Immigration Law Practice Guide
The United States has always been a nation of immigrants. In fact, the U.S. has the highest immigrant (foreign-born individuals) population of any other nation in the world. America has relied on the expertise, creativity, culture, and industry of immigrants since its inception. After all, the founding fathers were actually from Europe. Though the U.S. welcomes an unrivaled amount of tourists, workers, and those seeking to become citizens, it is not necessarily easy to gain access to the 50 states. Immigration policies and procedures are notoriously complex. Furthermore, policies can easily change when there is a party-change or political shift within the country. If you are seeking to visit, work, or seek permanent residence within the U.S., working with an experienced immigration attorney can exponentially increase your chances of being approved for the visa that you are applying for. Learn more about U.S. immigration practices throughout our immigration law practice guide below. If you have further questions, give our experienced attorneys at the Florida Immigration Law Counsel a call to discuss your immigration ambitions.
How the U.S. Immigration System Works
Aside from tourism, the U.S. immigration system is built on the following foundation: Reuniting families, welcoming foreign-born individuals that have skills that are valuable to the nation’s economy, offering protection to refugees, as well as diversifying the U.S. population. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) was signed into law in 1952. It is essentially the backbone of all immigration policies in the U.S. The INA covers everything from general immigration policies to refugee assistance. Since then, there have been a bevy of additional immigration laws enacted. There are two visa types that a foreign national can apply for; temporary visa and permanent visa (otherwise known as an immigrant visa). The U.S. grants approximately 1 million green cards each year. Learn more about the breakdown of green cards grated below.
- 45% of all green cards are granted to those who are immediate relatives of current U.S. citizens
- 21% are family-sponsored (marriage/fiance visas)
- 14% are employment-based
- 13% are granted to those seeking refugee status or asylum
- 4% come from the Diversity Visa Program (Visa Lottery)
- 3% of green cardholders represent other categories
Who is Eligible to Immigrate to the U.S.
In general, there are four typical ways to immigrate to the U.S. Each method has its own set of requirements and qualifications that you must meet. However, some requirements are uniform and must be met no matter what type of immigrant status you are seeking. This includes passing extensive criminal background checks and meeting certain health requirements. Learn more about the four main immigration paths below.
This is the largest category of visas granted by far. Family-based visas can be granted to those that have a familial relationship with someone that is already a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. You may be eligible for a family-based immigrant visa if you meet one or more of the following qualifications (but not limited too):
- You are immediately related to a U.S. Citizen (i.e. Spouse, unmarried child under 21, parent of citizen that is older than 21)
- You are related to a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident
- Fiance or Widower of a U.S. Citizen
- Victim of abuse at the hands of a U.S. citizen. This can include children, spouses, and parents.
The U.S. is focused on offering a pathway to immigration to those that are talented and can positively contribute to the U.S. economy. There are non-immigrant work visas. However, the qualifications below are for those that are interested in eventually applying for a green card.
- EB-1 Visa: Those that show an extraordinary ability within their field, outstanding professors and researchers, or managers/executives from multinational companies. Applicants are given “first preference” and do not need to have a job offer. However, there are many strict requirements that must be met in order to qualify for an EB-1 Visa.
- EB-2 Visa: This category is given “second preference”. Applicants must hold an advanced degree and show an exceptional ability within their field. Furthermore, you must be actively applying for a job or work opportunity.
- EB-3 Visa: Given “third preference”. These individuals are comprised of unskilled workers, skilled workers, and professionals. Each category has its own set of qualifications that must be met.
Officially known as the EB-5 Visa. Those that make an investment of $500,000 to $1 million in a new U.S. business opportunity may be eligible for the EB-5 Visa. The investment made must include provisions for hiring at least 10 full-time U.S. based employees. Contact the Florida Immigration Law Counsel to learn more about the specific requirements.
A student visa is not considered an immigration visa. However, those that have studied in the U.S. can go on to apply for a work-based visa and potentially a green card in the future. There are a number of stringent qualifications that must be met and maintained throughout a student’s time studying in the U.S.
The Process to Apply For a U.S. Visa
In general, people applying for a U.S. visa must be sponsored by a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or U.S. employer. Once their petition has been approved, a foreign citizen can begin the application process. You can complete the first steps of the application process online via the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC), next you must choose an agent, and then pay your fees. Once your forms and supporting documents have been collected and submitted to the National Visa Center (NVC) you must wait for your Visa interview to occur. Shortly after the interview has concluded, you will learn whether or not you have been approved. Give the Florida Immigration Law Counsel a call to learn more about the process of applying for an immigrant visa today.
What is DACA?
The Deferred Action Action for Childhood Arrivals, better known as DACA, was enacted in June of 2012 by President Barack Obama. It granted a reprieve from deportation to certain people that came to the U.S. unlawfully as children. It affects more than 700,000 people. Though it is not citizenship, it does DACA protected individuals to legally work and drive in the U.S. without the threat of deportation. Those with DACA status must renew and the U.S. government is not currently accepting new applicants.
U.S. Immigration Glossary of Terms
A term that represents any person that is not a citizen of the United States. Another term commonly used is “foreign-national”.
Foreign-national seeking protection that arrives at a U.S. port of entry that cannot or is not willing to return to their country due to being persecuted on the basis of nationality, religious affiliation, membership in certain social groups, or political opinions.
Lawful Permanent Resident
A foreign-national that is living in the United States and is legally recognized as a permanent resident.
Issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, a green card offers proof that a foreign-national is a lawful permanent resident. Green cards can be valid for two years, 10 years, or indefinitely.
The term “sponsor” generally means to “petition for” or bring to the U.S. Most paths to becoming a lawful permanent resident or citizen requires a sponsor (family, school, job, etc.).
Otherwise known as the “Visa Lottery”. Each year, the U.S. randomly chooses 55,000 applicants from underrepresented countries to receive Diversity Visas and become eligible for permanent residence.
Immigration Frequently Asked Questions
Why Would I Be Denied For a Visa?
Though most visa applications are approved, a visa application can be denied for many reasons. It is important to note that in most cases, you are eligible to reapply after a denial. Furthermore, the USCIS will tell you why you were denied. Listed below are some of the most common reasons for application denial.
- Lack of sufficient information to determine eligibility
- The applicant does not qualify for the type of visa they applied for
- The applicant’s past actions (criminal convictions, drug use, etc.) have made them ineligible.
What Are Visa Bulletins?
Visa Bulletins are produced by the U.S. Department of State. They provide information regarding the waiting list for applicants that are applying under visa programs that have an annual quota that cannot be surpassed.
What is a Biometric Screening?
Though the term sounds scary, a biometric screening is how USCIS records your identity. At your biometrics appointment, you will be required to give fingerprints, take photos, and give your signature.
Which Visa Should I Get if I Want to Become a Permanent Resident?
If you plan on becoming a lawful permanent resident, you should not apply for any type of temporary visa. The immigration visa types (family-based, employment-based, investment, student, and diversity) mentioned above are great paths the become a lawful permanent resident.