What is Immigration and Naturalization Law?
Definition of Immigration and Naturalization Law
Many citizens who never had to interact with the immigration system are surprised by the range of immigration options available to people who wish to come to the U.S., and are equally surprised by the range of problems immigration can cause.
Many immigrants arrive in the U.S. carrying a visa, which allows them to stay in the U.S. for a limited time and purpose. These people can become permanent residents, or "green card" holders, which allows them to stay in the U.S. indefinitely. Green cards are issued to some workers and to family members of U.S. citizens. Immigrants may also choose to become U.S. citizens through the naturalization process. However, if a non-citizen violates a law of the U.S., the federal government may force that person to leave the U.S. through the deportation process.
Immigration and naturalization law is governed by the Immigration and Nationality Act and overseen by an office in the Department of Homeland Security called United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS.
Terms to Know
- Visa: An official government endorsement that allows a foreign citizen to come to the U.S. to study, work, visit, or conduct business.
- Permanent Residency: A status granted to immigrants that allows them to stay in the U.S. indefinitely and is evidenced by a green card.
- Asylum: Special protection granted to people who come to the U.S. to escape persecution and human rights abuses in their home country.
- Refugee: Special protection granted to people who are seeking entry to the U.S. to escape persecution and human rights abuses in their home country.
- Naturalization: The process by which a foreign citizen becomes a U.S. citizen.
- Deportation: The process by which a foreign citizen is removed from the U.S.
- Alien: The technical term for a foreign citizen who lives in the U.S.
- Citizen: Someone who lives in a particular country and enjoys the full rights and protections of that country.
For more definitions, see this glossary of immigration related terms.
Practice Area Notes
Immigration is a popular area of law. Over a million people are naturalized every year, and even more people come to the U.S. legally and illegally. Furthermore, immigration cases appear to be easy to handle: it seems that all that is required is to fill out some forms, gather supporting evidence, and mail it to a local USCIS office. All of this means that many non-lawyers attempt to provide immigration advice and assistance at cheaper rates and can frequently scam unsuspecting immigrants. Even the most well-intentioned people who offer advice on immigration issues may offer the wrong advice or be unable to help if there is a problem with your petition.
When seeking help with an immigration issue, be sure to contact an attorney, who is licensed to practice law in your state and is legally bound to act in your best interest. You can find a qualified local attorney by using the search tools below.
Related Practice Areas
- Civil Rights: The area of law that ensures that all people are treated equally under the law, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or language.
- Criminal: Arriving in the U.S. without permission from the government is a crime for many people, and immigrants who are arrested for other crimes frequently face deportation proceedings.
- Employment Law: Many visa holders come to the U.S. to work, and their ability to stay in the U.S. depends on their ability to keep their job.
- Business and Commercial Law: Employers who want to hire foreign nationals are typically responsible for completing and submitting a visa application on behalf of the employee.