An Overview of US Immigration Law

July 16, 2015

in Stay in Compliance

Authored by Brad Bortone

Sponsored by Sage X3

An Overview of US Immigration Law

The immigration system in the US is set up primarily to grant immigration status based on factors such as family reunification, work skills, and capital investment. The immigration system also covers refugees and asylum seekers, and provides a lottery for immigration status to people who have lesser immigration needs.

The procedure for gaining legal immigrant status will depend upon, among other factors, which path an individual is eligible to pursue, based on employment, education, and family situation.


If an individual is seeking immigrant status based on the fact that they have a relative who is a US citizen or lawful permanent resident, the following is required:

  • The individual must be eligible for lawful permanent residence based on a family relationship that is recognized under US immigration law. Not every relative is instantly eligible, and some immediate family members (spouses and children) are given preference over others.
  • Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, must be filed by the individual’s relative (called a “sponsor”), along with proof of the family relationship, and the petition must be approved by the government (the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services bureau).


If an individual is seeking immigrant status based on a permanent employment opportunity, the following is required:

Capital Investment

Although relatively rare, if an individual makes a qualifying capital investment in the United States, he or she may be eligible for  immigrant status, provided that:

  • The investment meets the minimum threshold dollar amount (currently $1 million USD), benefits the US economy, and creates or saves a specific number of jobs.
  • Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, is filed with and approved by the government.


To be eligible for refugee status, an individual must have suffered past (or be in fear of future) persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political view, or membership in a certain group. An individual who is found eligible for refugee status must then satisfy certain medical and security criteria in order to be eligible for entry into the US. Political pressures make refugee status difficult to prove in some cases.

Diversity Lottery

Through the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, immigrant visas are made available annually to people whose country of origin has low immigration rates to the United States. Each year, the State Department selects 110,000 applicants from all qualified entries. However, once 50,000 immigrant visas are issued, or the fiscal year ends, the lottery is closed. Immigrant visas are not available for people whose country of origin sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States in the last five years.

[Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services]

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