Who is an Immigrant?

Immigration Law Immigrant US National US Citizen

Posted on 11/20/2018 at 08:00 AM by David Gonzales

Immigration law is more than just a hot political topic of the day. For the potential immigrant, legal permanent resident or future citizen a single immigration application has the power to change the path of their life. In political debates words with specific meaning in immigration law are often twisted to serve a political agenda. For example, consider the question “who is an immigrant?” and answer to yourself. Unless you took several minutes to examine the governing law in the United States, The Immigration and Naturalization Act (“INA”), it’s likely your answer wasn’t correct.

The INA separates the world into three broad categories. The first group are US Citizens and US Nationals. Second, everyone not included in the first group is considered an “alien” as defined by the INA. 8 U.S.C. §1101(a)(3). Finally, the term “immigrant” is defined as any “alien” not specified in twenty-two separate categories. 8 U.S.C. §1101(a)(15). To the surprise of many, those categories include several people typically categorized as “immigrants.”

A person from a foreign country entering the United States to attend school, including K-12 education, colleges and even seminaries. Not an immigrant. 8 U.S.C. §1101(a)(15)(F). A person from a foreign country entering the United States to work temporarily in a specialty field. Not an immigrant. 8 U.S.C. §1101(a)(15)(H). A famous basketball player coming to the United States to play in the NBA and anyone needed as an “integral” part of their performance. Not immigrants. 8 U.S.C. §1101(a)(15)(O). The list continues, but even in this short illustration, you can see how quickly even the definition of an immigrant becomes confusing.

Once the definitions are established it doesn’t get simpler. The INA is littered with cross references to determine eligibility for immigration benefits in the United States, inadmissibility and deportability. Some sections refer to regulations in other areas of the Federal government, most frequently the Department of Labor. Immigration law doesn’t just touch defined “aliens,” but also employers due to penalties imposed for employment of aliens without work authorization in 1986 or even mistakes on the I-9 verification form. PL 99-603, 100 Stat. 3359 (Nov. 6, 1986); 8 C.F.R. 274a.2.  We have put together a quick reference guide to help sort out the definitions for you.

If you’re considering petitioning for a temporary or permanent worker, a relative, or even yourself Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler & Hagen P.C. is happy to help guide you along the winding path of immigration law in the United States.


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