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Immigration Law

Immigration Laws of the United States

If an individual wants to come to the United States and remain, they must be aware that there are many responsibilities and obligations that come with the opportunity. There are procedural laws and requirements that an individual must follow if they wish to enter into and stay in the United States for any length of time.

Immigration laws are those laws that regulate how an individual from another country may qualify for a visa and under what circumstances that individual may be deported. There are many different types of available temporary and permanent visas. Depending on the purpose for an individual's entry into the United States, there will be a visa that suits their needs.

Individuals who are already in the United States must abide by immigration laws. Many immigrants who already legally reside in the United States have a green card, or a permanent visa.

Individuals with green cards may seek to be citizens. They must, however, refrain from any activities that may bring deportation or removal upon them. It is always wise for an individual to make whatever attempts are possible to reside legally within the United States.

Immigration laws are one of the most complicated areas of law. It can be a very complex system for many individuals to understand. If an individual needs help resolving an immigration law issue, they should contact an immigration lawyer.

Citizenship and Naturalization Applicants

Citizenship and naturalization applicants are individuals who are applying to be citizens of the United States. Becoming a citizen of the United States is a very personal decision.

Deportation or Removal Proceedings

An individual who is a non-resident may be deported from the United States in several different ways. These may include:

  • Being arrested as an immigrant;
  • Having an application rejected by the USCIS; or
  • Having a request for asylum denied.

Permanent Visas or Green Cards

Immigration terminology such as a “visa” and a “green card” may be confusing. These labels are often used interchangeably, even though they refer to two different things. It is also common for these terms to be used in ways that are different from their original meanings.

A visa provides an individual with the right to enter the United States legally. It is a physical stamp that an individual receives on their passport or an equivalent document.

A visa typically has to do with entry into the United States. The term visa also refers to a category in which an individual comes to the United States for a temporary stay, including a student visa or a temporary worker visa.

The term green card is a slang term that refers to the process of obtaining United States citizenship, rather than simply entering into the country. The term green card application may refer to a process regarding immigration, including an adjustment of status or naturalization.

The emphasis of a green card is on citizenship and residency status rather than admissibility into the United States. Physically, a green card is a plastic photo identification card that an individual receives when they are granted lawful permanent resident status.

It is important to note that a green card is known as a permanent visa, even though the term visa typically refers to temporary visa categories. This may provide some clarification regarding these terms.

An individual immigrating to the United States may be eligible for multiple types of visas. The type of visa an individual applies for will depend on whether they intend to stay permanently or for a short time.

Political Asylum and What Are Refugees

Political asylum is provided to individuals who immigrate to the United States in order to flee persecution or civil disturbances in their own country. Political asylum allows an individual to stay within the United States rather than returning to their home country and facing possible violence. The term for the individuals is refugee.

Temporary Visas

If an individual is a non-immigrant that resides outside the United States and wishes to enter the country for business or travel, they may be eligible to receive a temporary visa. This type of visa allows the individual to travel to the United States for a short period of time.

Roles an Immigration Attorney Plays in Terms of Visas and Green Cards

An immigration lawyer can provide an individual with assistance with applications for both visas and green cards. A lawyer can help an individual obtain a visa so they can travel to the United States. There may be restrictions that cause an individual to be inadmissible, such as a criminal record. A lawyer can assist the individual in obtaining a waiver or assist with an appeal if their original claim is denied.

Once an individual has legally entered into the United States, they may begin considering how to obtain permanent resident status, or a green card. This is typically the first step towards obtaining full United States citizenship.

A lawyer can assist in determining whether an individual is eligible for a green card. A lawyer can also advise an individual how to keep green card privileges, so they do not lose their chance at obtaining citizenship.

These applications typically involve large amounts of paperwork. After applying for a visa, the applicant will most likely be required to attend immigration hearings at several points during the process. An attorney can provide advice on these matters as well as representation during any immigration proceedings.

Working with an attorney who is fully aware of all current immigration laws can greatly reduce the risk of mistakes or errors. Most people will hire an immigration lawyer when they would like assistance with submitting an application for an immigration document, such as a visa or green card.

