It is a widespread dream of many foreign-born individuals to study or work in the United States, or even become official US citizens. Their reasons vary from seeking a better life through study or job prospects to freedom from religious or political persecution in their homeland.
In FY 2012, 757,434 people naturalized in the US; 1,031,631 people received green cards to become legal permanent residents (LPRs); and approximately 165 million people came to the US on temporary visas.
Because of the high number of people naturalizing and becoming LPRs of the United States each year, many people mistakenly think becoming a US citizen is simply a matter of filling out a few forms. The reality is that US immigration is a very complicated affair. With myriad forms to fill out and requirements to meet, many people have no idea where to even start.
Legal Language Services offers an introductory guide to help you make sense of — and maybe even simplify — this long, arduous process.
Where you and your parents were born, where you are currently living and where you want to live in the future are the starting points — and sometimes, the ending point — for your dealings with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
For example, if you wish to become a US citizen, where you were born and where your parents were born are very important questions. If you were born in the United States (or its territories), or your parents were born there, then you either are already a US citizen or you can get citizenship fairly easily. Otherwise, you need to begin a somewhat lengthy process to become naturalized. This process is heavily influenced by where you are living now and where you will be living in the future.
These and other aspects of the current US policy are brought together in the Federal Immigration and Nationality Act. This law guides USCIS in its development of rules and procedures. Who is permitted to enter the United States and whether they can work in the US or become a citizen as well as who can be removed from the United States are all covered in the Federal Immigration and Nationality Act.
The state and territorial laws do not impact the process, but where you are living in the United States definitely does have an impact based on workloads and USCIS office policies that impact their application of rules and guidelines.
Consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable in immigration law before taking any steps toward immigration, as this area of law changes constantly. Ideally, seek someone who is knowledgeable about applications from your country of origin and the procedural guidelines of your regional office of immigration.
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