Immigration has been the subject of legislation since the nation’s founding. In 1790, the Congress established a formal process enabling the foreign born to become U.S. citizens. Just over a century later, in response to increasing levels of immigration, the federal government assumed the task of reviewing and processing all immigrants seeking admission to the United States. Since then, numerous changes have been made to U.S. immigration policy.
Immigration policy in the United States reflects multiple goals. First, it serves to reunite families by admitting immigrants who already have family members living in the United States. Second, it seeks to admit workers with specific skills and to fill positions in occupations deemed to be experiencing labor shortages. Third, it attempts to provide a refuge for people who face the risk of political, racial, or religious persecution in their country of origin. Finally, it seeks to ensure diversity by providing admission to people from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. Several categories of permanent and temporary admission have been established to implement those wide-ranging goals.
U.S. policy provides two distinct paths for the lawful admission of noncitizens, or “aliens”: permanent (immigrant) admission or temporary (nonimmigrant) admission.
In the first category, aliens may be granted permanent admission by being accorded the status of lawful permanent residents (LPRs). Aliens admitted in such a capacity are formally classified as “immigrants” and receive a permanent resident card, commonly referred to as a green card. Lawful permanent residents are eligible to work in the United States and may later apply for U.S. citizenship.
The second path is admission on a temporary basis. Temporary admission encompasses a large and diverse group of people who are granted entry to the United States for a specific purpose for a limited period of time. Reasons for such admissions include tourism, diplomatic missions, study, and temporary work. Under U.S. law, citizens of foreign countries admitted temporarily are classified as “nonimmigrants.”
Certain nonimmigrants may be permitted to work in the United States for a limited time depending on the type of visa they receive. However, they are not eligible for citizenship through naturalization; nonimmigrants wishing to remain in the United States on a permanent basis must apply for permanent admission.*
The Law Office of Emily Cohen will advocate for you on either or both of these paths. We will explain all of your immigration options to you in the language of your choice, and help you make the very best decisions for yourself, your family, and your business.
*Congressional Budget Office. Immigration Policy in the United States. http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/70xx/doc7051/02-28-Immigration.pdf. February 2006.