The Basics of Immigration Laws

The laws surrounding immigration can be very complex and challenging to understand, so some lawyers specialize in this field alone. However, some basics are easy to grasp, giving you some understanding of the fundamental laws and the terminology that apply to immigration.

Which Federal Departments Are in Charge of Immigration?

The government branches connected to immigration include the State Department, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Labor. The State Department works with non-citizens that want to enter the United States together with the Department of Homeland Security. At the same time, the Department of Justice deals with immigration matters through the court system. Finally, the Department of Labor works with people entering the United States for work-related issues.

Law Labels for Immigration Purposes

In the United States, individuals are provided with the following law labels in terms of their immigration status:

  • Citizens by birth
  • Nationals by status
  • Non-Citizens – also called aliens
  • Immigrants – individuals that have been allowed entry through sponsorship by an employer or a family member
  • Non-Immigrants – people that plan to come to the United States temporarily to study, work, etc.
  • Refugees
  • Asylees

The term “asylees” refers to people seeking asylum while inside the US, while the process for refugees takes place while they are outside of the country. A person seeking asylum must prove that they fear returning to their home country or remaining in it and show that it’s well-founded. Anyone within the United States that has not established a proper status may be deported.

If you do not have US citizenship, you must have either a visa or passport to enter the country. Special provisions in the form of visa waivers are also available.

The Right to Work in the United States

You can legally work in the United States if you are a national, a US citizen, or hold a green card. Any individual that has a visa with work rights may also work here. Anyone that works without the authority to do so may face deportation and other penalties.

Visa Categories for Non-Immigrants

There are different types of temporary visas available to non-immigrants that allow the person to stay in the country for specific purposes but only for a limited time. These categories include the following:

  • Business visitors
  • Students
  • Pleasure tourists
  • Treaty investors
  • Treaty traders
  • Exchange visitors
  • Fiancés or spouses of US citizens
  • Temporary workers
  • Religious workers
  • Entertainers and athletes
  • Others

If you enter the United States under one visa category, you cannot switch categories without prior approval. Therefore, you may have to go back to your home country and apply for a new visa from there unless there are unusual circumstances.

Since the laws concerning immigration are so complex, you should consult with an immigration lawyer if you have any questions. This is a specific area of the law that requires a specialist that understands the changing landscape of immigration laws.

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