Immigration law is incredibly complex in the United States and subject to rapid and dramatic changes. Aspects of the immigration process can be daunting for those applying for status and their family members. If you are intending on applying for a Visa or Green Card, or Citizenship status, we recommend retaining an attorney as early in the process as possible.
Entering the US
If you are not a US citizen and are planning on entering the United States, you must apply for and be granted a Visa. If you do not, the United States considers your entry unlawful and will ban you from applying for status for many years. There are few exceptions to this requirement, however, these exceptions can be complicated and expensive to acquire.
Applying for a Visa
There are a variety of different Visa’s you can acquire before entering the United States from a Student Visa, to a Work Visa, to a Fiancé Visa, among others, and each different Visa requires a different form and has different requirements. What all Visas have in common, however, is that you must apply for them and be granted a Visa before entering the United States.
Applying for a Green Card
If you are a person who the United States has granted a “Green Card” then you are a legal permanent resident of the United States. This does not make you a “Citizen” of the United States, however, it does grant you permanent “status” to live and work in the United States. There are numerous different ways of acquiring a Green Card and a potential applicant should examine their specific circumstances before applying for a Green Card.
Applying for Citizenship
Being a United States citizen affords you certain rights not granted to non-citizens including the right to vote. If you are seeking United States citizen, you can apply in one of two ways. You can either apply for “acquired” citizenship if your parents are United States Citizen, or through “naturalization”. By far the most complicated and common process for applying for United States citizenship is through the naturalization process. This process requires that you be a legal permanent resident for a number of years, be at least 18 years old, be a person of good moral character, and have a basic knowledge of United States government and the English language, and have a period of time where the individual had continuous residence in the United States. These requirements can be burdensome, vague, and time consuming. There are also numerous exceptions to these requirements.
If you have been found to violate any Immigration laws, you risk deportation. Depending on your circumstances you may be able to avoid deportation through exceptions including asylum, marriage, or voluntary removal, among others. If you risk deportation, you need to retain counsel immediately in order to discuss your options.
Sources: UCIS.gov; irlc.org