Finding a Qualified Immigration Attorney
The United States is one of the most popular destinations in the world for immigrants. The draw of political and religious freedom, economic opportunity, and the notion that hard work is rewarded, are strong attractions, indeed. While the United States has benefited greatly over the last 200 years from the contributions of immigrants, no country can afford a policy of completely open and unrestricted immigration.
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Over the years, United States immigration law has become fairly complicated. At its core, federal immigration law determines who can, and who cannot, enter the United States legally.
Most foreigners who wish to come to the U.S. must obtain a visa. Depending on the purpose and expected duration of your visit, the difficulty of obtaining a visa can vary widely. For example, people visiting the U.S. for tourism usually must obtain a tourist visa, which allows foreigners to enter the United States, and legally remain in the country for 60 days. There are also similar visas issued for people temporarily in the U.S. for business. Typically, anyone without a criminal record can obtain one of these visas. And citizens of Canada, Bermuda, or one of the more than 30 countries with a visa-waiver agreement with the U.S. do not even need a visa to enter the U.S. temporarily.
To stay in the United States for a longer period of time, it is more difficult. One of the most common scenarios in which someone seeks a long-term visa is when they are offered a job in the U.S. To do this, one must apply for an H1B visa. There are several requirements for obtaining this visa, including being a member of a skilled profession, being offered a job that requires at least a bachelor's degree, having sponsorship from a private employer, and a showing that there are no U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are willing and able do the job at least as well as the applicant (a requirement meant to prevent American professionals from being displaced).
Another way a person can come to the U.S. is by seeking asylum or refugee status. A person can be granted asylum if they have a well-founded fear that they will be persecuted in their home country on the basis of race, religion, or membership in a particular social group. This is meant to protect the right of asylum, which is codified in international and U.S. law.
One of the most difficult and time-consuming aspects of the U.S. immigration process is becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Under the U.S. Constitution, anybody born on U.S. soil is automatically a U.S. citizen. There are several different paths to citizenship. Most of them require that you have been a legal resident of the U.S. for at least 5 years, or 3 years if you are married to a U.S. citizen.
One of the quickest ways to become a U.S. citizen is to serve in the United States military. Because the military is stretched thin due to deployments around the world, there is a high demand for skilled enlistees. One of the incentives to get people to sign up for the military is to offer a faster path to citizenship, especially if you serve in a combat zone. It should be noted, however, that this is only open to people who are already in the U.S. legally, and does not apply to illegal immigrants.
All persons applying for citizenship must take a citizenship test, where they must demonstrate a working knowledge of U.S. history, and the basic principles of the Constitution and representative democracy.
The process of removing someone who is found to be in the country illegally is known as "deportation." While a person facing deportation is entitled to a hearing in front of an immigration judge, and the proceeding is quasi-criminal in nature, immigrants in deportation proceedings are not entitled to as many legal protections as ordinary criminal defendants. There is a limited right to appeal, and to present evidence on one's own behalf.
If you are facing deportation, or are trying to come to the U.S. legally, you have a difficult road ahead of you: immigration and citizenship law in the U.S. is very complicated. For that reason, you should speak to an immigration attorney, who will be able to answer any questions you have.