In the United States, immigration law is a complex and ever-changing system. Anyone who is not a U.S. citizen can be subject to its regulations. If you are considering immigrating to the United States or are in the process of doing so, it is important to understand the basics of U.S. immigration law and what you need to do to comply with it.

What Is U.S Immigration Law and Who Is It Meant to Protect?

The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate immigration. This means that immigration law is created at the federal level. The main purpose of U.S. immigration law is to protect national security and public safety. It does this by setting limits on who can enter the country and how long they can stay.

U.S. immigration law is also meant to protect the rights of immigrants and ensure that they are treated fairly. For example, the law provides certain protections for refugees and asylum seekers. It also prohibits discrimination against immigrants based on their race, ethnicity, or national origin.

Who Enforces U.S. Immigration Law?

The federal government is responsible for enforcing U.S. immigration laws. The main agency that does this is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the agencies it is responsible for overseeing, such as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The DHS is responsible for Border Patrol, which monitors the U.S. borders and apprehends immigrants who enter the country illegally. ICE is in charge of arresting and deporting immigrants who are in the country illegally or who have violated the terms of their visas.

Types of Visas and Immigration Statuses

Understanding the intricacies of visas and immigration statuses is pivotal for individuals navigating the U.S. immigration system. The U.S. primarily distinguishes between two visa categories based on the intended duration and purpose of stay: nonimmigrant and immigrant visas. Each category is governed by specific immigration policies, catering to diverse needs and circumstances.

Nonimmigrant Visas

Nonimmigrant visas are issued to individuals intending to enter the United States temporarily for specific reasons, such as tourism, business visits, temporary work, or study. The immigration status under this category does not imply an intent to remain in the U.S. permanently. Applicants must demonstrate their purpose of visit and intent to return to their home countries after their visa expires.

Obtaining a nonimmigrant visa requires permission from the U.S. government. It typically involves an application process, payment of fees, and sometimes an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Eligibility for these visas often depends on the applicant’s home country, as different countries have various agreements with the United States regarding visa processing.

Work permits, or Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), are crucial for noncitizens wishing to work legally in the U.S. While some nonimmigrant visas automatically qualify the holder for work, others require a separate application to obtain an EAD.

Immigrant Visas

Immigrant visas are for individuals seeking to live and work permanently in the United States. This category includes family-sponsored visas, employment-based visas, and visas for refugees or asylees. Unlike nonimmigrant visas, holders of immigrant visas are granted permanent resident status upon entry to the United States, commonly known as getting a Green Card.

The immigrant visa application process is more complex and lengthier, often involving sponsorship by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relative or by a U.S. employer. The grounds for eligibility vary significantly by visa category, but all applicants must undergo rigorous screening, including background checks and medical examinations.

Immigration Court and Removal Proceedings

The immigration court plays a vital role in deciding the fate of noncitizens within the United States, particularly in removal proceedings. These proceedings determine whether a noncitizen should be deported based on violations of immigration laws, criminal convictions, or other admissibility issues. Noncitizens facing deportation have the right to legal representation, though not at government expense, and may appeal unfavorable decisions in certain circumstances.

Navigating Immigration Issues and Taking Action

Immigrants and nonimmigrants may encounter various issues while navigating the U.S. immigration system, from proving eligibility for certain visas to addressing admissibility concerns. Taking informed action is critical to complying with immigration requirements and successfully addressing these challenges. This often involves seeking reliable information, submitting applications accurately and timely, attending all necessary interviews, and providing substantial evidence to support one’s case.

Navigating the U.S. immigration system’s complexity requires a thorough understanding of its policies and procedures. Whether you’re seeking a nonimmigrant visa for a temporary stay or an immigrant visa for permanent residency, it’s crucial to be well-informed about the relevant immigration statuses, categories, and the legal implications of each. For individuals facing difficulties or uncertainties, consulting with an experienced immigration attorney can provide valuable guidance and increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome.

What Are Some Key Terms in U.S. Immigration Law?

Immigration Law in the United States

There are a few key terms that you should know if you are seeking to immigrate to the United States or if you are already living in the country on a visa.

Visa: A document that allows a foreign national to enter the United States for a specific purpose, such as tourism, study, or work.

Green Card: Also known as a Permanent Resident Card, this is a document that allows a foreign national to live and work in the United States permanently.

Naturalization: The process through which a foreign national can become a U.S. citizen.

Removal/Deportation: The forcible removal of an immigrant from the United States to their home country.

Inadmissible: The term used to describe a person that is ineligible to apply for certain immigration benefits.

How Is the Immigration Process Carried Out

The U.S. Constitution grants Congress the authority to control and manage concerns related to immigration. With a few exceptions, Title 8 of the United States Code contains Congress’s legislation. As such, immigration regulations are overseen by the federal government. States are not allowed to meddle. The small number of states that have enacted legislation allowing police to investigate allegations of alienation are the sole exceptions. That has been a contentious issue.

