Immigration laws of the U.S regulate how an individual from abroad may qualify for a visa and under what circumstances that individual can be deported. There are many different kinds of temporary and permanent visas. Depending on the purpose of your entry, there is a visa that is right for you.

Those already in the United States must also abide by immigration laws. Large portions of immigrants who legally reside within the United States have a green card, or permanent visa. While those with green cards may seek to be citizens, they must also stay away from activities that may bring deportation. It is always wise to make whatever attempts possible to reside legally within the United States.

What is the Difference Between an Immigrant and an Alien?

An alien is a foreign-born person in the United States who has not become a U.S. citizen and is still a citizen of another country. An alien can refer to a legal immigrant as well as to illegal immigrants. 

A legal immigrant is one who has been granted a “green card” or is considered to be a permanent resident. The United States has granted this person authorization to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. There are many different ways to become a legal immigrant, including the following:

  • Be sponsored by a family member or employer in the United States;
  • Granted refugee or asylum status; and,
  • Filing for yourself in the United States as a permanent resident.

An illegal immigrant is a foreign born person who does not have a legal right to be in the United States. They can be deemed illegal if they have done either of the following:

  • Enter the U.S. legally with a visa but failed to leave before it expired, or;
  • Enter the U.S. without a visa.

How Do I Apply for a Visa?

Most countries require an individual to get a visa before you leave your country. In the U.S., a person needs to determine what type of visa they wish to acquire: an immigrant or a nonimmigrant visa.

Submitting a visa application is the first step towards legally immigrating to the United States. Permanent relocation or temporary short visit requires a visa as approved by the government.
If you are an immigrant in the United States, there are several different types of visas that you may be eligible for to stay in the U.S whether if you are interested in a short stay or permanent U.S residence.

Immigrant Visa 

An immigrant visa is a visa that permits a foreign citizen to enter the U.S. and apply for permanent residency. Immigrant visa holders have a general intent to relocate to the U.S. permanently. These permanent residents are granted extensive rights, such as the right to work in the country and the right to obtain U.S. citizenship. There are three types of immigrant visas:

  • Family based: These visas are issued to immediate relatives, close family members, fiancés, and other persons who are petitioning the applicant.
  • Employment based: These visas are issued to employers who can often petition a worker to relocate permanently to the U.S.
  • Special Immigrants: These visas are issued to certain categories of employees, such as religious workers or applicants from selected countries.

Nonimmigrant Visa

As a nonimmigrant, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must grant the person this visa. Nonimmigrant visas are commonly given to many groups, such as students, business people, and tourists.

If you are a non-immigrant that lives outside the U.S. and wish to come to the United States either for business or travel, you may be eligible to receive a temporary visa, which allows you to travel to the United States for a short period of time.

Nonimmigrant visas are typically only given for a period of time before they expire. At the time of expiration, the party must leave and return to their home country. Information regarding the length of a person’s stay and the expiration date of their nonimmigrant visa can be found on the Form I-94 (arrival/departure documentation) which is provided when entering the country. All provided guidelines must be adhered to strictly and a valid passport is required throughout the period in the United States.

Can a Nonimmigrant Visa Be Extended?

Nonimmigrant visas can be extended if the following requirements are met:

  • Admittance into the U.S. was lawful with a nonimmigrant visa;
  • Nonimmigrant visa status has not expired;
  • No crimes have been committed while lawfully in the United States;
  • Application for extension of the nonimmigrant visa must occur prior to the expiration of the nonimmigrant visa.


  • Passport is valid throughout the entire stay in the United States.
  • There are certain nonimmigrant visas wherein extensions are not granted or permitted:
  • Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
  • D-Crewman status
  • C-In transit without a visa or alien in transit
  • K-As a fiancé or spouse of a U.S. citizen, or dependent of a fiancé/spouse
  • S-Information regarding terrorism or organized crime.

If your extension for a nonimmigrant visa is denied, it is possible in certain circumstances to appeal your extension denial.

Visa revalidation is another option that apply to certain nonimmigrant visas. Revalidation is different from renewal of a visa in that revalidation essentially reinstates the visa when the nonimmigrant desires to travel outside of the U.S. for a short period of time.

What is the USCIS?

The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) was a new agency created after the INS was dissolved in 2003. The BCIS oversees the application process for immigration, asylum, naturalization, and other related immigration services.

The BCIS has since been renamed the USCIS or the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services which is currently the immigration agency in service today. The UCSIS is part of the Department of Homeland Security for the United States and is tasked with the immigration administrative tasks that were once the responsibility of the INS and BCIS.

What is ICE?

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, is the federal law enforcement group for immigration issues. ICE investigates and addresses any issues related to the security of our nation’s borders and transportation systems. ICE officials are also employed at U.S. embassies throughout the world to safeguard U.S. security all over the globe.

A nonresident can be deported from the United States in several ways that include being arrested as an immigrant, having a application be rejected by USCIS, or having a request for asylum denied. An immigrant’s rights and claim for relief will all be decided upon an immigration judge:

What Happens If an Immigrant Marries an American Citizen?

Marriage immigration occurs when a non citizen marries an American citizen living in the United States. Noncitizens can obtain a visa to live in the U.S. permanently if they apply to enter the U.S. on a fiancé or marriage visa.

A marriage visa can be acquired when the American spouse files a form I-130 petition to sponsor the noncitizen spouse. Once approved, the immigrant spouse then files documents and schedules an interview at the nearest American consulate. If approved, the nonimmigrant spouse may enter the U.S. legally.

A fiancé visa can be acquired when the American fiancé filed a form I-129F, a petition for a foreign fiancé, and form I-130 (the marriage visa). The noncitizen is then called into an American consulate for an interview. If the application is approved, the noncitizen fiancé may apply for permanent residency.

Fraudulent Marriage

Immigration marriage fraud occurs where a person enters into a fake marriage or fraudulent marriage with intent to deceive immigration officials. Examples of immigration marriage fraud include:

  • Providing false marriage documents;
  • Deceiving immigration officials; and
  • Creating a fake living environment to satisfy immigration marriage requirements.

Committing immigration marriage fraud can result in various penalties. The Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986 is a set of immigration that was passed in order to deal with the problem of immigration marriage fraud.

The goals of the Amendments were two-fold: the promotion of family unity and discouraging future immigration-based marriage fraud. The Amendments achieve this by classifying aliens who have married U.S. citizens as “conditional immigrants.”

This conditional status or conditional resident status is dependent upon the person proving that their relationship to their citizen spouse is valid, which may be done through evidence and documents.

Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer?

In many cases, immigration issues can be addressed through the assistance of an immigration agency, or by obtaining information from government websites. However, in the event that you have a serious or a pressing immigration issue, it is more advisable that you seek immediate assistance from a legal professional.

If you have questions about immigration, an immigration lawyer can help. The process can be complicated and an immigration lawyer can guide you through the complicated process to ensure that all the necessary paperwork is completed to prevent unnecessary delays.