Legal Info


Immigration Rules and Regulations

If you are not a United States Citizen, but if you are legally married to a U.S. Citizen, you and your spouse may be eligible to file a petition on your behalf wit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (U.S.C.I.S) requesting that you be granted conditional permanent residence based on marriage to a U.S. Citizen. You must file the petition with the appropriate U.S.C. I. S. office listed on the website: If the spouse resides outside the United States then he or she may apply at the U.S. Consulate near their place of residence. A spouse of a U.S. Citizen will be granted only conditional status for a two year period. Upon completion of two years, the conditional status must be removed through the filing of a petition with U.S.C.I.S. and the immigrant will be granted full permanent residence. This two year requirement was placed into the laws in order to prevent fraudulent marriages. New rules allow the illegal immigrant to apply for permanent residence, based on marriage, in the United States if he or she can pay the large penalty fees which can run up to the hundreds of dollars or more. The paperwork required for permanent residence can be obtained from or by calling the National Customer Service Centers at 1-800-375-5283.

Immediate relatives of United States Citizens are eligible for permanent residence without any numerical limitations. Unmarried children under 21 of the U.S. Citizens are considered immediate relatives; parents of the U.S. Citizens are considered immediate relatives as long as the U.S. Citizen is over the age of 21. The importance of being considered an immediate relative is that a VISA is immediately available and there is no numerical limitation.

Other groups of family members of citizens or permanent resident aliens can also qualify to immigrate into the United States but these family members are subject to numerical limitations. The first preference category are unmarried sons and daughters, 21 years of age or older, of U.S. Citizens; the second preference includes spouses and children of permanent residents and unmarried adult sons and daughters of permanent residents; the third family preference is for married sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens; the fourth family sponsored preference includes brothers and sisters of U.S. Citizens provided the U.S. Citizen is at least 21 years old. As stated earlier these groups are subject to numerical limitations and the waiting period can take many years. Contact the Immigration Office or the U.S. State Department for your potential waiting period.

If you do not meet the requirements of "immediate relative of a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident" then you can try to get permanent residency by an employer through labor certification. Such certification will only be granted when the employee submits an application proving that United States Citizens and permanent residents are not available to perform the job for which you applied. The process of obtaining a labor certification can take months and merely allows a person to apply for a visa to enter the U.S.

If you wish to enter the United States temporarily then you can apply for various non immigrant VISAS such as a B-1 Business or B-2 Tourist VISA, a E-1 Treaty Trader VISA, F-1 Student VISA, an Exchange Visitor J-1 VISA, a Transferred Employee L-1 VISA; or the Temporary Worker H VISA categories. For other groups of temporary non-immigrant VISAS, review the website: The main requirement of these non-immigrant categories is that you intend to stay in the U.S. temporarily. If after receiving the non-immigrant VISA you later change your mind and want to stay in the U.S. permanently and have grounds in which to stay permanently, like a subsequent marriage to a U.S. citizen, then you may apply to adjust your status to a permanent resident.

If you are in the United States illegally and have no legal grounds in which to be here, then a diversity lottery may be available, depending on your country of birth or citizenship. There are specific application requirements to this diversity lottery and more information is available on the U.S.C. I. S. website.

Remember, if you are in the United States illegally, you could be subject to deportation or removal. For example, if you entered the United States without a VISA, or if you overstayed your period of lawful admission. You may be deported, you may also be deported if you are convicted of certain crimes involving felonies or crimes involving moral turpitude. You may even be subject to deportation even after you have obtained permanent residency status because of the commission of crimes or having obtained such status by the commission of fraud or perjury.

If you are arrested by the Immigration and Customer Enforcement ( I.C. E. ) you may be eligible to be released if you post an immigration bond in cash or with a surety bond company. Sometime later you will have a formal deportation hearing. At the hearing you can defend yourself or apply for relief from deportation if you can show you qualify under the law, or admit deportability and request a voluntary departure date.

Relief from deportation may be by suspension of deportation if you can show that you have lived openly in the United States for more than ten (10) years, can show extreme hardship, and strong humanitarian factors. Voluntary departure, if granted by the Immigration Judge, will enable you to leave the United States at your own expense although you may be barred for a number of years before being eligible to making application to lawfully re-enter the country.

At the Deportation Hearing, you may have an attorney represent you, at your own expense. The Immigration Service does not provide you with an attorney even if you are unable to afford one, but will give you a referral list of lawyers and organizations that can assist you at little or not cost to you.

If you are apprehended by an officer of the Immigration Service, after identifying yourself, you have the right to remain silent and to telephone an attorney before you answer any questions. Your answer to any questions may be used to support charges against you in a subsequent exclusion or deportation proceeding.

The Immigration and Nationality Act is one of the most complicated of Federal Statutes, and has been interpreted by thousands of Court and administrative decisions. Immigration laws, rules and regulations are changing on an almost daily basis. Thus, you should consult with an immigration attorney to advise you about your specific situation. You should also consult an immigration attorney to advise you before filing any documents with the U.S.C.I.S. or before attempting to defend yourself at a removal hearing.

Find a lawyer ⟶

Or call us! We're here to help.

Monday - Friday

8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.