US Immigration – Overview

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By Lola Fajemirokun

After publishing the article “Do’s and Don’t of American Immigration” (read) last week, there were requests to expand more on US Immigration so here we go.

There are several legal immigration statuses that permits people to live within the United States:

  • NATURALIZED CITIZEN: Below is a chart (from USCIS.gov) that shows how to become a naturalized citizen.Path to US Citizenship
  • LAWFUL PERMANENT RESIDENT (LPR): This status allows a foreigner alien to live and work permanently in the United States. The following are the visa petition categories through which a foreigner can acquire LPR status:
    • Family-based visas: Qualified direct relatives of LRPs.
    • Employment-based visas: (1) priority workers (aliens who possess extraordinary ability, professors or researchers, multinational executives); (2) aliens who hold advanced degrees or possess exceptional ability; (3) certain classes of skilled workers, professionals, or other workers who perform jobs for which qualified workers are not available in the U.S.
    • Diversity-based visas: as determined by the Attorney General.
  • CONDITIONAL PERMANENT RESIDENT: This includes alien spouses and their children who applied for lawful permanent resident status based on a qualifying marriage to a LPR or a citizen.
  • DRAFT SUMMARY OF FAMILY-SPONSORED VISAS: Immediate relatives of a U.S. Citizen, including an alien spouse, unmarried minor child, or parent if citizen is 21 or older, are not subject to numerical limitation. The alien spouse or minor child will be a conditional immigrant if marriage is entered less than 24 months prior to the date that the visa is obtained.
  • VAWA SELF-PETITIONER: Immigration law provides that an alien married to a citizen or LPR or a child of the alien may self-petition for LPR status without the cooperation of the citizen or LPR spouse or parent if:
    • The spouse or child has been subjected to extreme cruelty by citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse
    • The act or threatened act was one of extreme cruelty, including physical violence, sexual abuse, forced detention, or psychological abuse against the petitioner or petitioner’s child by the spouse during the marriage
    • The marriage is legal and in good faith
    • The petitioner is not the primary perpetrator of the violence and
    • The petitioner is of good moral character.
  • SPECIAL IMMIGRANT JUVENILE (SIJ) STATUS: A person under the age of 21 may apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile status if there is a finding by a court in the United States with juvenile jurisdiction that:
    • The juvenile is dependent on the court or placed in the custody of an agency or department of a state or an individual or entity appointed by the state or a juvenile court located in the United States
    • Reunification of the juvenile with one or both parents is not viable due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment or a similar basis under state law
    • There is an administrative or judicial finding that it would not be in the best interest of the juvenile to be returned to the juvenile’s or parent’s previous country of nationality or country of last habitual residence.
  • REFUGEE/ASYLEE: The following are the basic conditions for refugee/asylee status.
    • The individual has a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion if returned to the home country or country of last permanent residence.
    • The individual has participated in persecution.
    • The individual presents a security risk.
    • The individual has been convicted of a serious crime, including conviction of an aggravated felony. A spouse or child of an alien admitted as a refugee/asylee is admissible if “accompanying or following to join” the refugee/asylee.
    • The Attorney General may waive the grounds for inadmissibility, with some exceptions, for humanitarian purposes or to preserve family unity.
  • NON-IMMIGRANT TEMPORARY VISAS: The law provides for a variety of categories of aliens that are eligible for visas to legally enter the United States on a temporary basis for a limited period. These visa holders are classified as non-immigrants under Federal immigration law. Eligible aliens include vacationers, students, certain classes of temporary workers, and a variety of specialized categories. The authorized length of stay is specified in the visa. The alien may have to take certain actions to maintain the status.
  • VICTIM OF TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS: The T visa is a non-immigrant visa available for individuals who have been the victims of trafficking in persons if the person:
    • Is or has been the victim of a severe form of trafficking of persons;
    • Is physically present in the United States or its territories as a result of the trafficking
    • Is complying with any reasonable request for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of traffickers, or is unable to comply with such request due to physical or psychological trauma, or is under 18 years of age
    • Would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm upon removal. Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a person under the age of 18 who is induced to perform a commercial sex act is considered a victim of severe trafficking. The T Visa also allows certain family members accompanying or following to join the victim to enter as well, including parents if the victim is under the age of 21. The maximum length of stay under the T visa status is four years unless extended. The holder of a T visa is eligible to apply for lawful permanent resident status if he or she is of good moral character, and has been continuously in the U.S. for three years.
  • CRIME VICTIM OR WITNESS: The U visa is a non-immigrant visa available to individuals who are in the U.S. as undocumented aliens but meet the following requirements:
    • The individual has suffered severe physical or mental abuse because of being a victim of criminal activity.
    • The individual has been, is being, or is likely to be of help to a Federal, state, or local investigation of the criminal activity causing the abuse.
    • The individual has certification from a Federal, state, or local judge, prosecutor, law enforcement officer, or other justice system official involved in prosecuting the criminal activity that he or she has been, is being, or is likely to be of help to a Federal, state, or local investigation of the criminal activity causing the abuse.

Reach out to a lawyer to verify and understand more current immigration laws that apply to your specific situation.

Information was found via sji.gov – CPPS (Center Of Public Policy Studies)

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