Immigration law is the set of rules that regulate entry into the United States. The Immigration and Nationality Act, or INA, is the main body of immigration laws. It was created in 1952 as the original set of organized laws governing U.S. immigration. While it has been amended many times, the structure and idea of the INA remain the same. In addition to standing alone, the INA is also contained in the United States Code (a collection of all federal laws). When someone talks about certain immigration laws, they are generally referring to statutes in the INA.
Immigration law is regulated and implemented at the federal level by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The INS is a component of the United States Government Department of Justice; it decides who may enter the U.S., how long they can stay, and when they must leave. It also regulates the ways in which one can become a United States citizen (naturalize) or under what circumstances one can remain in the country or be deported.
While United States immigration policy is complicated and confusing and it may seem impossible for someone to come to the United States, or to stay after being threatened with deportation, there are various rules and loopholes which may apply to your particular situation. Much of United States immigration law covers four main categories: green cards, visas, citizenship, and deportation.
A green card, also called an immigrant visa, is a document which allows someone who is not a United States citizen to stay in the U.S. indefinitely. Green cards are generally granted to those with immediate family members who are U.S. citizens or those who are coming to the United States for certain types of work, such as agricultural labor. Green cards are commonly denied, most often to those with elicit criminal records or a contagious disease. Most aliens who wish to apply for U.S. citizenship first enter the U.S. with a green card.
For more information about green cards, click here.
A non-immigrant visa, commonly referred to as simply a visa, is a document that allows temporary travel to the United States and can be granted for various purposes. Most aliens who receive non-immigrant visas are students who wish to study in the U.S. while others are tourists or temporary workers. A non-immigrant visa grants someone access to the U.S. through any “port-of-entry”, which are most commonly airports. Non-immigrant visas eventually expire, and anyone who remains in the United States after the expiration of their visa is considered an illegal alien under the United States Immigration Law.
For more information on non-immigrant visas, including the various types, click here.
To become a U.S. citizen, one must undergo naturalization. Naturalization is the legal process in which an immigrant or foreign citizen completes an application and passes two tests to eventually become a formal citizen of the United States. In addition to being a certain age and living a lawful life, one must also have a basic belief in the fundamental ideals of the Constitution in order to undergo naturalization. The first step in the naturalization process is the Application for Naturalization.
To view the application, and more information on citizenship, click here.
Deportation is the process by which an illegal alien is forced to leave the United States. Deportation happens to people who have either entered the U.S. illegally, entered with a visa that is now expired, or entered and stayed lgally but have now broken certain U.S. laws. What most people do not realize is that while the alien has broken the United States Immigration Law, he still has legal rights and can even challenge his deportation on certain grounds.
For more information on deportation, including under what circumstances it can be avoided, click here.
Immigration laws are often complex and whether or not you want to visit, the United States, move to the United States or become a U.S. citizen, an immigration lawyer can help make sure that you are able to accomplish your goals. Immigration matters are often serious and can have profound consequences for you and your family, so the right immigration lawyer can make sure that your interests are well represented.
In evaluating an immigration lawyer, the most important factors to consider are experience, fee structure and simply whether you like that lawyer or not. Typically, less experienced lawyers are more appropriate for uncomplicated immigration issues like obtaining a visa or green card. If the issues are complex and you are facing deportation, a more experienced immigration lawyers may be more appropriate, though there are excellent lawyers who have only a few years of experience.
Immigration lawyers generally charge on an hourly basis, though some lawyers charge a flat fee for specific uncomplicated issues.