Understanding Immigration Laws

Immigration laws are established by the Federal government in the US to determine who is eligible to enter the country and the duration for which their entry is valid. Immigration laws also pertain to the naturalization process for those seeking US citizenship.

Immigration status in the US is classified into 4 types:

  1. Citizens:

    Individuals who are born in the US or who have been naturalized due to 3-5 years of permanent residency qualify as US citizens. They enjoy privileges such as:

    • They can work in the US legally.
    • They are entitled to public benefits.
    • They cannot be deported.
    • They can petition for the legal status of their spouse, child, parents, or sibling.
  2. Residents:

    There are 2 types of residents in the US:

    • Legal permanent residents:

      These are residents who have been authorized to live and work in the US. Legal permanent residents are commonly referred to as “green card holders” because of the permanent residence card granted to them by the government.

    • Conditional residents:

      Those residents who have been married for less than two years before they are given the green card are known as conditional residents.

      Conditional residence can be converted to permanent residence by submitting a Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence.

      Both types of residents have the legal right to live and work permanently in the US. However, these rights can be annulled if the resident is guilty of a criminal offense or has committed immigration fraud.

  3. Non-immigrants:

    Non-immigrants are people who live legally in the country but for a limited period. They have a specific visa granted to them.

    Examples of non-immigrants are:

    • Students who require an F1 Visa
    • Business visitors/ Tourists, who require B1/B2 Visa
    • Fiancees who are granted the K1 Visa
    • Those individuals who are granted temporary protected status.

    Non-immigrants may be shifted to the non-documented category in case:

    • Their application is fraudulent
    • They do not adhere to the terms of the visa
    • Stay beyond the period defined in the visa
  4. Undocumented

    Undocumented people are those who are in the US illegally. These people do not have the legal right to seek employment in the US. They are not eligible for public benefits like healthcare, etc. Besides they run the risk of being deported at any time.

There are specific laws that govern the rights of each type of US immigrant. However, with the change in administration and the Biden Government taking over, the immigration laws in the US are likely to undergo several changes. The changes in the immigration laws as per the US Citizenship Act of 2021are likely to make it easier for undocumented and those with temporary status to gain citizenship.

If you are thinking of migrating to the US or are unsure of your current immigration status, you will need to consult an immigration lawyer. Autrey Law firm has a team of experienced immigration lawyers who are aware of the updates in immigration laws. They can advise you on the nuances of immigration laws.