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U.S. Immigration Law

U.S. Immigration Law

U.S. immigration law is undoubtedly a complex scenario, and causes a lot of confusion for those who are intent on utilizing its resources. Thus it makes sense, wherever possible, to seek the help of an experienced immigration lawyer.

The Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA), which governs immigration policy, has a set annual limitation of 675,000 immigrants, albeit with a few exceptions to the general rules.

The President and Congress determine refugee admissions which are regarded as separate. U.S. immigration follows these particular principles:

-        The admission of immigrants whereby their skills are of value to the U.S. economy

-        Family reunification

-        The promotion of diversity within society

-        The protection of refugees

Immigration for Employment

Temporary Visas

The U.S. offers a variety of ways for immigrants who possess valuable skills to stay either temporarily or permanently. Usually, those who gain a temporary work visa are sponsored by an employer or have a particular job offer.

Permanent Visas

There is a set limit of 140,000 permanent employment-based visas on an annual basis which are divided into five different categories:

  1. Persons that possess ‘extraordinary ability’ either in education, arts, science, athletics, or business.
  2. Persons within certain professions that have advanced degrees.
  3. Skilled workers who possess a minimum of either two years of experience or training.
  4. ‘Special immigrants’, including employees of U.S. service posts in foreign countries, religious workers, and previous employees of the U.S. government.
  5. Persons who are capable of investing between $500,000 and $1 million in an enterprise that offers employment to a minimum of 10 full-time U.S. employees.

Family-Based Immigration

Currently, the U.S. offers 480,000 family-based immigration visas per annum. These immigrants are either immediate relatives of current U.S. citizens or may arrive through what is termed as the family preference system.

Immediate relatives include:

  • The spouses of citizens of the U.S.
  • Unmarried children of U.S. citizens (aged 21 or under)
  • The parents of U.S. citizens

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

There are a number of different categories for legal admission which are available to those who are either fleeing persecution or are unable to return to their homeland given a potential for life-threatening conditions.

The admission of refugees is based on fear of persecution on account of membership of a particular social group, race, religion, national origin, or political opinion. The application for admission to the U.S. is generally made from a transition country, whereby the applicant is no-longer residing within their own country.

The number of refugee admissions is determined by the President together with Congress on an annual basis. During the 2013 Fiscal Year, the immigration ceiling for refugees was established at 70,000.

Asylum seekers on the other hand are persons who are already located within the U.S. who have previously been persecuted or are under threat of persecution should they return to their homeland. The regulations stipulate that they must petition for residency within a year of arrival within the U.S. There is no set annual limit for the number of individuals who can be granted asylum.

Diversity Visa Program

The Diversity Visa Program was established through the Immigration Act of 1990 and serves as a channel for immigrants who arrive in the U.S. from countries with low immigration rates. The yearly allocation of visas is set at 55,000 and is available to nationals from countries that have a low U.S. immigration rate (less than 50,000 in the previous five years).

In order to be eligible to obtain a diversity visa, applicants should have a high-school (or equivalent) education, or should have at least two years work experience within a particular profession that requires a minimum of two years training or on-job experience.

A greater number of diversity visas are served to those from countries that have lower U.S. immigration rates, and no visas are issued to nationals from countries that have sent more than 50,000 immigrants over the previous five years.


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