The Department of Homeland Security, an agency of the federal government, oversees immigration processes independent of appeals from individual states. Inside this division:

  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement is in charge of these things and brings charges against offenders.
  • Immigration Services and U.S. Citizenship investigates petitions for persons seeking legal immigration to the United States.
  • Border Protection and Customs diligently monitor the nation’s borders, ensuring that only authorized individuals enter and leave the country while actively identifying and addressing undocumented and illegal entry attempts.

There are two types of visas:

  • Immigrant Visas: This kind of visa is intended for people who desire to work and live as residents of the United States. Generally speaking, a country may only send a certain number of people to apply for these visas.
  • Non-Immigrant Visas: These visas are typically issued to students, tourists, and business people who are here temporarily.

Hiring a lawyer to assist can be beneficial because U.S. immigration law could be very complex, with many nuances and restrictions. Which visa type would be best for you to seek might also be determined by consultation with an attorney. To get a sense of the complexity of U.S. immigration, keep in mind that 675,000 permanent immigrants enter the country each year thanks to the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA), which oversees immigration regulations. This cap is occasionally lifted to allow close family members of citizens and permanent residents of the United States.

If you are granted permanent residency in the United States, you can live and work there and apply for any job openings except those exclusive to citizens. It’s also legal for you to stay in the nation if you’re unemployed. Temporary residents may also occasionally be admitted into the United States. The President and Congress decide how many refugees are let in each year.

How to Apply for an Immigrant Visa

Applying for an immigrant visa in several ways could lead to permanent residency.

Apply through a family member

Applying for citizenship through family members is the most popular route. On behalf of the family member who resides abroad, a petition may be submitted by a permanent resident or citizen of the United States.

In the U.S. immigration system, family unity is given top priority. Hence, the United States prioritizes the immigration of one’s immediate family members. Immigration for extended family members is also permitted, although annual quotas and priorities must be filed in their petitions.

The petitioner’s spouse, parents, unmarried children under 21, and adopted children under 16 are considered immediate family members if the petitioner is above 21. The government never limits the number of visas it grants for direct family members. The processing of the visa will determine how long it takes to arrive.

The siblings and brothers of an adult citizen over 21, married or unmarried adult children, minor or adult spouses, and unwed children of legal permanent residents are the next in line of distant relatives, with the latter receiving the greatest priority. If you fall into the lower priority category, you may need to wait years to obtain a U.S. visa.

What Do I Must Know to Obtain a Family Visa?

Given the prevalence of family visa applications, Congress established a mechanism to ascertain the maximum number of individuals who may be sponsored every year. The Congress deducts the number of foreigners paroled into the United States in the preceding year and sponsorships for immediate family members from the first 480,000 persons granted. The number of unused employment preference immigrants from the previous year increases this sum. The number that emerges indicates the amount of visas that can be allotted to the remaining preference categories.

Family-based visas are limited to 226,000 by law. Frequently, because of the admission of close relatives, the number of family visas granted exceeds that. There could be more than 480,000 in total.

Although U.S. citizenship allows one to bring family members into the nation, there are limitations to this eligibility. Consulting with legal advice is crucial. Individuals who file for family members should be of a certain age and stable financially. These requirements also apply to immigrants who enter the United States. The U.S. citizens must sign a petition and attest to their financial responsibility for the new resident if they cannot support themselves.

Apply for an E5 Business Investor Visa

For people who want to invest in a business in the U.S., there is a work visa called the E5. Getting this visa has numerous benefits, and accessibility is one of them. The number of E5 visas issued is not subject to a cap or limit, making them constantly available and enabling entry into the United States for anyone with the necessary financial means.

As long as the business investment is profitable, the E5 can be extended indefinitely. The E5 is first granted for a period ranging from two or five years, and it allows entrance into the United States for the investor, their spouse, and their children. Small company owners, retirees, and real estate investors are the typical users of this visa.

Apply for Refugee Status

According to the Refugee Act of 1980, a person seeking shelter from their nation of origin is considered a refugee. This status is easily granted in certain situations, such as locating a missing American POW or MIA soldier. Those who have been found guilty of murder or persecuted others are not granted this status.

The fear of persecution in one’s home country is one of the requirements for applying for refugee status; the presence of this concern must be demonstrated by both objective and subjective evidence of persecution. Persecution may arise because of one’s country’s origin, religion, social group, politics, or other identity.

Applicants for refugee status may do so from outside the United States; frequently, this is accomplished through another country that has granted the applicant temporary protection. Acceptance of an immigrant is contingent upon the level of danger and American concerns towards the immigrant’s class or group. Another consideration is if they have a family in the United States.

