April 2017

An Introduction to Immigration Terms For New (and Experienced) Attorneys

Brian Kenneth Johnson

Attorney at Law

The United States immigration laws regularly change and become complex, and events this year have only added to the confusion. Year after year it becomes more difficult to attain a visa. Due to the constant change in immigration law, attorneys must stay current with all the changes to handle each case properly. Additionally, attorneys need to also be familiar with nationality law, immigration, appellate procedures, civil appeals and criminal appeals. 

For as complex as immigration law can be, one must always start with the basics. An understanding of the basics of immigration law can help new attorneys, or experienced attorneys for that matter, starting to forge into the practice, or help direct clients to a firm who can provide them with the services the client needs. Below are some of the basic procedures in immigration law so that you will be able to speak the lingo with potential clients.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Eligible for certain individuals who have resided in the United Sates since June 15, 2012 to the present time. Must have been under 31 years of age before June 15, 2012. The petitioner must have resided in the United States before their 16th birthday. Recipients of DACA may acquire work authorization (does not provide lawful status).

United States Permanent Resident (Green Card)

Petition for a green card may vary depending whether you reside in the United States or not. The petition may also vary whether you are obtaining a green card through family, job, refugee or asylee status, etc. The green card is valid for 10 years (may be renewed after the 10 years).

United States Citizenship (Naturalization)

You may be eligible for naturalization if you have been a permanent resident for five years or three years if you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen. You can also be eligible if you have qualifying service in the U.S. armed forces or you are the child of a U.S. citizen. The U.S. appreciates the contributions made by immigrants who enrich the country of the land of freedom and opportunity.

F-1/M-1 Academic Students

Visa for non-immigrants wishing to pursue academic studies and/or language training programs within the United States. This visa is required if the petitioner wishes to attend a university/college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory, or language training program.  

B-1 Temporary Business Visitor

Available to visitors coming temporarily to the U.S. to engage in legitimate business activities of a commercial or professional nature. You must have the funds to cover the expenses of the trip and you have a specific period of time you wish to stay (typically between one to six months).

B-2 Temporary Visitor

Tourists visiting relatives and friends or are amateur artists, musicians, and athletes who will receive no remuneration. The visitor must plan accordingly as there is a limited time for the B-2 visa holder. Must have the funds necessary to visit and depart the United States.

E-2 Treaty Investors

Individuals coming to the U.S. to invest their capital or to develop the business operations of an entity in which the individual has already invested funds. The individual may qualify whether he or she is the principal investor or is an employee of an investor company having the same nationality.

H-1B Visa

American companies seeking to employ foreign workers who possess both a theoretical/practical application of a specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree. In order to qualify, foreign employees must be employed in an occupation related to their field of study. The annual H-1B Cap season opened on April 3, 2017 for five consecutive days. Sixty-five thousand visas will be given to individuals with a bachelor’s degree. Twenty thousand visas will be for qualifying individuals with a master’s degree. The petitions will be randomly chosen in a lottery.

J-1 Visa

An exchange visitor program brings 300,000 visitors from 200 countries each year to the United States. This is a work-and-study exchange program. The exchange requires proficiency in English, and health insurance. Sponsors of the recipient must offer an orientation and monitor the progress and of their participants.  

As mentioned, above immigration law is constantly changing. The new presidential administration may change many of the immigration policies which will affect many of the visas’ requirements, processes and eligibility. While the basic language may help you talk with clients, in order to practice immigration law, one must constantly stay up to date with the changes.

This article is for information purposes only and does not contain or convey legal advice. The information herein should not be relied upon in regard to any particular facts or circumstances without first consulting an attorney. Any views expressed are those of the author only and not of the SDCBA.