Immigration laws regulate how a person from abroad may qualify for a visa, and under what circumstances they can be deported. There are many different kinds of temporary and permanent visas; as such, depending on the purpose of your entry, there is a visa that is right for you.

Those who are 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 avoid activities that may bring deportation.

United States citizenship is what gives a person as many rights as the country has to offer under its laws. A United States citizen has several rights, such as:

  • The right to vote;
  • The right to petition for other family members to immigrate to the United States in order to become citizens as well; and
  • The right to live in other countries without losing the right to return back to the States.

It is important to note that citizenship also imposes a number of obligations, such as serving on a jury when ordered to do so, and paying taxes.

How Do I Become A United States Citizen?

Naturalization is the immigration process in which a person becomes a United States citizen. It is the only way in which a person can become a United States Citizen if they were not born a U.S. citizen, or if they did not acquire citizenship immediately after they were born. Naturalization can be a lengthy and complicated process, as the applicant is required to submit various forms and documents in order to prove their eligibility.

A person is considered to be a United States citizen by birth if they were born within the boundaries of the United States, including U.S. territories such as:

  • Guam;
  • Puerto Rico; and
  • The Virgin Islands.

Additionally, those who are born abroad may be United States citizens at birth if both of their parents are U.S. citizens at the time of their birth. The same applies if at least one of their parents lived in the States at some point during their lifetime. A person may be a United States citizen at birth if one of their parents is a U.S. citizen, although this is subject to additional requirements.

There are several requirements to become a naturalized citizen of the United States:

  • The ability to read, write, and speak English;
  • A working knowledge and understanding of United States history and government;
  • Good moral character;
  • Attachment to the ideals of the United States Constitution;
  • A generally favorable disposition towards the United States; and
  • A continued physical presence or residence in the United States for a specified period, which may vary according to visa specifics.

Submitting a visa application is the first step towards legally immigrating to the United States. Permanent relocation or temporary short visits both require 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 in order to stay in the U.S.

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, and 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: Issued to immediate relatives, close family members, fiancés, and others who are petitioning the applicant;
  • Employment Based: Issued to employers who can often petition a worker to relocate permanently to the U.S.; and
  • Special Immigrants: Issued to certain categories of employees, such as religious workers or applicants from selected countries.

As a nonimmigrant, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), which will be further discussed below) must grant the person this visa. Nonimmigrant visas are commonly given to students, business people, and tourists.

If you are a non-immigrant that lives outside of 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. At the time of expiration, you must leave and return to your 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, which is provided when entering the country. All provided guidelines must be adhered to strictly, and a valid passport is required.

Can A Non-Immigrant 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; and
  • No crimes have been committed while lawfully in the United States.

Additionally, application for extension of the nonimmigrant visa must occur prior to the expiration of the nonimmigrant visa, and the passport must be 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 the dependent of a fiancé/spouse; and
  • S-Information regarding terrorism or organized crime.

If your extension for a nonimmigrant visa is denied, it is possible to appeal your extension denial. Visa revalidation is another option that applies to certain nonimmigrant visas. Revalidation is different from renewal of a visa in that revalidation reinstates the visa when the nonimmigrant travels outside of the U.S. for a short period of time.

What Is The USCIS? What Is ICE?

The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (“BCIS”) was 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 USCIS is part of the Department of Homeland Security for the United States and handles immigration administrative tasks that were once the responsibility of the INS and BCIS.

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or “ICE,” is the federal law enforcement group for immigration issues. ICE investigates and addresses border security and transportation systems. ICE officials are also employed at U.S. embassies throughout the world in order to safeguard U.S. security abroad.

A nonresident can be deported from the United States in several ways, including:

  • Being arrested as an immigrant;
  • Having an application be rejected by USCIS; or
  • Having a request for asylum denied.

What Is Marriage Immigration?

Marriage immigration occurs when a noncitizen marries an American citizen who is living in the United States. Non-citizens can obtain a visa in order 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, or 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 files:

  • 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.

Immigration marriage fraud occurs when a person enters into a fake 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 in order to satisfy immigration marriage requirements.

Committing immigration marriage fraud can result in various penalties. The Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986 were passed to address immigration marriage fraud. The goals of the Amendments include the promotion of family unity, and discouraging future immigration-based marriage fraud.

The Amendments achieve this by classifying immigrants who have married U.S. citizens as “conditional immigrants.” This conditional status or conditional resident status depends on 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?

Immigration issues can be addressed through the assistance of an immigration agency, or by obtaining information from government websites. However, if you have a serious or a pressing immigration issue, you should seek immediate assistance from a legal professional.

If you have questions about immigration, an immigration lawyer can help. An experienced immigration attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options, and will also be able to represent you in court, as needed, should any legal issues arise.