Federal immigration law determines legal rights, duties, and obligations of foreign nationals in the United States. It also provides the means by which certain foreign nationals can work in the United States and/or become naturalized citizens with full rights of citizenship. Immigration law serves as a “gatekeeper” for the nation’s border: it determines who may enter, how long he or she may stay and when one must leave.
For INA purposes, an “alien” is any person who is not a citizen or a national of the United States. There are different categories of aliens: resident and nonresident, immigrant and nonimmigrant, documented and undocumented (“illegal” ).
The goals in immigration policies are achieved by granting or denying visas. There are two types of visas: immigrant and nonimmigrant. Nonimmigrant visas are primary issued to tourists and temporary business visitors. Nonimmigrant visas are divided into eighteen main categories, and the number of visas in most categories are not limited. Only a few categories of non-immigrant visas allow their holders work in the United States. Immigrant visas permit their holders to stay in the United States permanently and ultimately to apply for citizenship. An alien who has an immigrant visa is permitted to work in the United States. Congress limits the overall number of immigrant visas. Many immigrant visas are also subject to per-country caps.
After the events of September 11, 2001, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was replaced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Under this agency, there are three new offices which provide the services that were provided by INS. The new offices and their acronyms are:
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),
- Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and
- United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is now the agency responsible for providing immigration related services and benefits such as naturalization and work authorization
A lawful permanent resident is a foreign national who has been granted the privilege of permanently living and working in the United States. If you want to become a lawful permanent resident based on the fact that you have a relative who is a citizen of the United States or a relative who is a lawful permanent resident, you must go through a multi-step process.
First, the USCIS must approve an immigrant visa petition for you. This petition is filed by your relative (sponsor) and must be accompanied by proof of your relationship to the requesting relative.
Second, the Department of State must determine if an immigrant visa number is immediately available to you, the foreign national, even if you are already in the United States. When an immigrant visa number becomes immediately available to you, it means that you can apply to have one of the immigrant visa numbers assigned to you.
Third, if you are already in the United States, you may apply to change your status to that of a lawful permanent resident after a visa number becomes available for you. This is one way you can apply to secure an immigrant visa number. If you are outside the United States when an immigrant visa number becomes available for you, you must then go to the U.S. consulate servicing the area in which you reside to complete your processing. This is the other way in which you can apply to secure an immigrant visa number.
If you have any questions, you should contact Immigration Solutions Group by clicking here for an appointment.