U.S. Immigration: An Overview

The term immigration is traditionally used to describe the act of entering and permanently settling in a country other than where one was born or is currently a citizen. In the United States, immigration laws and procedures also apply to non-citizens who wish to enter the country for virtually any reason, whether it is on a temporary or permanent basis. U.S. immigration laws also address the process of a foreign national becoming a citizen of the United States and the deportation of non-citizens. This overview is meant to provide basic, helpful information related to immigration in the U.S.

About Immigration Laws
The United States has a long history of immigration laws, starting with the Office of Superintendent Immigration created within the Treasury Department back in 1891. Since then, immigration laws and the government agencies responsible for enforcing these and overseeing immigration have changed dramatically. Today, immigration matters are overseen by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) under the Department of Homeland Security.

Visiting the U.S.
If you are interested in visiting the United States, you may need to obtain a visitor visa, which is a type of nonimmigrant visa issued for a temporary visit. The majority of visitor visas are issued to travelers for tourism. Other main categories of visitor visas are business visas and visas for medical treatment.

Studying in the U.S.
There are countless educational opportunities to be found in the United States, and if you wish to live in the U.S. on a temporary basis to study or participate in an exchange program you may need to apply for a student visa. There are specific eligibility requirements, and you must first be accepted in the educational program before you apply for a visa.

Working in the U.S.
If you want to work in the United States temporarily, you will need a specific type of nonimmigrant visa based on the type of work you will be performing. Your employer will most likely need to file a petition with the USCIS and get it approved before you can apply for a visa.

Living in the U.S.
Deciding to live permanently in the United States is a life-changing decision that will depend not only on your particular goals and needs but also the eligibility requirements to apply for an immigrant visa. There are strict requirements and legal proceedings that you must undergo in order to seek permanent residency, which may vary depending on your current status.

Becoming a Citizen
Perhaps the most difficult and complex area of immigration pertains to citizenship. If you have the dream of becoming a U.S. citizen or have a family member who you would like to assist in becoming a citizen, you will need to go through complicated proceedings and meet strict eligibility requirements. An attorney's counsel may prove particularly invaluable in these matters.

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