There are some situations in which hiring an immigration lawyer is actually necessary. Some of the most common examples of these situations include, but may not be limited to:

Crime Conviction: If the immigration applicant has been convicted of committing a crime, they will need to work with an immigration attorney. Nearly every USCIS form requires that the applicant divulge whether they have been convicted of a crime. The applicant must disclose their entire criminal record, including charges that were dropped or later expunged. An immigration lawyer will be aware of how immigration and criminal laws overlap each other, thereby eliminating the need for a separate criminal defense lawyer;

Application Denial: An immigration lawyer will be needed if the applicant's prior immigration applications have been denied. Their attorney will determine why the application was denied, and determine whether it is possible to appeal the application or reapply at a later date.

Previous Deportation: An applicant will need to hire an attorney if they have previously been deported, or excluded from entry into the United States. This is because deportation or exclusion can sometimes mean that the applicant is permanently banned from future applications. An immigration lawyer would be able to determine whether that is the case, and advise the applicant regarding the effects of deportation and exclusion;

Medical Condition: Some medical conditions, generally communicable diseases, can prevent a person from being granted entry into the United States. An immigration lawyer will be able to help applicants determine whether their medical condition will render them ineligible, and what their options are;

Unreasonable Wait Time: When an applicant has been waiting for an unreasonably long time during the application process, they should hire an immigration attorney. Because immigration attorneys are familiar with the application process, they are also familiar with deadlines and expected wait times. The attorney may be able to help the applicant in terms of obtaining expedited or rush processing;

Employer Non-cooperation: If the applicant is applying for an employment-based visa, but their prospective employer is not assisting with related issues, the applicant should hire an attorney. An immigration lawyer can help ensure that future employers fulfill their obligations to the applicant as promised;

Terminated Marriage: An attorney will be necessary if the applicant was married to a United States citizen, but the marriage was terminated before the applicant was able to remove certain conditions from their permanent resident status. Generally speaking, visa applications that are based on a marriage are jointly filed. As such, if the marriage was terminated because of death or divorce, it may be especially difficult to prove that it was not a fraudulent marriage;

Recently Divorced: A similar situation would be if the applicant would like to adjust their permanent resident status, but is recently divorced and is married to a different United States citizen. The first marriage may be suspected of being a scam; as such, an immigration lawyer could help prove that the first marriage was actually legitimate; and/or

A Child Under the Age of 21: Eligibility for permanent resident status differs based on the immigrant's age, and requirements are different for children under the age of 21. If the applicant is coming with their family, and their child might reach the age of 21 before being granted permanent resident status, an immigration attorney can provide advice regarding the best method for filing for children of applicants.

Things Immigration Lawyers Don't Do

If the applicant is overseas, an immigration lawyer cannot attend consular interviews with them. However, they may prepare necessary paperwork, as well as communicate afterward with involved consulates. It is important to note that lawyers cannot speed up the immigration process, and cannot guarantee the results of the immigration process. An attorney can only help guide you throughout the immigration process, not control the results.

Has the Immigration Process Changed Due to COVID-19?

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the USCIS suspended all in-person services for the first three months of the pandemic. Because of this, interviews for all immigration and asylum applications were postponed. Additionally, all biometrics appointments were canceled. What this means is that new fingerprints cannot be collected.

The USCIS temporarily suspended naturalization ceremonies, and would not compromise on offering virtual oath ceremonies. The effect of this resistance was that the ability of tens of thousands of applicants to become United States citizens was delayed, meaning that they could not enjoy the benefits and rights entitled to them as citizens. There have been no broad policy changes which would enable noncitizens to focus on their health and the pandemic, as opposed to being concerned about their immigration status.

As of September 2020, it would appear that the immigration process has become even more complex due to COVID-19.

How Can an Immigration Lawyer Help with COVID-19 Issues in the Immigration Process?

An immigration lawyer is going to be most up to date regarding the recent changes in the immigration process as a result of COVID-19. As such, an experienced immigration attorney will make sure that you correctly follow the latest laws and processes on immigration. An immigration attorney will also be able to help you navigate around some of the current processes that have become delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me With My Immigration Law Issue?

If you are at all uncertain about any aspect of the immigration process, you should consult with an experienced local immigration lawyer. Even small and innocent mistakes could lead to deportation or having your application denied. An experienced immigration attorney can help you determine which visa to apply for, remedy any obstacles that may arise, and will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.