The term “immigration services” refers to any form of assistance for immigration issues provided by various agencies and professionals.
The main immigration services agency is the federal U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The USCIS is the federal agency that is responsible for processing applications for immigration and naturalization. The agency also establishes policies regarding immigration services.
Alternatively, “immigration services” can refer to private agencies and people who provide help to others who are dealing with immigration issues. This can include private immigration agencies, non-profit organizations, and immigration attorneys.
It is important to understand that no one is entitled to representation by a lawyer in connection with immigration issues, even if they are incarcerated. This is because immigration hearings are considered civil and not criminal proceedings. But a person might be able to find pro bono legal representation, that is, representation by a lawyer without payment, from a non-profit organization.
For example, volunteers of the Immigration Justice Campaign represent people in immigration detention and may provide them with a lawyer to represent them at no cost. There are other nonprofits and charitable organizations that provide help to foreign nationals with the USCIS.
What Types of Issues Are Handled by Immigration Services?
A citizen of a foreign country who seeks to enter the United States generally must first obtain a U.S. visa. A visa is usually placed in the foreign citizen’s passport.
Of course, a passport is an official document that a person obtains from the government of the country of which they are a citizen. It certifies the person’s identity and their citizenship of the country that issues it. If a person has a passport, they can travel to and from foreign countries and are always allowed to return to their home nation.
Immigration service providers often assist people with such issues as the following:
- Applications for visas: There are 2 basic kinds of visas in the U.S. system, immigrant visas and nonimmigrant visas. They serve very different purposes in the U.S. immigration system.
- Immigrant visas are granted by the U.S. government to people who intend to work and live permanently in the U.S. Nonimmigrant visas are issued to people who are temporarily visiting or staying in the U.S. for limited periods of time, often for the purpose of tourism, medical treatment, temporary work, education, and other such activities;
- Change or adjustment of immigration status;
- Removal (deportation) hearings: A person who may be legally present in the U.S. can be forcibly removed or deported. Deportation is the process in which immigration authorities physically remove a noncitizen from the U.S. for violating immigration law. The U.S. may detain and deport noncitizens who:
- Have participated in criminal acts;
- Are considered to be a threat to public safety;
- Violate their visa, e.g., by staying beyond the term of a visa;
- Petitions for family members: A person’s own immigration status determines whether their relatives and which of their relatives are eligible to receive immigration benefits. To help a family relation immigrate to the U.S., a person must be one of the following:
- A U.S. citizen;
- A Green Card holder, i.e., have permanent resident status; or
- A refugee who has been admitted as a refugee within the past 2 years or an asylee who has been granted asylum within the past 2 years;
- If a person or a member of their family is in the U.S. military, different rules apply;
- Naturalization and other citizenship issues: Naturalization is the process of becoming a citizen of the U.S.;
- Employment and immigration status: There are several types of work visas available to citizens of foreign countries who want to work in the United States. These include green cards (for permanent residency), visas to perform temporary work, visas for seasonal work, usually in agricultural production, and exchange worker visas;
- The type of visa a person may be eligible for depends on the type of work they do, whether they have a relationship with an employer, and, in some cases, their country of origin. The process for obtaining authorization to work in the U.S. is different depending on the type of visa and the specific eligibility requirements for that particular visa. This is why immigration law in the U.S. is so complicated and why it can be very helpful to have an immigration lawyer;
- For example, one of the most popular work visas in the U.S. is the H-1B specialty occupation visa. It is available for citizens of other nations who are capable of working in such specialty occupations as computer science or engineering;
- There is a huge demand for the H-1B visa, and because of this, there is a limit to the number of them that can be issued every year. Applicants who have a bachelor’s degree or higher and a job offer from a U.S. employer in hand for a specialty position may qualify for this visa;
- Intercountry adoption: U.S. citizens adopt thousands of children from overseas. This is known as an intercountry adoption. Adopting a child from another country can be a complicated journey, and the information on this site is designed to help you as you move forward. USCIS is responsible for the following in connection with international adoptions:
- Determining the suitability and eligibility of prospective adoptive parents;
- Determining the eligibility of a prospective adopted child to immigrate to the United States;
- The Green Card Lottery Program: This is another popular program. Formally, it is known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. It is an opportunity for foreign nationals to acquire permanent legal resident status in the U.S.
The USCIS holds a lottery each year that provides green cards to applicants who are chosen at random in a lottery process. Applicants must apply far in advance of the actual date when they would like to enter the country.
Where Should I Get Advice and Guidance on Immigration Issues?
In some cases, the USCIS can provide direct assistance with such matters. On the other hand, the information and personal guidance offered by the USCIS may be limited. In such cases, the applicant may be advised to seek help through an immigration agency that focuses on advising applicants.
Even then, the person may need direct legal representation from an immigration attorney. This is especially true if the person is facing other legal issues that would complicate their immigration status, such as employment matters or criminal charges. In some cases, it is best to consult with an attorney at the outset, as they will be able to provide specific legal advice from the beginning.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Immigration Matters?
As can be seen from the information above, U.S. immigration law is quite complicated. A person who has a U.S. immigration issue may require the help of an immigration lawyer.
You want to consult a qualified immigration lawyer if you or a loved one of yours needs help with the immigration issues above or any others. LegalMatch.com can connect you quickly to a lawyer who can provide you with legal advice on your issues and tell you which options are best for you to pursue.