What are USA Immigration Laws?
Immigration law in the U.S. is extremely elaborate and complicated. The Immigration policy is governed under The Immigration Naturalization Act (INA). It primarily deals with the reunification of families, skilled migrants essential to the economy, refugee protection and promotion of diversity. This article explains in brief how the U.S. Immigration system is formulated.
Permanent Residency – permits a foreign national to live and work legally and indefinitely in the United States. Lawful permanent residents (LPRs) or green card holders can apply for almost all jobs, except those jobs that are strictly reserved for U.S. citizens. Unemployment does not require an LPR to leave the country.
U.S. Citizenship – To qualify, an applicant must be at least 18 years, have been an LPR for at least five consecutive years and meet other specific requirements. A citizen’s spouse can apply if he or she has been an LPR for three years having obtained that status from their citizen spouse. There are exceptions that can qualify as well.
It is one of the most important principles of U.S. policy concerning immigration. U.S. citizens and LPRs are permitted to apply for immigration for family members. They have to provide proof of relationship, meet specific minimum income criteria and provide an affidavit of sponsorship. The latter is to prove that the prospective immigrant’s needs will be taken care of by the petitioner. The principal immigrant may have secondary or derivative immigrants who accompany the principal, example children.
Immediate Relative Category - includes spouses, unmarried minor children (under 21 years) and parents (petitioning citizen must be at least 21 years).
Family Preference System – A limited number of visas is issued annually. Petitioning immigrants must meet specific eligibility requirements. Petitioners (citizen or LPR) must meet specific age and financial criteria.
Citizens can apply for - adult children (married or unmarried) and siblings (petitioning citizen must be at least 21 years). LPRs can apply for spouse and unmarried children (minor or adults).
Temporary Visa Classifications – Employers can apply for foreign nationals to work temporarily up to a specific period. These immigrants cannot usually change their employer. There are over 20 types of visas under this category. Examples include but are not limited to L-1 visas for intracompany transfers, P visas for skilled performers like athletes, etc., A visas for diplomatic employees and H visas in the highly skilled and lesser skilled categories. The eligibility criteria, term, if dependents are allowed and other details differ between categories. Most of these visa holders have to leave the country when their employment ceases or if their visa expires.
Permanent Immigration – There are five preferences in this visa category, and applicants must meet specific requirements. Examples of permanent immigration include but are not limited to – “Persons of extraordinary ability” in the arts, science, education, business or athletics, Skilled workers with college degrees have at least two years of training or experience, etc.
Refugees and Asylees
Refugees - are those people who have a “well-founded fear of persecution” in their home countries due to race, political opinion, religion, national origin or membership in a particular social group. The applicants usually apply for visas in a “transition country” which is outside their home country. An applicant should be able to prove the degree of risk they face, whether they belong to specific groups and whether they have relatives in the U.S. The POTUS (President of the United States) and the Congress fix a ceiling limit for the number of these visas issued each year.
Asylum – Like refugees, asylum is for those people who also fear being prosecuted due to race, political opinion, religion, national origin or membership in a particular social group. The difference is, they can apply from inside the country, either at the port of entry or within a year of arriving in the country.
A year after their applications are approved, both refugees and asylees can apply to become LPRs.
Other Forms of Relief
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) – Applicants who are unable to return to their homeland because of a “natural disaster,” “extraordinary temporary conditions” or “ongoing armed conflict” can apply under this category.
Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) – Applicants who cannot return from the U.S. because their home country is unstable.
Both TPS and DED do not automatically entitle the holder to apply for LPR status.
Diversity Visa Program – These are designed to give people from countries with low immigration to the U.S., a chance to immigrate. Applicants must meet specific requirements.