U.S. Immigration Laws
The purpose of this article is to give readers a brief overview of the United States immigration laws.
The U.S. immigration laws and procedures are extremely complex and require not only a thorough understanding of the legal system, but also a working knowledge of federal government agencies.
To enter the United States, an individual generally requires an immigrant or non-immigrant visa to be issued to him/her and stamped in his/her passport, except for cases where the visitor's native country is a participant in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). At this time, 27 countries participate in this program, which allows the citizens of the participating countries to come and stay in the United States for a period of 90 days or less, as visitors for business or pleasure. The benefit of the program lies in the fact that a prospective traveler to the U.S. can come here almost spontaneously, and would not need to travel to a U.S. consular post (an embassy or consulate) in his native country to appear for an interview before a consular officer.
This is the list of countries currently participating in the program:
Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
Visitors who plan to stay in the United States for a longer period of time, to engage in extensive travel or business activities, or for medical treatment, may consider a different visa category, specifically, B-1 or B-2. A holder of a B-1 visa is permitted to visit the United States for business. A holder of a B-2 visa may visit the United States for pleasure or medical treatment. Both of these categories are considered non-immigrant visa categories. This means that a B-1/B-2 visitor may only be admitted for the purpose of engaging in business, travel, or medical treatment, and not for the purpose of being employed, i.e. as labor for hire. Candidates in this visa category must also show that they: (a) intend to leave the United States after a temporary stay; (b) have permission to enter a foreign country at the end of the stay; (c) have made adequate financial arrangements to carry out the purpose of the stay and then to depart the United States; (d) demonstrate sufficient ties to home country, such as permanent employment, meaningful business or financial connections, close family ties, or other commitments that indicate a strong inducement to return abroad. An alien with a B-1/B-2 visa may extend or change his/her non-immigrant status provided he/she has not accrued unlawful presence. If you plan to visit the United States as a student, have a prospective employer, or intend to invest in a business venture in this country, other visa categories should be explored.
It is very important to a visitor who arrives at a U.S. port of entry and is issued a stamped I-94 card to not lose or intentionally discard it, since this document indicates the amount of time the visitor is allowed to stay in the country lawfully. An unauthorized stay may lead to highly undesirable consequences, such as ineligibility for an immigration benefit in the future, or deportation from the United States.
Persons who have entered the United States with a non-immigrant visa and were issued a Form I-94 may be able to adjust their status in the United States, if they have an immediate relative who is a United States citizen. The Immigration and Nationality Act defines immediate relatives of an individual as the spouse, parents, or children of that individual. If you have an immediate relative, who is a United States Citizen, you may be eligible to apply for a green card even if your authorized stay in the United States ended, provided you are not subject to removal or deportation because of your criminal history or other disqualifying factors. If you, or your relative, are planning to file an application for a green card, which is also known as a Form I-485, an Application to Register for Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, please do not hesitate to contact our office for a free initial consultation. We will be able to determine whether you are eligible to apply, and will guide you through the process, should you choose to become our client.
Persons who are Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) or United States Citizens (USCs) may file for an immigration benefit on behalf of their immediate family members. In other words, they can sponsor their relatives for a green card. For ways to become a green card holder of the United States please click here.
Legal permanent residents who have resided in the United States for 5 years (in some cases, the required time is reduced) and who otherwise meet the requirements of good moral character provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act may file a petition for United States Citizenship, Form N-400.
In recent years, many applicants for immigration benefits experienced long delays in the processing of their petitions. While such delays may be related to unique personal circumstances of the petitioners and beneficiaries of immigration applications, there are instances when these delays are the result of administrative mishandling of the applicant's case file. The immigration attorney representing the applicant then contacts the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to determine whether the delay is justified or whether the case should be brought before the Federal Court for review and/or adjudication.
Final Note on Immigration Reform
At this time, no temporary worker program or immigration amnesty is in effect for persons who are in this country illegally. If a person or a business entity informs you otherwise, this person or entity may be engaging in a fraudulent activity.
Should you, or your family member, require help in preparing an immigration petition/application, or have a question or concern, please do not hesitate to contact our office.
DISCLAIMER: No part of this article should be considered as legal advice, nor should anyone rely on any information contained in this article, as each person's circumstances are unique. This article is provided for information purposes only.