If an individual desires to come to the United States and remain permanently, they should be aware that there are many responsibilities and obligations which come with that opportunity. There are procedural requirements and laws which an individual will be required to follow if they want to enter and remain in the United States for any period of time.
Immigration laws are laws which regulate how individuals from other countries may qualify for visas and under what circumstances individuals may be deported. There are numerous different varieties of temporary and permanent visas which are available.
Depending upon the reason for an individual’s entry into the United States, there will be a visa category available which suits their needs. An individual who is already in the United States is required to abide by immigration laws.
Many immigrants who are already legally residing in the United States have green cards, or permanent visas. An individual with a green card can seek to be a United States citizen.
They are required to refrain from any type of activity which may bring deportation upon them. It is important for individuals to take whatever avenues may be possible to reside legally within the United States.
The body of laws which govern immigration is one of the most complicated areas of law. It may be a very complex system for many individuals to fully understand.
An individual should contact an immigration lawyer if they need assistance resolving an immigration law issue.
Who is Considered an Alien?
Aliens are individuals who are born in a foreign country who has not become a United States citizen, or has not been naturalized, and are still subjects of the foreign country. Aliens are also sometimes referred to as immigrants.
What is Legal Immigration?
Legal immigration occurs when a non-citizen alien is in the United States legally under permanent resident status, or are green card holders. Permanent resident status can be granted to certain classes of aliens.
Obtaining permanent resident status is considered an important step towards permanent United States citizenship. The majority of green card holders first obtain a more temporary visa and then have their residency status changed after they have been in the country for some time.
Applicants for citizenship and naturalization are applying to be citizens of the United States. It is a very personal decision to become a citizen of the United States.
It is important to have an understanding of the naturalization process as well as accurate information regarding citizenship. For more information regarding United States citizenship and to learn more about eligibility requirements and the application process, please see the following LegalMatch articles:
- Applying for U.S. Citizenship;
- Dual Citizenship;
- What is Naturalization?;
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS);
- Establishing Permanent Residency; and
- What if I Can’t Receive Citizenship?
How Can a Person Become a Legal Immigrant?
Permanent resident status may be granted in one of several ways. An individual may obtain lawful permanent resident status (LPR status), including:
- Family-based visas;
- Employment visas;
- Fiancé or marriage-based avenues;
- Asylum and refugee status; and
- Various other humanitarian programs.
There are several requirements which must be met when an individual applies for these types of visas and immigration avenues. The individual is also required to satisfy other requirements over time, including good conduct and ongoing employment with their sponsoring company for employment visas.
What are Permanent Visas or Green Cards?
The terminology used in immigration laws including visa and green card can be confusing. These terms are commonly used interchangeably although they refer to two different things.
It is also common for these terms to be used in ways which differ from their original meanings. Visas provide individuals with the right to legally enter the United States.
A visa is a physical stamp which an individual receives on their passport or an equivalent document. Visas usually involve entry into the United States.
Visa can also refer to a category in which individuals come to the United States for temporary stays, including student visas or temporary worker visas. The term green card, on the other hand, is a slang term which refers to the process of obtaining United States citizenship rather than just entering into the U.S.
The phrase green card application may refer to a process regarding immigration, which includes naturalization or an adjustment of status. The emphasis of green cards is on citizenship and residency status rather than admissibility into the U.S.
A green card is a physical photo identification card which individuals receive when they are granted lawful permanent resident status. It is important for an individual to be aware that a green card is known as a permanent visa although the term visa typically refers to a temporary visa category.
Individuals who are immigrating to the U.S. may be eligible for multiple categories of visas. The type of visa which an individual applies for depends on whether they intend to remain permanently or only for a short period of time.
For more information on visas and green cards, and individual can read the following LegalMatch articles:
- What Should I Know About Green Cards?;
- Green Card Renewal;
- What is The Visa Lottery?;
- Family Member Visas;
- Marriage Visas;
- Work Visas; and
- The Green Card Application Process.
For What Reasons Can the USCIS Deny Me Entry?
If the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determines that an individual is inadmissible for immigration, they may deny them entry into the United States. An individual may be deemed inadmissible if they:
- Have certain mental or physical disorders;
- Have been convicted of certain crimes; or
- Have engaged in subversive activity.
The USCIS may deny immigration entry based on the inadmissibility of individuals applying for green cards or for any type of temporary visa. The USCIS may also deny entry based upon the inadmissibility of permanent residents who leave the United States for more than 180 days.
What Are the Penalties for Illegal Immigration?
Illegal immigration is a serious offense which may result in various consequences, including:
- Deportation, or removal, from the U.S.;
- Loss of residency status;
- Possible ban on re-entry in the future; and
- Criminal consequences for individuals assisting in the illegal immigration, such as employers, family members, etc.
A ban on re-entry may be either temporary or permanent. For example, for a first-time illegal immigration charge, an individual may be banned from re-entering the United States for a number of years, for example, 5 years.
For a repeat offense or a removal which involves serious criminal activity, an individual may be permanently banned from entering the United States.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Legal Immigration Issues?
It is essential to have the assistance of an immigration lawyer for any issues, questions, or concerns you may have regarding immigration issues. Legal immigration is a necessary step for non-citizens who wish to maintain good residency status evaluations.
Your lawyer can advise you regarding the current immigration laws as well as what visas you may qualify for. Your lawyer can also provide you with advice regarding how to obtain and keep permanent residency status.
In addition, if you are facing an immigration hearing, your immigration lawyer can represent you throughout the process.