US Immigration Information

Immigration refers to the movement or migration of people into a country with the intent to reside there. People who migrate to a non-native country to settle are called immigrants. As of 1952, an “alien” is defined as a person who lacks United States citizenship or status as a U.S. national.

With the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the United States declared their independence and liberty from Great Britain and large groups of people migrated to the United States for a number of reasons .

Historically , poverty has driven many people to America in hopes of making a better life for themselves and for their families. Leaving their native land of underemployment and overpopulation, immigrants headed for America with hopes of opportunity and prosperity.

Migration to America has long been spurred by political repression, war, forced military service, and religious persecution. Land shortages and health epidemics have also been a factor in immigration. Ultimately, the promise of freedom and a better life has driven many groups of people to America.

Immigration has changed the face of America, creating a melting pot of race and ethnicity. Because America is so rich in different cultures, there is great social diversity in religion, politics, education, arts, and entertainment. The immigration movement also resulted in large numbers of skilled workers and cheap labor, to the benefit of United States Industry.

There has always been great controversy about the social and economic impact of illegal immigration. There has been much argument about whether or not the constant influx of illegal aliens has contributed to a rise in poverty and crime statistics, and the introduction of illegal drugs across America’s borders. Healthcare, housing and education benefits afforded to illegal aliens have long been a hot debate.

Immigration Laws

Immigration laws which govern legal residency and citizenship status change frequently, and differ from country to country. The authority over United States immigration lies with Congress.

Congress enacted the Naturalization Act of 1970 to set in place the US immigration policy. Initially, the Naturalization Act applied only to “free white persons of good moral character.” In 1975, the initial two year US residency requirement was changed to a minimum of five years. In 1870, Congress afforded African-Americans the opportunity to become citizens; however in 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed by Congress to restrict Chinese immigration.

The Immigration Act of 1924 limited the number of aliens, by quota per country, that could migrate to the United States. Finally, in 1952 the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) removed all immigrant quotas that were based on race, and replaced them with nationality- based quotas. The INA developed the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to enforce immigration quotas. The United States currently allows more legal immigrant residents than any other country.

Modern history has prompted continued Immigration Reform Acts:

The Department of Homeland Security was formed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States, replacing the INS. Introduced by the Bush administration on March 1, 2003, Homeland Security operates by sharing information among agencies responsible for emergency response. The Department of Homeland Security heads three agencies. The U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement (CBE) is responsible for patrolling the U.S. border. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) deals with issues related to residence and naturalization. And the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE.) conducts investigations and deportations.

Resident Status

To become a legal resident alien, eligible to reside and work in the U.S., you must have a Permanent Resident Card, also known as a Green Card . After five years of residence in the United States, Green Card holders are eligible for U.S. Naturalization. To qualify to become a U.S. Citizen, applicants must fulfill requirements established by the INA, including having good moral character. Having a criminal record or other documented unfavorable behavior that is not law abiding may prevent successful citizenship application. A criminal background check is conducted as part of the Naturalization process.

After completing the application ( form N-400 ), testing and interview process , successful applicants will be scheduled to take their oath to become Naturalized United States Citizens.