How Does Someone Immigrate to the United States?

How Does Someone Immigrate to the United States?

Not everyone is eligible to immigrate to the United States.  Instead, a person intending to immigrate must first establish eligibility to immigrate.  There are multiple means of establishing eligibility, however, the most common means of eligibility are family-based immigration, employment-based immigration, and investor immigration.

Within each of these broad categories are many sub-categories with unique eligibility requirements.  To find out more, please review the other pages on, or contact Gafner Law Firm’s Albany Immigration Law Office.


Are All  Foreign Nationals in the United States Immigrants?

A common misconception that Americans have is that all foreign nationals in the United States are “immigrants.”  However, that is not the case.  Foreign nationals in the United States normally enter the country in either nonimmigrant or immigrant status.  Individuals in nonimmigrant status are authorized to remain in the U.S. for a set period of time (e.g. students, tourists, etc.).  Individuals who enter the U.S. with immigrant status are considered permanent residents.  Being a permanent resident allows an individual to remain in the United States indefinitely.

As with all facets of immigration law, there are exceptions and caveats to the categories above – yet most individuals fall into these categories.

Do Immigrants Immediately Become U.S. Citizens?

Another common misconception is that all immigrants can immediately apply for U.S. citizenship.  That is not the case.  Individuals who become permanent residents must wait five years before applying for naturalization (although in some circumstances this period can be shortened).  In some rare cases, it is possible to immediately apply for citizenship.

To learn whether you are able to naturalize, please contact an Albany naturalization lawyer for more information.

Caveat:  Immigration Law Is Filled With Caveats/Exceptions

The above is a very general overview of immigration law and does not account for all of the exceptions and caveats that exist within immigration law – there are many.  Because of theses exceptions, each person’s case is different and should be reviewed on an individual basis by a competent immigration lawyer.  If you would like to learn more about what your immigration options may be, please contact an Albany immigration attorney.


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