Anyone who isn’t a United States citizen is required to have a lawful immigrant or non-immigrant status when they are in this country.
Lawful immigrant status is considered to be a “pathway to citizenship” because a lawful permanent resident may be eligible to become a citizen through the naturalization process if they meet the legal requirements such as good moral character, continuous residence in the US for a sufficient length of time without trips abroad longer than 6 months, and the ability to speak and write in basic English and to answer some questions about the United States’ history and government.
To obtain status as a lawful permanent resident, a foreign citizen must satisfy the requirements of one of the “pathways” to permanent residence, such as having a qualifying US citizen or permanent resident family member petition for them, having appropriate business or investment plans, proving they need protection under asylum or refugee laws, or they were lucky enough to “win” the diversity visa “green card lottery” that selects applicants from qualifying countries at random each year.
Non-immigrants must obtain visas that may give permission to stay in the United States for limited periods of time, such as temporary visas for visitors for pleasure or business, students, professional workers, training programs, and other statuses that expire on certain dates or when the purpose for the approved visit ends.
A non-immigrant who “overstays” after a visa expires may be subject to penalties that prevent them from obtaining another visa or re-entering the United States if the length of time of the overstay exceeds certain legal time limits. Someone without legal status, due to an overstay, violating the terms of their visa, committing certain types of crimes, or entering the US without inspection at a border may be arrested, detained and removed from the United States, and prevented from legally re-entering.
An experienced and knowledgeable attorney can help you evaluate your immigration options and pursue one that may be appropriate for you. Stuart Reed has helped many people to obtain United States citizenship, lawful permanent resident status based upon qualifying family relationships, permanent residence based upon qualifying business plans and ties, temporary work visas, to extend temporary stays, and to pursue other benefits like asylum and cancellation of their removal from the United States.
To evaluate and pursue your immigration options, Stuart Reed is available for a free initial consultation to discuss your situation and plans.