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US Immigration Law 101: What Immigrants Need to Know

Whether you’re interested in immigrating to the US or you already work here (and want to learn more about immigration law), our guide covers everything you need to know about US immigration law in 2020. Over 44 million people are living in the US who were born in a foreign country.

Understanding the nuances behind the US immigration system, and specifically how the law plays into those nuances, can greatly increase your chances of becoming a permanent resident (and eventually - a citizen). Below we go into detail regarding the types of immigration, current policies, what rights immigrants are guaranteed, and more.

The Basics of US Immigration Law

Many people have a vague understanding of what immigration law actually is. In the most basic terms possible; immigration law is the deciding factor in determining who can legally enter the country (and how long they can stay here).

Generally speaking, there are two types of people named in the majority of immigration laws; non-immigrants and immigrants. Non-immigrants are people who can enter the US, but cannot stay here for any significant period (nor do they have plans to). Immigrants, on the other hand, are defined as people who wish to remain in the US (and eventually become citizens).

While US immigration laws are created and enacted by Congress, the actual enforcement of those laws spreads across the entire span of US law enforcement agencies (including both federal and state agencies).

If you’re looking for more information about immigration law, or are interested in getting legal service in the US, we recommend getting in touch with a local (and experienced) law firm.

The Different Types of Immigration

Numerous types of immigration exist, and the majority of them depend entirely on the reasons for the person coming to the US (as well as how long they intend on staying in the country for). Below are some of the more common US immigration types:

  • Immigrating for family reasons
  • Child-based immigration
  • Immigrating for employment reasons
  • Education-based immigration
  • Tourist-based visas
  • LPR immigration (i.e. lawful permanent resident)

US Immigration in 2020

With the current political environment in the US, it’s no secret that immigration has become a very hot topic among politicians. There have been some major changes to border enforcement, immigration enforcement, as well as policies surrounding refugee-based immigration.

The Trump presidency is planning on ending the laws that allowed illegal aliens who were brought here as young children to become permanent residents/citizens. There have also been numerous travel restrictions for people from certain countries (especially those in the Middle East).

US immigration in 2020 can be a confusing topic to navigate on your own. That’s why we always recommend reaching out to an experienced immigration attorney to help with your situation.

Immigration Laws: Federal and State-Based Laws

Let’s make this very clear: all federal laws regarding immigration in the US apply to every single state in the country. States do not have their own sets of immigration laws. Therefore, any law that is enacted by the federal government also applies to state governments as well (in regards to immigration law).

Not only do federal immigration laws apply across all states, but state-based law enforcement agencies routinely collaborate with their federal counterparts (to prosecute people committing immigration-related crimes). An example of this would be the NYPD arresting an illegal immigrant for a state-level crime, but then turning them over to the federal government in order to be charged/prosecuted for illegal immigration.

Is It Possible for Illegal Immigrants to Become Legal?

Unfortunately, the road to becoming a legal resident (or citizen) of the US for an illegal immigrant is quite challenging, if not 100% impossible. However, in some cases, one might be able to successfully obtain a green card (but these cases are rare and the immigrant nearly always has an attorney helping them throughout the entire process).

Illegal immigrants who entered the US with no visa cannot apply for a green card. Cases like these require the immigrant to return to their own country and then start the process from there (legally).

On the flip side, if an illegal immigrant entered the US on a legal visa, they might be able to obtain residency. The government usually issues a temporary work visa/permit for these individuals, so that they can obtain employment (while their case is being processed by the government). The important thing here is to realize that you should always enter the country legally (i.e. with a visa).


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