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Immigration Law

Immigration policy has largely circulated around family- reunification and attracting qualified workers to the United States as well as protecting refugees. Federal immigration law serves as the gatekeeper for entry across U.S. borders, and determines who may enter, how long they may stay, and when they must leave. The Department of Homeland Security, through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), provides immigration benefits to people who are entitled to stay in the U.S. on a temporary or permanent basis. These benefits include: granting of U.S. citizenship to those who are eligible to naturalize; authorizing individuals to reside in the U.S. on a permanent basis; and providing aliens with the eligibility to work in the United States.


The Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) governs current immigration policy and provides for an annual worldwide limit of 675,000 permanent immigrants, with certain exceptions for close family members. Congress and the President determine a separate number for refugees.

Family Reunification

Family Based Immigration The family-based immigration category allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (to petition for certain family members to be admitted to the United States. There are 480,000 family-based visas available every year. Family-based immigrants are admitted to the U.S. either as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or through the family preference system. There is no numerical limit on visas available for immediate relatives, but petitioners must meet certain age and financial requirements. Immediate relatives are spouses of U.S. citizens, unmarried minor children of U.S. citizens (under 21 years old), and parents of U.S. citizens (petitioner must be at least 21 years old to petition for a parent). In order to be admitted through the family preference system, a U.S. citizen or LPR sponsor must petition for an individual relative (and establish the legitimacy of the relationship), meet minimum income requirements, and sign an affidavit of support stating that they will be financially responsible for their family member(s) upon arrival in the United States.

Employment-Based Immigration

Temporary Visas The United States provides various ways for immigrants with valuable skills to come to the United States on either a permanent or a temporary basis. There are more than 20 types of visas for temporary nonimmigrant workers. These include a variety of H visas for both highly-skilled and lesser-skilled employment, O visas for workers of extraordinary ability, L visas for intracompany transfers, and P visas for athletes, entertainers and skilled performers.

Permanent Immigration

Permanent employment-based immigration is set at a rate of 140,000 visas per year, and these are divided into 5 preferences offered to persons of extraordinary ability, members of the professions holding advanced degrees, or persons of exceptional abilities, certain skilled and unskilled workers, special immigrants, including religious workers, and investors.

Country-specific numerical limits

To maintain the fairness in availability of immigration to the United States, the INA limits the number of immigrants to the United States from any one country, in addition to limitations on the various preference categories. Currently, no group of permanent immigrants (family- based and employment-based) from a single country can exceed 7% of the total amount of people immigrating to the United States in a single year.

Refugees & Asylees

There are several categories of legal admission available to people who are fleeing persecution or are unable to return to their homeland due to life-threatening or extraordinary conditions. Refugees are admitted to the United States based upon an inability to return to their home countries because of a �well-founded fear of persecution� due to their race, membership in a social group, political opinion, religion, or national origin. Each year the President, in consultation with Congress, determines the numerical ceiling for refugee admissions. The total limit is broken down into  limits for each region of the world as well.


Persons already in the United States who were persecuted or fear persecution upon their return may apply for asylum within the United States or at a port of entry at the time they seek admission. They must petition within one year of arriving in the U.S. There is no limit on the number of individuals who may be granted asylum in a given year nor are there specific categories for determining who may seek asylum.

Refugees and asylees are eligible to become Lawful Permanent Residents one year after admission to the United States as a refugee or one year after receiving asylum.

Diversity Visa Lottery

The Diversity Visa lottery was created by the Immigration Act of 1990 as a dedicated channel for immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Each year 55,000 visas are allocated randomly to nationals from countries that have sent less than 50,000 immigrants to the United States in the previous 5 years. Eligibility requires that an immigrant have a high-school education (or its equivalent) or at least two years of working experience in a profession which requires at least two years of training or experience (within the past five year period). A computer-generated random lottery drawing chooses selectees for diversity visas. The visas are distributed among six geographic regions with a greater number of visas going to regions with lower rates of immigration, and with no visas going to nationals of countries sending more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. over the last five years. According to the last Visa Bulletin in fiscal year 2014, the majority of Diversity Visas will go to aspiring immigrants from African countries.

Humanitarian Relief

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is granted to people who are in the United States but cannot return to their home country because of �natural disaster,� �extraordinary temporary conditions,� or �ongoing armed conflict.� TPS is granted to a country for six, 12, or 18 months and can be extended beyond that if unsafe conditions in the country persist.

Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) provides protection from deportation for individuals whose home countries are unstable, therefore making return dangerous. Unlike TPS, which is authorized by statute, DED is at the discretion of the executive branch.

Certain individuals may be allowed to enter the U.S. through parole, even though he or she may not meet the definition of a refugee and may not be eligible to immigrate through other channels. Parolees may be admitted temporarily for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that children who were brought to the U.S. illegally at a young age are eligible for this process if they meet certain requirements. They may request consideration of deferred action which delays deportation (up to 2 years) and provides work authorization in the U.S.

U.S. Citizenship

If you are not a citizen by birth, you can apply for citizenship after a number of years of being a Legal Permanent Resident. There are a number of benefits to US citizenship. However, there certain requirements in the citizenship and naturalization process. These include the physical presence, good moral character, and the education requirements. Certain exceptions may apply depending on your age or a disability or impairment.

In order to qualify for U.S. citizenship through naturalization, an individual must have had Lawful Permanent Resident status (a green card) for at least 5 years (or 3 years if he or she obtained the green card through a U.S.-citizen spouse or through the Violence Against Women Act, VAWA). There are other exceptions for members of the U.S. military who serve in a time of war or declared hostilities. Applicants for U.S. citizenship must be at least 18 years old, demonstrate continuous residency, demonstrate �good moral character,� pass English and U.S. history and civics exams, and pay an application fee, among other requirements.


Visa Bulletin

Asylum must be applied for within one year of arrival to the U.S.


EB-5 Immigrant Investor

Employment Authorization Document (EAD Card)
Immigrant workers must obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) before applying for work in the U.S. This document proves their eligibility to work in the United States.

Employment Based Immigration
Foreign nationals immigrate to the U.S. by the thousands for work-related purposes. There are five types of visas available depending on the workers' abilities and skills, most of which require employment authorization and employer sponsorship.

Family Based Immigration

Any U.S. citizen or permanent resident who desires to have their family immigrate to join them in the States must sponsor them. This allows family members to join them while their visa is pending. Any family members who are not immediate relatives, such as fianc�s, also apply for certain family visas.

Green Card (LPR)
Immigrant Visas
International Adoptions
Non-Immigrant Visas
- Types of Visas
- Temporary Work Visas
Removal of Conditions on Residence (I-751)
Removal Proceedings
- Extreme Hardship
- Stateside Waiver Processing