residents, may be able to apply for permanent residence status because of their relationship with them. The Immigration & Nationality Act, as well as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), allows spouses, parents, and unmarried children younger than 21 years old of United States citizens to apply for permanent residency status;
- Employment-Based Permanent Residency: People who are hired for qualified positions, or who wish to start business ventures in the United States, may be eligible for a green card and granted permanent residency status after some time. In special cases, such as with professional athletes from foreign countries, immigrants may be able to obtain permission to permanently work and reside in the United States;
- Fiancé(e) Visa: The fiancé(e) of a citizen or permanent resident is generally granted conditional resident status when entering the United States. After some time, they can apply to have the conditions removed in order to obtain permanent status by filing “Form I-129F, Petition For Alien Fiancé(e).” They must also intend to marry one another within 90 days of entering the United States;
- Individuals Seeking Asylum and Refugees: People filing for permanent residency status under this category can generally apply for permanent residency after one year. As they are fleeing persecution or dangerous situations in their home country, they will be designated as refugees or asylees. The process of obtaining permanent residency status for refugees and asylees is different than for other groups; or
- Diversity Visa Lottery: The diversity visa lottery program allows immigrants to travel to the United States, and later apply for permanent residency status.
Some non-U.S. residents who may be eligible to apply for an adjustment of status to that of a lawful permanent resident include:
- An immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, such as a spouse, unmarried child who is under 21 years of age, or a parent who is 21 years of age or older;
- An immediate relative of a lawful permanent resident who meets the age requirements and is either a spouse, parent, or child;
- People admitted entry into the U.S who are either the fiancé or child of a fiancé of a U.S. citizen. It is important to note that the fiancé of a U.S. citizen may only file Form I-485 after they marry the U.S. citizen to whom they are currently engaged;
- The widow or widower of a U.S. citizen;
- Immigrant workers who are sponsored by U.S. employers, or who qualify as an “alien entrepreneur;”
- Those who meet the criteria to be deemed a “special immigrant,” such as religious workers, or who have been living in the United State for at least one year as a refugee or asylee;
- Victims of human trafficking or another crime;
- Those who have won the diversity visa lottery; and/or
- Several other categories as listed in the instructions on Form I-485, which can be found on the USCIS website.
What Are The Legal Penalties For Illegal Immigration?
Illegal immigration is considered to be a serious offense, and can result in various consequences. These consequences most commonly include:
- Removal (deportation) from the U.S.;
- Loss of residency status;
- Possible ban on re-entry in the future; and
- Criminal consequences for those assisting in the illegal immigration, such as employers, family members, etc.
Regarding bans on re-entry, these can either be temporary or permanent. An example of this would be how for a first-time illegal immigration charge, the immigrant might be banned from re-entering the country for a number of years, such as five years. For repeat offenses, or removal that involves especially serious criminal activity, they may be permanently banned from entering the country.
Do I Need A Lawyer For Help With Legal Immigration?
Legal immigration is necessary for a non-citizen who wishes to maintain a good residency status evaluation. You should hire an immigration lawyer if you need help with any immigration issues.
Your attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options, as well as ensure you adhere to all necessary qualifying criteria. Additionally, an experienced attorney will also be able to represent you in court, should any legal issues arise.