Seeking asylum is an additional option if you are currently in the United States and believe returning to your country of origin would endanger you. You can apply for this during your first year of residency in the United States. The number of persons who can be awarded asylum is unlimited.

Apply for Employment

Getting hired by a reputable company is one way to become a resident. The government can only grant a work visa based on the petition this employer has filed on your behalf. In this case, your employment ties you to the United States. More than twenty different types of work visas are available; some of these can result in the issuance of a green card.

A green card entitles you to residency status in the United States and the freedom to enter and exit the nation. You can work, look for work, and file taxes. After five years, you might be eligible to apply for full citizenship. Among the numerous advantages of U.S. citizenship is the ability to vote.

Choose the appropriate work visa before applying for a job in the United States.

  • The EB1: For highly skilled workers who possess exceptional skills in their fields.
  • The EB2: For people who have exceptionally high proficiency and advanced degrees.
  • The EB3: For skilled or professional workers.
  • The EB4: For special immigrants.
  • H1B: For people who have received a job offer over a special or unique position.
  • H1B1: For people from Singapore and Chile who have been offered a temporary job.
  • H2A: For temporary or seasonal employment within the agricultural sector.
  • H2B: For a variety of jobs that are temporary or seasonal.
  • I Work Visa: For media professionals working in film, radio, or other cultural forms.
  • L1: For a senior person to be moved into an international business.
  • 01: For workers with special skills or abilities to work temporarily for an enterprise or sponsoring agency.
  • P1: for athletes and artists with an international reputation to participate in an event.
  • P2: For foreign artists to participate in an exchange program and give a brief performance.
  • P3: for foreign entertainers and artists to participate in a cultural event and give a one-time performance.
  • Q1: For individuals to participate in an international cultural exchange program.
  • R1: for religious personnel employed by non-profit religious organizations to work in the United States.
  • TN: For citizens of Mexico and Canada to work temporarily.
  • E3: for temporary residence and employment of nationals of Australia.

For permanent employment-based residents, there is an annual quota of 140,000, which covers not just the applicants but also their child or spouses. Among the preference categories are:

  • Individuals with exceptional talent in any subject, up to 40,000 every year.
  • Professionals have advanced degrees or extraordinary talent in many fields, up to 40,000 annually.
  • College degrees and at least two years of experience or training are prerequisites for skilled workers, with a 40,000 annual cap. An extra quota of 5,000 is allocated to workers possessing additional talents.
  • Ten thousand are special immigrants, including religious workers, U.S. foreign service personnel, and retired U.S. government employees.

Some of these positions might move to the higher priority categories if they remain unfilled. In a given year, no nation can provide more than 7% of the overall number of immigrants.

Apply for the Visa Lottery

Launched in 1990, the visa lottery aims to attract immigrants worldwide to the United States. It is the most likely path for individuals in various nations to obtain a green card, and visas are granted in all six major global areas.

The visa lottery began when it was discovered that Irish citizens were losing their rights because there weren’t enough visas issued. An annual lottery began to provide visas for those Irish and citizens of other afflicted nations to address this problem.

Areas having the lowest immigration rates are granted the majority of visas. Every year, the U.S. offers 55,000 visas to citizens of nations with fewer than 50,000 immigrants during the previous five years. Nations that have sent over 50,000 immigrants into the United States in the last five years aren’t qualified. Eastern Europeans and Africans are frequently qualified. However, nations do change annually. Since 5,000 of the 55,000 visas available are made accessible through the NACARA program, the actual cap on visas is 50,000.

To be eligible for the program, one must:

  • Having completed high school or a similar program.
  • Having spent the previous five years in a career that required two years of training.

The lottery is conducted online, and a computer processes applications. Spouses and dependents of the lottery winner may immigrate to the U.S. alongside them.


What Are Some Basics of U.S. Immigration Law?

There are two main ways to immigrate to the United States: through family ties or through employment.

Family-Based Immigration: You may be eligible to immigrate to the United States if you have a close relative who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Employment-Based Immigration: You may be eligible to immigrate to the United States if you have a job offer from a U.S. employer.

There are also a few other ways to immigrate to the United States, such as through refugee or asylee status, or by winning the green card lottery.

What Should You Look for in an Immigration Lawyer?

The U.S. immigration system is complex, and the laws are constantly changing. An experienced immigration lawyer can help you navigate the system and ensure that you are following all the correct procedures.

When choosing an immigration lawyer, you should make sure that the lawyer is experienced in handling cases like yours.

Immigration Law Attorney in Temecula, California.

At SYG Law Firm, we understand how important it is for you to be able to stay in the United States with your family. We have helped many clients obtain visas, green cards, and citizenship. Our immigration attorneys in Temecula California are experienced in all areas of immigration law, and we can help you with your case.

Call us today at (951) 595-7127 to schedule a consultation.