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The Immigration Law Landscape

For those dealing with the U.S. immigration system, there is no doubt that the experience can be overwhelming and nerve wracking – filled with forms and acronyms that are difficult to understand, especially if facing a language barrier.  East Lake Law Firm, based in St. Lucie county Florida, has experienced, bilingual attorneys who can help you navigate even the most complicated immigration issues.

 

Immigration Basics

Immigration is the act of entering a country with the intention of permanently living or working there.  Countries also have laws that limit entry into a country even without the intention of permanent residence or employment, including the United States. 

While immigration laws and requirements can be complex, we have detailed below some basic concepts that are helpful to understand.

Securing a Visa
There are prescribed rules of entry to the United States for individuals who are not citizens, whether visiting temporarily or planning for a more permanent stay.  Depending on the individual's home country and the reason for their stay, a visa may be required to enter the country lawfully.  It is necessary to apply for a visa before arriving in the U.S.  If a visa is required, any entry without one is considered an unlawful entry.  Before a visa expires, an individual will need to seek either a visa extension or permanent resident status.

Seeking Permanent Resident Status

While a visa grants a temporary right to stay in the U.S., an individual must seek permanent resident status (often referred to as getting their green card) before they can stay in the country on a long-term basis.  There most common bases for securing permanent residence status are:

  • Family: If an individual has a family member in the U.S., they may be able to seek a green card.  Whether they qualify and the speed at which the green card will be granted will depend on the nature of the relationship – for example, whether they are an immediate or extended family member.  Green cards will be granted based on a preference category system.
  • Employment: If an individual has skills that are needed in the U.S., they may be able to secure a green card.  Only 140,000 individuals are admitted each year based on employment, and a preference category system is used to allocate the admissions.
  • Diversity Lottery: The Diversity Lottery allows individuals from countries with the fewest immigrants in the U.S. to secure a green card.
  • Asylum/Refugee: Even if an individual does not qualify based on the previously mentioned factors, they may be able to seek residence in the U.S. as an asylum or refugee.  To qualify, the individual must have suffered past or be in fear of future persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political view, or membership in a certain group.  Seeking asylum involves a lengthy application and interview process after the individual arrives in the U.S.
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Becoming a U.S. Citizen

If an individual did not become a U.S. citizen at birth, they will need to become a naturalized citizen.  To be eligible for naturalization, an individual must have held a valid green card for at least five years (three years for spouses of U.S. citizens).  The naturalization process will include paperwork, background checks, an interview, testing, and an oath of allegiance.

Contact Us

While the information above provides a basic overview of common immigration issues, at East Lake Law Firm, we understand that the issues you are facing are likely complicated and stressful.  Our dedicated, bilingual attorneys are available to assist you in your immigration matters, serving clients across St. Lucie County, including in Okeechobee and Fort Pierce.  Contact us today to find out how we can help.