All About the US Immigration Laws and Regulations

The whole process of moving to the United States can be stressful for anybody. And the last thing you want to do is face the consequences of breaking any immigration laws. After all, you’ve just arrived in the United States, and you want your settling in to be as smooth as possible. One of the first things you can do to achieve smooth settling is to understand the complex US immigration laws and regulations

Unfortunately, though, since you’re just moving from a different country, some of the immigration laws may seem strange to you. Here’s an article that attempts to answer all the questions you may have about the application and enforcement of the United States immigration laws.

The Basics of US Immigration Laws and Regulations 

It’s important to note that the US immigration laws are generic. So it covers both state sanctioned immigration (often known as legal immigration) and illegal immigration. Most of the laws create exceptions for people coming into the United States on an explicitly temporary basis. This includes issues like tourism, educational exchange programs, temporary employment, or temporary flight stopovers while traveling to another country. 

The US immigration laws and regulations is a federal government issue. However, some states may pass laws every now and then to bolster the enforcement of existing federal immigration laws and regulations. 

The current immigration process in the United States requires immigrants to obtain express permission from the US government before entering the country. Luckily, there are quite a number of methods intending immigrants can adopt to enter the country. For example, refugees fleeing persecution may enter the United States by applying for special programs. Programs like the United States Refugee Admissions Program cover this area. However, immigrating for any other reason requires that you acquire an immigrant visa via the State Department. 

Although there are many options for immigration visas, most of the options can be grouped into the following categories:

  • Family preference
  • Immediate relative
  • Employment-based
  • Diversity
  • Special immigrant visas

1. Family Preference Visa

Along with the immediate relative visa, this visa is a subcategory of the family immigration visa. It covers the relocation needs of specific, more distant family relations of a US citizen. It also covers certain specific relationships with Lawful Permanent Residents. However, note that the United States immigration law limits the number of beneficiaries of this visa yearly. As a US citizen, the following relations are qualified to apply for this kind of visa through you: 

  • Spouse
  • Parent
  • Son/daughter
  • Brother/sister 

However, the only relations of a lawful permanent resident that can apply for this visa are:

  • Spouse
  • Unmarried son/daughter

2. Immediate Relative Visa

This category of visa can only be earned by the close family relation or a US citizen. Beneficiaries are limited to parents, child(ren), and spouse. In this case, there’s no limitation to the number of visa per year. The laws guiding application and acceptance of this kind of visa is mostly similar to the family preference visa.

3. Employment-Based Visa

As its name signifies, this visa is obtainable by foreign citizens who are gainfully employed in the United States. It is also obtainable by employees being transferred from a company in their country to a branch or company in the US. Applicants for this kind of visa are further grouped into the following five subcategories:

I. Employment First Preference (E1): Priority Worker and Persons of Extraordinary Ability

This subcategory covers: 

  • Applicants with extraordinary ability in arts, sciences, education, athletics, or business. Although applicants are not required to have any specific job offer, they must have the right documentation that shows national or international recognition in the said field. They must also show a willingness to continue working in the field after immigration. 
  • Outstanding researchers and professors recognized internationally with at least three years of teaching or research experience. Applicants must provide a job offer and file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. 
  • Multinational executives and managers with between 1-3 years employment history in an overseas parent, affiliate, branch, or subsidiary of a US company. 

ii. Employment Second Preference (E2): Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability

iii. Employment Third Preference (E3): 

This includes the following: 

  • Professionals
  • Skilled workers
  • Unskilled workers 

Applicants under this category must have a legitimately approved Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker filed by a prospective employee in the United States. They must also get adequate labor certification from the Labor Department. 

iv. Employment Fourth Preference (E4)

This visa is reserved for certain special applicants like:

  • Broadcasters in the United States
  • Religious ministers
  • Certain present and former employees of the United States government living abroad
  • Certain former employees of the United States government living in the central zone of Panama
  • Afghan/Iraqi translators and interpreters with a verifiable history of working with the US armed forces. 
  • Certain foreign medical practitioners and graduates
  • Special immigrant juvenile
  • Active or past recruits of companies outside the United States who have served in the US armed forces 

v. Employment Fifth Preference (E5)

This subcategory is specially reserved for foreign investors with capital investment in commercial enterprises located in the US. Note that such enterprises must provide job creation.

4. Diversity Visa

This type of Visa is available to citizens of countries with low migration rates. The program is also referred to as the Green Card Lottery or DV Lottery. The number of this visa issued yearly is very limited. Thus, applicants must meet strict requirements like:

  • Citizenship in a country with a low immigration rate into the United States
  • Graduation from high school or its equivalent and readiness to work in the United States

5. Special Immigrant Visas 

As its name suggests, this is a visa program for people who have helped the US government in any capacity abroad. You’re eligible to apply for this visa if you have: 

  • Provided some sort of public service to the US government. The service may be for profit to the government or for non-profit
  • Gotten into any kind of danger because of your alliance and dedication to the US government
  • Applicants must have been employed with the United States government for at least one year

The Coleman Law Group Can Help You 

The US immigration laws and regulations are so complex that even the most frequent travelers often get confused. And despite all the information available online, you may still need an expert to help translate most of the laws. Luckily, we have experienced immigration lawyers that can help you at the Coleman Law GroupContact us now for a free consultation!

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