What are the Different Categories of Immigration Status?

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Assist Clients in the Naturalization Process.Immigration issues are front and center in the news every day. Understanding the different categories of immigration status that exist in the United States will help you better understand today’s issues and answer questions you may have about your own status. The following are four categories of immigration status in this country:

United States Citizens

Citizenship is bestowed either by birth in the United States or after becoming naturalized after three or five years as a permanent resident. As a United States citizen, you can live and work in this country, apply for and receive public assistance, and petition for the legal status of a spouse or immediate family member. Unless you obtain citizenship through fraud, you cannot be deported.


Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) have green cards that afford them the ability to live and work in this country on a permanent basis. Green cards are obtained in a few ways:

*     Through sponsorship via a family member or employer

*      Through humanitarian protection as an asylee or refugee

*      Through special self-petition cases

*   Through relief in removal/deportation proceedings in immigration court

If you have been married for less than two years before applying for a green card through your U.S. citizen spouse, you are considered a conditional resident. If this is your situation, it is important to remember you and your spouse must file together to remove this condition or you risk termination of your green card and deportation. If you and your spouse are divorced, you can still file to remove the condition through a waiver basis. You can find Form I-751 Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence and further instructions on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website.


Non-immigrants are in this country legally, but only for a specified amount of time. Non-immigrants are individuals with a temporary goal and, except in certain dual-intent cases, with no intention of immigrating to the United States. Examples of non-immigrants include those with student visas, business visas (some of these are dual-intent visas allowing non-immigrant and immigrant intent), tourist visas, and fiancé/fiancée visas (these visa holders enter as non-immigrants but can file for immigrant status). If you overstay or violate the terms of your visa, your status can change to illegal.


Undocumented people are those who are here illegally. Not only is an undocumented immigrant prohibited from working in this country, they are unable to access basic public services, such as health care and obtaining a driver’s license. The life of an undocumented individual is incredibly unpredictable and unstable, with the risk of deportation looming at all times. A person becomes undocumented when they enter the United States illegally or overstay their visa. If you have more questions about these categories and your own status, contact a Philadelphia immigration lawyer for assistance.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Resolve Your Complex Immigration Matters

If you have an immigration concern, the Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. are here to answer your questions about your status and guide you through the petition process. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to your immigration matter; much depends on your individual situation and status goals. To move forward, call us at 215-925-4435 or contact us online for an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout the state of Pennsylvania and nationwide.