Immigration FAQs

When it’s time to request an immigration status change, a lot of questions can arise. Getting answers – and knowing what to expect as you move forward – can be central to taking the right steps and favorably resolving your immigration issue(s).

To this end, the following provides the answers to some frequently asked questions about immigration and immigration status changes in the U.S. These answers relay helpful information that can be essential to minimizing your stress, costs and uncertainty as you proceed with your immigration case.

For more answers, along with legal advice specific to your situation, contact an experienced Los Angeles immigration lawyer at the Hanlon Law Group, P.C. by calling (800) 976-5675 or by emailing us (using the contact form on this page).

Table of Contents

What is immigration?
What is illegal immigration?
Who is permitted to enter the U.S. from a foreign country?
Which family members can sponsor relatives for U.S. immigrant visas that will grant them permanent entry?
How can a foreign national gain LPR status?
If a foreign national is ineligible for LPR status, are there other ways to legally enter the U.S.?
If I have been granted a temporary work visa, can my spouse and/or child come with me to the U.S.?
How do I extend my stay in the U.S.?
What are deportable offenses?
Is there a limit on the number of people who can officially receive refugee and asylum status (on humanitarian grounds) each year?
What is the diversity lottery?
What is naturalization?

What is immigration?

Immigration is the act of moving from one’s home or native country to another country in order to reside, work and/or settle there. Different countries have specific laws regarding immigration. In general, however, the process of immigration tends to start in a person’s home country and is completed in the country to which the individual plans to move.

While people may choose to relocate from one country to another for various reasons, some of the most common include the need or desire to:

Reunite with family or a fiancé
• Work for a specific employer or in a specific industry
• Seek asylum from political or religious persecution in one’s home country
• Seek a new start after experiencing a natural disaster in one’s home country
• Voluntarily seek a change in one’s surroundings.

The specific reason behind a person’s choice to immigrate to the U.S. (or another country) is important because it usually dictates the specific process associated with seeking and obtaining an immigration status change. It may also affect how long the immigration status change process will take.

What is illegal immigration?

Illegal immigration is the act or process by which people unlawfully migrate from their home country to another country. According to U.S. immigration laws, illegal immigration can arise when, for instance, people:

• Enter the U.S. without the proper documentation
• Commit fraud to try to secure documentation to enter the U.S.
• Forge immigration documents to appear as though they have permission to enter the U.S.
• Stay in the U.S. after a visa expires
• Reenter the U.S. after being deported.

When U.S. immigration officials discover that someone is in the U.S. illegally, the following typically takes place:

• The individual be notified that the U.S. plans to deport him.
• A deportation hearing will take place. During this hearing, the individual will have the chance to present his case before a judge in immigration court.
• If the court upholds the deportation, the individual will be sent back to his home country.
• If that individual reenters the U.S. illegally after having been deported, he will likely lose his right to ever obtain permission to legally enter the U.S. Additionally, he will not be granted a deportation hearing in the future; instead, he will be immediately removed from the U.S.

Given all that’s at stake when people are accused of being illegal immigrants, it’s important they work with an experienced immigration attorney who can protect their rights and interests while helping them favorably resolve the matter.

Who is permitted to enter the U.S. from a foreign country?

U.S. law establishes four principal means by which a foreign national can legally enter the country:

• Employment-based immigration
• Family-based immigration
• Refugee or asylee status
• The diversity lottery.

Each category covers a variety of situations, some allowing for temporary stays in the U.S. and others allowing for permanent immigration. For some categories, annual quotas may apply.

Which family members can sponsor relatives for U.S. immigrant visas that will grant them permanent entry?

With some exception and restriction, a U.S. citizen may sponsor the following relatives for an immigrant visa to permanently enter to the U.S. (i.e., a green card):

• A spouse or fiancé(e)
• A parent
• A sibling
• A minor child
• An adult child (regardless of marital status).

Additionally, a foreign national in the U.S. with lawful permanent resident (LPR) status (i.e., a green card holder) may sponsor a spouse, a minor child or an unmarried adult child. Citizens and permanent residents who sponsor relatives for immigration must have a certain level of earnings, and they must agree to legally support their incoming family member(s).

How can a foreign national gain LPR status?

