Federal immigration law determines whether a person is an alien, and associated legal rights, duties, and obligations of aliens in the United States.
It also provides the means by which certain aliens can become naturalized citizens with full rights of citizenship. Immigration law determines who may enter, how long they may stay, and when they must leave. The federal Congress has the primary authority over immigration law and policy.
An "alien" is any person who is not a citizen or a national of the United States. The major categories of aliens include: resident and nonresident, immigrant and nonimmigrant, documented and undocumented ("illegal").
There are two types of visas: immigrant and nonimmigrant
Nonimmigrant visas are primarily issued to tourists and temporary business visitors. Nonimmigrant visas are divided into eighteen main categories, and the number of visas in most categories are not limited. Only a few categories of non-immigrant visas allow their holders work in the United States.
Immigrant visas permit their holders to stay in the United States permanently and ultimately to apply for citizenship. An alien who has an immigrant visa is permitted to work in the United States. Congress limits the overall number of immigrant visas and many of these visas are subject to per-country caps.
These laws governing immigration and naturalization are extremely complex and constantly changing. Sanders & Montalto, LLP has dedicated over 15 years to the study and practice of immigration and naturalization law.
The firm’s emphasis is on family and employment based visas, as well as naturalization services.
B-1/B-2 Visitor's Visas
Available for visits to the U.S. for business or pleasure. B-1/B-2 business visitor visas are for a short duration and must not involve local employment. Nationals of certain countries may be eligible to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa in a category commonly referred to as a Visa Waiver.
E-1/E-2 Treaty Trader and Investor Visas
Investors and traders and their employees may receive visas to carry on their businesses in the U.S. if their home country has a commercial treaty with the U.S. conferring visa eligibility.
F-1 and M-1 Student Visas
Persons seeking to pursue a full course of study at a school in the United States may be eligible for a visa for the course of their study plus, in some cases, a period for practical training in their field of study.
H-1B Specialty Occupation (Professionals) Visas
Professional workers with at least a bachelor's degree (or its equivalent work experience) may be eligible for a non-immigrant visa if their employers can demonstrate that they are to be paid at least the prevailing wage for the position. Although considered a temporary visa, it is possible to later convert an H-1B Visa to a permanent visa (green card) if certain conditions exist.
J-1 and Q-1 Exchange Visitor Visas
Persons coming to the U.S. in an approved exchange program may be eligible for the J-1 Exchange Visitor's visa. J-1 programs often cover students, short-term scholars, business trainees, teachers, professors and research scholars, specialists, international visitors, government visitors, camp counselors and au pairs.
In some cases, participation in a J-1 program will be coupled with the requirement that the beneficiary spend at least two years outside of the U.S. before being permitted to switch to a different non-immigrant visa or to permanent residency. A complex application process exists for seeking a waiver to the home residency requirement that applies to many J-1 visa holders.
K-1 Fiancé Visas
A Fiancé of a U.S. citizen is eligible for a non-immigrant visa allowing them to enter the U.S. on the condition they are married within 90 days. Thereafter, the non-immigrant can apply for a permanent visa (green card).
L-1 Intracompany Transfer Visas
L-1 visas are available to executives, managers and specialized knowledge employees transferring to their employer's U.S. subsidiary or affiliate. Executives and those employees in a managerial capacity may later be eligible for permanent residency without the need for a labor certification.
O-1 Extraordinary Ability Worker Visas
The O-1 category is set-aside for foreign nationals with extraordinary ability. Typically, this category is reserved for entertainers, athletes, scientists, and businessmen.
P-1 Artists and Athletes Visas
This category is reserved primarily for athletes, artists and entertainers.
R-1 Religious Worker Visas
Certain religious employees and clergy may be eligible for an R-1 visa.
TN Status Under the North American Free Trade Agreement
A special category has been set up for nationals of Canada and Mexico under the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
PERMANENT RESIDENCY VISAS ("Green Cards"):
Family Sponsored Immigration
U.S. citizens may petition for spouses, parents, children and siblings. Permanent residents may petition for spouses and children.
EB-1 Foreign Nationals of Extraordinary Ability, Outstanding Professors and Researchers and Multinational Executives and Managers
A special category for coveted individuals that permit application for permanent residency without having to go through the time-consuming labor certification process.
EB-2 Workers with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability in the Sciences, Arts or Business
This category requires one to have a job offer and the potential employer must complete the labor certification process. The labor certification involves a testing of the job market to demonstrate that the potential visa holder is not taking a job away from a U.S. worker. In cases where an individual can show that his entry is in the national interest, the job offer and labor certification requirements can be waived.
EB-3 Skilled Workers and Professionals
Visa holders in this category normally must have a job offer and the potential employer must complete the labor certification process.
EB-4 Special Immigrant Visas for Religious Workers
Ministers of religion are eligible for permanent residency.
EB-5 Investor/Employment Creation Visas
Under the 1990 Immigration Act, Congress has set aside up a limited number of visas per year for foreign alien investors who must invest a considerable sum of money, sometimes less in impoverished geographic locations, the goal of which is to create jobs in the U.S. individuals.
DV-1 Visas (the "Green Card Lottery")
This is referred to as the diversified visa lottery. The INS sets aside a limited number of visas per year available in a random drawing to individuals from nations underrepresented in the total immigrant pool.
Refugee and Asylum Applications
This category is reserved for those with a well-documented risk and fear of persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Asylum applications are generally difficult to obtain and the alien’s country of origin is a very important consideration in obtaining approval of asylum status.