An Introduction to U.S. Immigration Law, Part 5:
This is the fifth part in our Series: An Introduction to U.S. Immigration Law. In Part 1, we talked about the distinction between immigration status and a visa. In Part 2, we talked about the distinction between immigrant and non-immigrant status. In Part 3, we talked about the family-based immigration process. In Part 4, we talked about the employment- and business-based immigration process.
For those who have reviewed Parts 1 through 4 and have not identified a pathway to status in the United States that seems to fit, Part 5 is for you. Today, we’re going to summarize several other common non-immigrant and immigrant options that exist outside of the traditional family or business-based visa programs.
Student and Cultural Exchange Visas
There are a variety of student and/or cultural exchange visas available to foreign nationals seeking to study or participate in cultural exchange programs in the United States. The F visa is probably the most common and is the visa typically used by those foreign nationals who come to the United States to study at a college or university. Other visas include the M visa (for vocational students), the J visa( for exchange visitors, including some special scholarship and internship programs), and the H-3 visa (for business trainees).
Diversity Immigrant Visa Program
The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (also referred to as the DV Program or sometimes as the “diversity lottery” is intended to encourage immigration to the United States by individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The U.S. Department of State maintains a record of the countries from which individuals may be eligible for this program.
Those who obtain a visa through the Diversity Immigration Visa Program are admitted to the United States as permanent residents.
Asylum and/or Refugee Status
Those who have a “well founded fear of persecution” as a result of their “race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion” are considered refugees and may be able to apply for a visa and/or legal status in the United States. Refugees abroad are designated into one of several priority groups by the U.S. Department of state. Visas become available through the U.S. Department of State vetting process. Those already in the United States (or who have made it to the border of the United States) who meet the definition of a refugee can apply for asylum and are known as “asylees.”
U.S. immigration law includes two different visa programs (the T Visa and the U Visa) that are specifically designated for victims of certain crimes. Both visas lead to non-immigrant status, but include an opportunity to apply for permanent residency in the future. If you have been a victim of a crime while in the United States (or while travelling to the United States), you may be eligible for one of these visa programs.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (commonly referred to as DACA) is not a visa. It’s not even really an immigration status. Instead, it is a program instituted through an executive order signed by President Obama on June 15, 2012 that allows certain individuals to obtain work authorization and in some cases travel authorization. The program is only available to those who arrived in the United States as children, who have resided in the United States continuously since 2007. Eligible DACA recipients must also show that they have completed (or are completing) high school or have obtained a GED; and must show that they do not have any significant criminal history.
For most people, DACA does not provide a long-term pathway to legal status, permanent residency, or citizenship. However, in some cases, travel authorization (through a procedure known as Advance Parole) can open new opportunities, including the possibility of permanent residency, for undocumented individuals who previously entered the United States without legal status.
If you have specific questions or concerns about any of these immigration categories, or about other aspects of the immigration law, please contact the Mesa Arizona immigration attorneys at the Gunderson Law Group, P.C.. We serve clients in Mesa, Phoenix, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, Scottsdale, as well as clients throughout the state of Arizona and throughout the world.
1839 S Alma School Rd #275
Mesa, AZ 85210
Office: (480) 750-7337
3960 Howard Hughes Parkway #500-A
Las Vegas, NV 89169