The two main ways a foreign national can become an LPR is to be sponsored by:

1. A family member already living in the U.S. as a citizen or a lawful permanent resident; or
2. A U.S. employer with an open job that falls into a particular category that has been established by federal law.

Foreign nationals also may be eligible to:

• Register for the diversity lottery
• Apply for refugee or asylee status (if they fear persecution in their home country).

If a foreign national is ineligible for LPR status, are there other ways to legally enter the U.S.?

Foreign nationals may be able to enter the U.S. for a temporary period of time with a nonimmigrant visa. However, to receive a nonimmigrant visa, the foreign national must meet the requirements for one of the nonimmigrant categories defined by federal law.

These categories are differentiated by reason for entering the U.S. (or primary reason when there are multiple). They include (and are not necessarily limited to):

• Visiting family members or friends
• Traveling
• Receiving medical treatment
• Carrying out business or diplomatic affairs
• Enrolling in technical schools or universities
• Participating in cultural or educational exchange programs
• Seeking qualified temporary employment.

If I have been granted a temporary work visa, can my spouse and/or child come with me to the U.S.?

Possibly. If you want your dependent spouse and minor child to accompany you to the U.S. after you have obtained a temporary work visa, they will need to apply and be approved for the appropriate type of nonimmigrant visa. Please be aware that these nonimmigrant visas do not necessarily mean that a spouse will be authorized to work in the U.S.

How do I extend my stay in the U.S.?

Many nonimmigrant visa categories allow for extensions. However, government permission to stay beyond the original visa expiration date is typically discretionary, not automatic.

To extend the amount of time you can remain in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa, you must:

• Apply for an extension with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The application should be filed well in advance of the last authorized day in the U.S. in order to avoid falling “out of status.”
• Have not violated any of the terms of your nonimmigrant visa
• Have not committed any crime or violated any U.S. law.

What are deportable offenses?

Deportable offenses are actions for which a foreign national may be forced to leave the U.S. and return to his or her home country. Some deportable offenses include:

• Using fraudulent documents to enter the U.S.
• Providing material misrepresentations (like marriage fraud) to receive a visa
• Committing certain types of crimes (such as most drug crimes, aggravated felonies, domestic violence and child abuse, many gun offenses, etc.)
• Posing a threat to national security
• Engaging in terrorist activity
• Helping others enter the country illegally
• Overstaying a visa
• Voting illegally.

For a complete list, see 8 U.S.C.A. § 1227.

Is there a limit on the number of people who can officially receive refugee and asylum status (on humanitarian grounds) each year?

The president sets an annual limit on the number of refugees (coming from outside the U.S.) but not on the number of asylum seekers (already in the U.S.). The president works with Congress to determine the number of refugees that should be admitted to the U.S. for resettlement.

To qualify as a refugee or asylee, an individual must have a “well-founded fear of persecution” at home for his or her religion, race or national origin, politics, or social-group membership.

What is the diversity lottery?

The diversity lottery, a program run by the U.S. Department of State (DoS), issues up to 55,000 diversity visas (DVs) each year to foreign nationals from regions and countries with low immigration rates to the U.S.

Foreign nationals who meet the criteria for the lottery are placed into a pool and are then randomly selected by a computer program for the available visas. Only people from countries that sent less than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. over the past five years are eligible for this lottery.

What is naturalization?

Naturalization allows a foreign national to become a U.S. citizen. To be eligible to nationalize, a person typically has to have already been an LPR for a certain length of time. Becoming a citizen, however, does not require a previous LPR status.

To be allowed to nationalize, the individual must:

• Be of “good moral character”
• Pass English literacy, history and government tests (There are some exceptions for this requirement.)
• Interview successfully with a government official to establish the right to citizenship
• Take the Oath of Allegiance to the U.S.

Get Helpful Legal Advice Now: Contact a Los Angeles Immigration Lawyer at the Hanlon Law Group, P.C.

If you are facing an immigration issue and you are ready for answers, legal advice and/or experienced representation, contact a Los Angeles immigration lawyer at the Hanlon Law Group, P.C.

Call (800) 976-5675 or email our firm via the contact form above. Our attorneys are ready to:

• Meet with you for a free initial consultation
• Find out more about your situation
• Explain the law, your options, and what they can do to help you.

We provide immigration legal services in various languages, including Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Bahasa Indonesian, Tagalog and Fukienese.