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Overview Of Immigration Laws



Persons who are not United States Citizens or Permanent Residents generally require visas to enter the United States. The Department of State oversees the regulation of the Embassies and Consulates outside the United States which are responsible for issuing immigrant and nonimmigrant visas.

Immigrant Visas

An immigrant visa (IV) provides permanent resident status. An IV may be obtained from an application based on family relationship, employment, investment or through a visa lottery system. A "green card" is the document, which identifies the holder as having permanent resident status. A green card can be obtained by application made at the Consulate or Embassy outside the United States and in some cases by adjustment of status through an immigration application made inside the United States. The Department of Homeland Security oversees adjustment of status applications through the Bureau of Immigration and Citizenship Services (BCIS).

Non-Immigrant Visas

A non-immigrant visa (NIV) may be issued for a single entry or for multiple entries to the United States for a specific period of time (which may be from one month up to 10 years) stamped in the holder's passport. An NIV visa may be cancelled when there is a visa status violation.

Admission to the United States

All non-citizens whether holding a Green Card or NIV must apply for admission to the United States each time they wish to enter the country. Neither the Green Card nor a valid NIV in a passport will guarantee admission. Immigration officials at Airports and Border posts have wide discretion to refuse admission or to parole persons for secondary inspection in the United States where they may be admitted or placed in Removal proceedings.

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