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The ABC's of Immigration Law

visa.jpgImmigration law in the United States is complex and, as most people would agree, needs reform. This blog will explain the difference between citizenship and alienage, types of visas and useful information if you run into an immigration issue.

There are two main sources of citizenship: birthright citizenship and naturalization. Under birthright citizenship a person is presumed to be a citizen, provided that he or she is born within the United States. This can also can occur at birth if a parent is a US citizen. Naturalization is a process in which an immigrant applies for citizenship and is accepted. Benefits to becoming a citizen include the right to live and work in the United States and the right to get federal benefits. A person can apply for citizenship through naturalization if they are at least 18 years old at the time of filing, a legal permanent resident of the United States and have had a status of a legal permanent resident in the United States for 5 years before they apply. If a person has met these requirements, he or she can apply and must pass a citizenship test, which has questions about American society, history, and the English language, to gain citizenship.

Permanent resident status, not to be confused with citizenship, allows a person to live in the United States indefinitely and can be gotten by: immigration through a family member, employment, investment, the Diversity Lottery and refugee or asylum status. A permanent resident is given a Permanent Resident card, informally known as a "green card," that is proof that the holder has been officially granted immigration benefits, including permission to live and work in the United States.

A United States visa gives the holder conditional authorization to enter and temporarily remain in, or leave, the United States. A visa can be granted for a number of reasons including athletics, education, medical treatment, and skills in the arts. But the 2 most "popular" reasons for visitor visas are tourism and business reasons. Business reasons include consulting with business associates, attending a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference, settling an estate, and or negotiating a contract. There are several steps to apply for a visa. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply.

Finally, it you're an employer, you may face a situation where you want to hire a foreign individual who is either studying in the United States on a student visa or living abroad. Temporary worker visas are for people who want to enter the U.S. for employment lasting a fixed amount of time, and are not considered permanent or indefinite.

The most common type of work visa is the H-1B visa. In order to qualify for it, you must demonstrate a specialized training and background to work in the field in which you seek employment. Common fields include science, law, medicine, and business. About 65,000 H-1B visas are available every year, and another 20,000 if you possess a Master's or Ph.D. from a United States academic institution. The H1-B work visa is reserved for people who possess at least a bachelor's degree from anywhere in the world and have a job offer that requires the degree they have already attained.

Whether you or someone you know is traveling to the United States for any reason, it's important you learn the options and requirements associated with the type of visit that you are planning. The best source of information comes directly from the United States government at https://www.uscis.gov/. Omar Bareentto is a 2016 Rutgers School of Law graduate and a former contributor to the Rutgers Business Law Review. He collaborated with me on this blog. 

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