When talking about immigration law, it is easy to think that there are immigrants and nonimmigrants. After all, if you pay much attention to the news, then this black-and-white duality is pretty much how immigration situations are always portrayed. But the truth is that the United States has four distinct types of immigration status, each with its own definitions, benefits, and complications.
The four types of immigration status and categories in the U.S. are:
- Citizens: An American citizen is a) born in the United States or its territories, b) goes through the immigration naturalization process to become a citizen, or c) receives or derives citizenship from a parent. Citizens cannot be deported, are eligible for all privileges and rights including the right to vote and serve on a jury, and citizens can sponsor more family members through the immigration process than other types of immigrants or residents. Only an American citizen may obtain a U.S. passport.
- Permanent residents: When someone obtains a green card, they become a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR), which is the first step in naturalization and citizenship. LPRs get a variety of benefits, such as the ability to live and work in the country for an indefinite period as long as they continue to renew their green card and do not commit any immigration law violations or serious crimes. Some people with green cards are called conditional residents because they obtained a green card through a marriage that occurred less than two years ago. If the marriage ends or the conditional resident and their spouse do not jointly file a Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence within two years, then they may be subject to deportation.
- Nonimmigrants: People who want to enter the country temporarily are called nonimmigrants. Many nonimmigrants are students, tourists, and people who have official business within the United States, like investors who are overseeing a new project for a short while. Nonimmigrants are in legal status and may have some privileges to work depending on which nonimmigrant visa they hold. However, all nonimmigrants will eventually need to depart the country when their status expires, or seek a new status.
- Undocumented persons: Anyone who enters the country without authorization or whose nonimmigrant status is expired can be described as undocumented. There are no protections against deportation while undocumented, and there is no access to public benefits and most types of employment. People who are undocumented are encouraged to reach out to an immigration attorney in their area to discover methods of becoming a permanent resident or nonimmigrant.
Carlson & Burnett in Omaha, Nebraska offers immigration law services to people of all walks of life and who belong to any of the four immigration statuses. Whether you need help getting a green card, want to become a naturalized citizen, or complete any other immigration process, we should be the first team you call. Dial (402) 810-8611 or contact us online now.