The basics of US immigration laws – what you need to know

The US Immigration Law is a very complex one and there is quite a lot of confusion on how it works exactly. The annual worldwide limit of permanent immigrants is 675,000 according to the Immigration and Naturalization Act. Lawful permanent residency (LPR) allows the foreign holder to live and work lawfully and permanently in the US. LPRs can apply for almost all jobs which do not explicitly require the person to be a US citizen.

Immigration to the US is based on the following main principles: family reunification, refugee protection, admitting foreigners who have skills which are valuable to the economy and for promoting diversity.

Family-based immigration

The unification of families is an essential principle in the immigration policy of the US. It allows LPRs and US citizens to bring some of their family members to the US. The family-based immigrants can be the spouses, unmarried minor children and parents of US citizens. There are possibilities for family members such as adult children or spouses and unmarried children of LPRs to be allowed to come live in the US. The system for calculating the number of preference visas per year is quite complicated and was established by US Congress. The number of total families-based visas issued per year is often more than 480,000. The US citizen or LPR needs to provide evidence of the legitimacy of the relationship as well as meet the minimum income requirements and sign an affirmation of support declaring they will be financially responsible for the newly arrived relative.

Employment-based immigration

There are various ways for foreigners with valuable skills to come to the US on a temporary or permanent basis. There is a wide variety of temporary employment-based visas including L-1 for employees on intracompany transfers, P-visas for entertainers, athletes and performers, R-visas for religious employees, A-visas for diplomats. O-visas are issued for people with extraordinary ability and H-visas for highly and lesser skilled workers.

The terms and restrictions of the different temporary work visas are all different but in most cases, the person must leave the country once the visa expires or their job position is terminated.

Permanent immigration

EB-5 visas are given to aliens who are willing to invest 500,000 dollars and to create at least 10 jobs in the US. The total number of permanent employment-based immigrants per year is 140,000 plus their dependents

Ceilings per country

The INA has placed limits on the number of immigrants from each country which can come to the US per year. The number of immigrants per country cannot exceed 7% of all the immigrants to the US for a year. This is done to ensure diversity and so that no immigrant group dominates.

Since the immigration laws and regulations are quite complicated, it is highly advisable that people interested in immigrating or getting a temporary visa to the US, use the services of an experienced agency or US immigration law firm, so that all the details are taken care of and so that the visit or permanent moving to the US can be done successfully and legally.

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