The United States Immigration system and laws are somewhat difficult to understand if you are a layman. It is based on the law governing body i.e. INA (Immigration and Naturalization Act) of current immigration policies. It determines a worldwide annual limit for permanent immigrants to 6, 75000, with exceptions for close family members.
US Immigration System
Features of US Immigration Policy:
- Allowing the immigrants with skill and experience that is worthy to the US Economy and development.
- The reunification of families.
- Protection of Refugees
- The separate number for Refugee admissions are being given by both President and the congress.
- Promotion of Diversity.
Let’s understand now as to how the US Immigration System is designed.
A. Family-Based Immigration
The amalgamation or unification of families is a critical aspect of US Immigration Policy. The LPRs (Lawful Permanent Residents of US) and US Citizens are allowed to bring their certain family members to US under Family based Immigration system. The family based immigrants are being allowed to US both as immediate relatives of US Citizens or as a family preference system. The total of approximately 480,000 visas available under this category every year.
The Visa applicant applying under Immediate relative category requires to meet the following requirements, i.e. they need to be:
- Unmarried minor children of US Citizens (under 21 years)
- Spouses of US Citizens
- Parents of US Citizens (at least 21 years old)
Under family preference category limited number of visas available every year. And the following criteria need to be fulfilled:
- Married and unmarried adult children or the sisters or the brothers of US Citizens (petitioner must be at least 21 years old)
- Unmarried children, both minor and adult and the spouses of LPRs
You may refer the website (i.e. http://www.immigrationpolicy.org) for further details regarding family based immigration system.
B. Employment-Based Immigration
The immigrants with valuable skills and experience are being invited by the United States to live and work in US on both temporary or permanent visa basis. There several types of visas being allocated for temporary nonimmigrant workers, i.e. L visas for intracompany transfers, P Visas for athletes, entertainers and skilled performers, A Visa for diplomatic employees, O visas for workers of extraordinary ability, R visas for religious category and so on. The USCIS website may be referred for the complete list of visas under this category.
There are approximately 140, 000 visas are allowed under permanent immigration category every year. This type of visa is basically divided into 5 parts, each depends on the numerical limitations. You may refer the concerned website for further details about the classification.
Per country ceilings
There is a system in place to prevent any immigrant group to dominate the US immigration patterns or policy. As per this system only 7% of the immigrants are allowed per year from a particular country. No permanent immigrants (both from employment based or family based system) of any country can exceed the limit of 7% every year.
C. Refugees and Asylees
The USA provides a legal admission to various categories of people who are escaping persecution or are not able to return to their homeland due to some extraordinary conditions or reasons, i.e. due to their race, political opinion, religion, national origin or life threat. However, the admission to refugees is based on various factors, i.e. the severity of risk they face, membership in a group that is of special concerned to the US, (it is designated annually by the US President and the congress), and whether or not they have any family member in US.
The numerical ceiling of the Refugee admission is being determined by the President in consultation with the congress. However, after September 11, 2011, the number of refugees admitted into the United States cut down severely, but yearly admissions have gradually increased as more refined means of accomplishing security checks have been put into practice now.
This category is for the people already in the United States who were persecuted or fear persecution upon their return. Such applicants may apply for asylum in the United States or at a port of entry at the time they seek admission. They must petition within one year of their arrival in the U.S. There is no limit on the number of people, who may be granted asylum in a year.
Both Asylees, and Refugees can go on to become LPRs one year after their admission to the United States as a refugee or one year after getting the asylum.
D. The Diversity Visa Program
As per the US Immigration Act 1990, the Diversity Visa lottery was formed as a specific channel for countries with low immigration rate to the United States. The total of 55,000 visas are permitted randomly to the citizens of the countries who have sent less than 50,000 immigrants to US in last 5 years. Out of the 55,000, up to 5,000 are available are to be used under the NACARA program.
Eligibility Conditions for Diversity Visa Program:
To be eligible for a diversity visa an immigrant:
- You must have a high-school education or
- Have a minimum of two years working in a profession within the past five years, requiring at least two years of training or experience.
A random lottery drawing chooses the candidates for diversity visas. The visas are dispersed among six geographic locations with a maximum number of visas going to locations with lower rates of immigration, and no visas for countries sending more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. over the previous five years.
People from eligible countries can register for the lottery. However, as these visas are dispersed on a regional basis, the program, hence, especially benefits, Africans and Eastern Europeans.
E. Other Types of Humanitarian Relief
There are basically two categories under this program:
TPS (Temporary Protected Status): It is being granted to the people who are in US, however, can not return to their homeland due to Natural Disaster or any other extraordinary temporary condition’ or ‘the armed conflict’. It can be granted to the nationals of any country such country for 6, 12 or 18 months. Moreover, it can be extended beyond if the unsafe conditions in the country persists.
DED (Deferred Enforced Departure): It provides the security from the deportation for people whose homelands are unstable and hence, making their return dangerous. However, unlike the TPS, DED is the discretion of the executive branch and not authorized by the state.
F. U.S. Citizenship
To qualify for the US citizenship through the naturalization, a person must have had the LPR status (A Green Card) for at least 5 years (or 3 years in case the person has got the green card through a US Citizen spouse or through violence against women act- VAWA).
- Applicants must be at least 18 years old,
- Show continuous residency,
- Show “good moral character,”
- Pass English and U.S. history and civics exams, and
- Must pay an application fee, among other requirements.