Immigration Law

Immigration involves coming into another country to live permanently. In the United States, immigration laws strictly regulate who is eligible to legally enter and remain in the country. Immigration law is governed by several complex statutes, laws, federal regulations, and court case rulings.

When someone wants to move to the United States for a job, family reasons, or another purpose, they will have to navigate the immigration system before receiving citizenship. It may take years after entering the U.S. before an immigrant can become a citizen. For answers to your specific questions, talk to an immigration lawyer in your area for advice.

Temporary Workers and Visas

Some immigration laws provide for temporary lawful status. This includes non-immigrant temporary workers, students, and tourists who come to the U.S. for a specific purpose and a limited amount of time.

Temporary visitors may be able to apply for immigration or a change in status if they qualify for immigration.

U.S. Immigration 101

U.S. immigration laws are complex and always changing. The following information is intended to provide an overview of the U.S. immigration system and help you find legal assistance to help you through the process.

Eligibility for Legal Immigration

There are a variety of pathways to immigration in the U.S., depending on the purpose of coming into the country. The most common types of immigration eligibility include:

Eligibility may also depend on the individual applicant, including their age, family situation, employment, education, and country of birth. Many immigration categories have annual caps, limiting the number of people who can be granted immigration.

Family Member Immigration

Family-based immigration allows eligible family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents to come to the U.S. Immediate relatives are eligible to apply for immigration, including:

  • Spouse
  • Unmarried children under the age of 21
  • Parents

Other family members may also be able to apply for immigration, including adult children and siblings. Limited visas may also be available for spouses and children of lawful permanent residents (LPRs), or green card holders.

Immigration applications and eligibility for family reunification depend on the relationship category. There is a higher priority for spouses, children, and parents of U.S. citizens. Other types of relatives and relatives of LPRs are subject to limits.

  • To apply for family-sponsored immigration, the U.S. citizen or LPR must file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. This form establishes the sponsor’s relationship with an eligible relative who wants to come to the U.S. for a green card.
  • After the I-130 petition is approved, the eligible family member can apply to become an LPR. If the relative is in the United States, they can apply for a green card by filing Form I-485. If the family member is outside the U.S., they can apply for an immigrant visa with the U.S. State Department in their country.

Immigration for Permanent Job Opportunities

Immigration for job opportunities is available for certain job categories. For permanent immigration based on employment, the applicant must qualify under one of the five preference categories for employment-based immigration:

  1. Persons with extraordinary ability; outstanding professors and researchers; and multinational executives
  2. Persons with exceptional ability; and professionals with an advanced degree
  3. Skilled workers, unskilled workers, and professionals
  4. “Special immigrants,” including government workers, religious workers, and others
  5. Immigrant investors

The prospective employer must have a labor certification approval from the Department of Labor. When the employer has approval, the worker files a Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.

After the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approve the petition, the applicant will complete Form DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent, submit the necessary fees, and submit immigrant visa documents for processing.

Immigrant Investor Programs

The immigrant investor visa program provides lawful status for capital investments made by foreign investors.

Investor visas are available for investments made in new commercial enterprises that benefit the U.S. economy, including job creation.

To qualify as an immigrant investor, a foreign national must:

  • File Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur
  • Make a minimum qualifying capital investment in a qualifying commercial enterprise, including investments in rural areas or areas of high unemployment.
  • Within two years, the qualifying investment must create full-time jobs for at least 10 people.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Humanitarian immigration programs allow refugees and asylum-seekers to apply for lawful immigration to the U.S. Refugees and asylees have to demonstrate that they are victims of persecution based on their race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular group.

To be eligible for immigration as a refugee, you must receive a referral to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. Individuals must also have a medical exam and meet specific security criteria before entering the United States. Asylees can apply for protection after arrival in the U.S. Refugees and asylees may be able to include their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21.

Diversity Visa Program

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program offers a limited number of immigrant visas every year. Also known as a diversity visa lottery, the program allows for a random selection of immigrants from countries that have low rates of immigration to the United States.

To apply under the diversity visa, you must submit an entry. Eligible applicants are selected through a random computer drawing distributed by geographic area with a limit for selection from any one country. Each application must also meet certain education or work experience requirements.

Immigration Assistance With an Attorney

Individuals who want to apply for immigration should fill out immigration forms and applications on their own. However, interpreting immigration law is much more complicated. Making a mistake or missing a deadline may hurt your chances of getting legal status for immigration.

If you or your family are trying to move to the United States, an immigration lawyer can guide you through the immigration process.

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