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Overview of United States Immigration Policies for Temporary or Permanent Residency or Citizenship

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United States immigration policies are a hot topic throughout the country as opponents seek reform.  For those seeking temporary or permanent residency, asylum, or refuge from dangerous situations in their homeland, the complex process of legal immigration can be confusing and overwhelming.  Many established Americans are unaware of the legal immigration process, but with understanding that comes from education on these policies, citizens can better support and defend the process, promoting diversification while protecting the country from over saturation of illegal, unskilled, or undesirable immigrants.

Annual Number of Immigrants to the U.S. is Limited Under Family-Based Immigration Policies

The current number of permanent residents permitted to enter the United States each year is 675,000 with some exceptions for families and immediate relatives of citizens and legal permanent residents.  Immigration policies are enacted and implemented according to the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA).  The INA promotes immigration that brings families back together, combines skills to strengthen the U.S. economy, provides protection to those in dangerous situations, and continues to promote the diversification of the American culture.

Approximately 480,000 immigrants are brought into the United States each year as relatives of American citizens or those with lawful permanent residency.  Those considered to be immediate relatives of U.S. citizens include spouses, unmarried children under the legal age of 21, and parents of adult U.S. citizens.  Under the family preference system, U.S. citizens over the age of 21 can petition for unmarried and married adult children, as well as brothers and sisters to immigrate to the United States.  Those with lawful permanent residency status can also petition for spouses and unmarried children, both minors and adults.

Though there are an unlimited amount of family-based visas available for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, a minimum of 226,000 visas must be issued under the family preference system each year.  U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents petitioning for relatives in the family preference system are required to have a minimum income that can help sustain the relative, and be willing to sign an affidavit indicating their intention to support this relative financially.

Employment Based Immigration Policies Protect Job Opportunities for American Citizens

To promote immigration of those that are highly skilled and talented, the INA offers over 20 different visas for immigrants seeking temporary, non-permanent employment visas.  The categories for this type of employment-based visa include those for athletes, entertainers, religious and diplomatic employees, those seeking employment through intra-company transfers, and for a variety of highly skilled and minimally skilled workers.

For those seeking permanent employment based visas, the numbers are limited to 140,000 visas issued annually.  Approximately 120,000 of these visas are reserved for those with advanced degrees, expertise, skills, experience in the arts, business executives, researchers, and seasonal professionals.  Approximately 10,000 permanent employment based visas are issued to religious workers, former U.S. government workers, and U.S. Foreign Service employees.   The remaining 10,000 permanent employment visas are reserved for investors willing to donate $500,000 to one million dollars in a business that will employ a minimum of ten U.S. citizens.

The INA also limits the amount of immigrants from one country to seven percent of the total number of immigrants issued family based or employment based visas in one year to avoid over-saturation of any one group of immigrants.  This rule applies to those seeking permanent residency and does not apply to those seeking temporary work visas.

Visas for Refugees and Individuals Seeking Asylum and Visas Granted through the Diversity Visa Program offer Additional Immigration Opportunities  

Visas issued to refugees, individuals seeking asylum, and through the Diversity Visa Program offer additional legal immigration opportunities for those seeking permanent and temporary residency status.  Asylum is granted to those immigrants already in the United States who fear persecution if they return to their homeland.  There are no limits on visas issued for asylum, and currently no restrictions on who can apply for asylum.  Refugees are those who face dangerous situations that prevent them from returning to their homeland. These individuals have a justifiable concern of facing harsh discrimination and persecution in their originating country for their political, social, religious, national origin, or racial status.

Petitions are made from outside the U.S. and are issued after a thorough review of the applicant’s memberships to groups that may concern government officials, their calculated risk for returning to their homeland, and whether or not they have family members already residing in the United States.  The President of the United States and Congress determine the amount of refuges that can be permitted to enter the U.S. each year. A cap of 70,000 refugee visas was issued in the year 2013.

Another opportunity for legal immigration to the United States exists in the Diversity Visa Program that uses a lottery to award immigration visas to residents in countries with low immigration numbers.  This program was enacted by the Immigration Act of 1990 and offers people from around the world perhaps the only opportunity they may have to immigrate to the U.S.  Individuals can apply for the visas from six geographic regions around the world, with the majority of visas being issued to African and Eastern European citizens.  To be eligible for the visa, the applicant must have a high school education, or have two years’ experience or education in a trade or profession.

Humanitarian Relief and United States Citizenship are Available for those Meeting Specific Criteria

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) are programs designed to help those who need to stay in the United States because of natural disasters or violent conflicts occurring in their homeland.  TPS is granted to countries for a period of six to 18 months or more, and DED is determined by the President of the United States, the Vice President, and government officials. Both programs are humanitarian efforts extended to countries devastated by circumstances beyond their control.

Permanent U.S. citizenship is available for immigrants meeting specific criteria.  Applicants must be at least 18 years old, have shown continuous residency for a period of three to five years (depending on certain exemptions involving spousal visas, military service, and certain refugees), be of good moral character, receive a passing grade on entrance exams, and be able to satisfy a fee for application processing.   Once U.S. citizenship is established, the individual is granted full rights and privileges afforded to all American citizens.

Philadelphia Immigration and Nationality Lawyers of Surin & Griffin, P.C. Help Clients Obtain Temporary and Permanent Visas

The Philadelphia immigration and nationality law firm of Surin & Griffin, P.C. is a leader in the field of immigration and nationality law.  Our immigration lawyers have been helping clients seeking temporary and permanent visas for almost 20 years.  We can help you navigate through the complex and often overwhelming immigration system.

Located in center city Philadelphia, Surin & Griffin, P.C. is accessible by car, train, bus, and all forms of public transportation.  We are a multi-lingual law firm that is dedicated to helping you understand the legal process throughout your case.  Call us today at 215-924-4435 or complete our online contact form to schedule a consultation today.