There are very few areas of the law more complex than U.S. immigration law.  As the decades have progressed a patchwork of archaic laws have developed, supplemented by executive orders from multiple presidents, with lack of action by the U.S. Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration plan that could win the support of both houses and the president at any given time, and court rulings which have supported or negated laws on the books.  It has left a complicated, ever changing, difficult to understand and administer set of rules for entry and residency within the United States.

Very little having to do with immigration is simple or easy to understand.  We will attempt in the next two articles to present some basic principles of immigration law and make some of its terminology easier to understand.

If you are currently dealing with problems concerning immigration into the United States for yourself or a family member, you may need a lawyer to assist with fulfilling the confusing and complex requirements of the current state of immigration law.  Call our office today to discuss your case.

Immigration Law Terminology

  • Passport = Issued by country to its own citizens as identification allowing travel to foreign countries and reentry to the country of origin. May be in book form allowing stamping when entering foreign countries or may be a card.  Both types are scanned electronically when entering countries, and record kept of entry and exit to all countries.  Prior to 9/11 entry from the U S to Canada and Mexico did not require a passport.  They are now required to cross international borders in North America.  Many foreign countries allow short stays within their territories with only a passport for purposes of short business trips and tourism.
  • Visa = Permission given by a foreign country allowing foreign nationals entry to their country for specified purposes and for specified periods of time. There are many types of visas given for different purposes each with its own terms and requirements and expiration periods.  Example: Work visas allows the recipient to work in the foreign country, student visas allow for study abroad.  Application for visas usually takes place in the immigrant’s country of origin and may take different periods of time to obtain based on the type of visa applied for.  May be issued on paper but are most often are added to passports electronically.  Visa’s require the immigrant to fulfill the terms and conditions of the visa and to obey the laws of the foreign country while there.  Extensions to visa time limits may be applied for.  If you are currently in the U.S.A. or wish to obtain a visa to come to the U.S. we can help.
  • Permanent Residency = A longer term or indeterminate stay in a foreign country, granted by a visa which allows the holder to work and live in the foreign country. This is usually a step towards gaining citizenship in that country.  You may apply for U.S. citizenship after 5 years of established permanent residency in the U.S.
  • Green Card = The type of visa granted allowing for permanent residency in the U.S. This may be issued as a separate identification card from the passport.  A Green Card allows the holder to seek employment within the U.S.  Permanent residency once established allows for immigrants to sponsor and apply for permanent residency of immediate family members: spouse, and unmarried children.  May take up to a year in the U.S.
  • Asylum = Asylum may be granted in cases where immigrants leave their country of origin due to political unrest or fear of persecution. It may take up to 6 months to gain asylum in the U.S.  Asylum does not grant a visa or permanent residency, but either may be applied for after a year in the U.S.
  • Deportation = Deportation is the process of transporting an immigrant back to their country of origin due to an immigrant’s presence in the country outside that country’s immigration laws, such as a violation of the terms of a visa, or expiration of visa, or due to breaking the laws of the host country. A lawyer can help in many cases to stop or delay deportation.
  • Citizenship = Status given to an immigrant granting all rights and protections available within that country and making that country a country of origin for the immigrant. S. citizenship grants the right to vote, to obtain a U.S. Passport, a driver’s license, to receive government assistance and requires obligations to pay taxes and obey the laws of the U.S.  Immigrants who are naturalized may also maintain citizenship in their country of origin as well the U.S.

The Richard Harris Law Firm wants to help you stay in the United States

If you have been detained by immigration authorities, received a notice to appear in Immigration Court, had your USCIS paperwork returned to you due to being incomplete or out of date, or have been a victim of immigration scams, we can help you with your immigration problems.  Our lawyers have over 30 years of experience helping immigrants get and maintain legal status.  We know this area of the law want to assist you in your desire to stay in the U.S. to work and enjoy all the benefits of living here.  Call our office today for a free evaluation at (702) 213-9779.


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