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Basic Facts about Immigration Law
Immigration law pertains to federal government rules and regulations that were established to do the following:
- Determine who may enter the country and for how long they may stay.
- Govern the naturalization process for foreign nationals who wish to become citizens.
- Control the detention and removal proceedings applied in situations wherein aliens enter the country illegally, overstay their visit, or lose their legal status in some way.
In the US, the Constitution gives Congress exclusive rights over legislating immigration matters. Such laws as the Immigration and Nationality Act are under Title 8 in the United States Code. While state governments aren’t supposed to be able to enact immigration laws, there have been some controversial cases wherein a state was able to pass laws that require the police to investigate aliens suspected of having illegal immigration status.
Immigration Law Enforcers
The United States has three federal agencies tasked with the administration and enforcement of immigration laws. They are all part of the Department of Homeland Security.
- US Citizenship and Immigration Services – USCIS deals with applications for the different forms of legal immigration.
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement – ICE officers investigate and prosecute those who break immigration laws.
- Customs and Border Protection – CBP is charged with keeping the US borders safe and secure.
To legally enter the United States, a foreign national typically has to gain permission through the visa approval process. There are two kinds available:
- Immigrant Visas – These are for foreigners who want to stay and work in the US. There are limitations dictated by the quota specific to the applicant’s home country.
- Non-immigrant visas – These are for students, business people, and tourists who wish to only visit or stay in the US temporarily.
The US government has a visa waiver program that allows citizens of 37 economically and politically stable developed countries to visit and stay in the US for up to 90 days without a visa. This system is often used by those who want to go to the US for a vacation. It cannot be used for purposes of employment, studies, or application for permanent residency.
Green Cards and Citizenship
Immigrating to the US is a very involved process. Not only are there numerous requirements, but there are also frequent changes in immigration regulations. For this reason, it’s best to get assistance and guidance from immigration attorneys. Even general practitioners would not be suited to take on legal immigration concerns. Self-representation would definitely be unwise.
An attorney specializing in immigration law would be a big help in the attempt to obtain a permanent resident card or green card and eventual citizenship. Take note that, while there’s a path to citizenship for investors and workers, legal status is most frequently granted through family-based immigration. This involves a permanent resident or a US citizen filing a petition on behalf of a foreign family member in another country.
Which family members can be petitioned by a US citizen? There are those generally considered immediate relatives, including:
- Parents of a citizen at least 21 years old.
- Unmarried children 20 years old and younger.
- Children adopted before they turned 16.
There is no annual limit on the number of immediate relative visas approved, which means that there’s no need to wait for turns. Petitions may also be filed on behalf of other family members, but these are subject to yearly quotas. Who are these more distant relatives?
- Unmarried children who are at least 21 years old.
- Siblings of adult citizens.
Adult unmarried children receive preference over brothers and sisters, but the waiting period for these lower preference categories could last years.
Dealing with Immigration Issues? Contact a North Carolina Immigration Lawyer Today!
Immigration is a complex legal matter. To take the correct steps and avoid any misstep, it’s best to get legal help. Call us at Diener Law to schedule a consultation with a skilled and experienced North Carolina immigration attorney.