What are the Different Categories of Immigration Status?

September 25, 2020

Individuals interested in becoming naturalized citizens in the United States should learn the different categories of immigration status in the country. Understanding each type can help someone determine how best to go about the process of legally moving through the national immigration process. This information can also be helpful to someone who is unsure of each category or wants a better definition for themselves or for a friend or relative.

Where Do United States Citizens Fit In?

Although United States citizens are not technically immigrants, they belong to any list pertaining to immigration status. Some individuals can become naturalized U.S. citizens, which means that they are considered permanent residents. The benefits of being a U.S. citizen include certain rights and freedoms. U.S. citizens cannot be deported, except under very specific and rare circumstances. U.S. citizens also have the ability to petition the courts to obtain U.S. citizenship for family members, such as a husband, wife, or child.

Lawful Permanent Residents

Permanent residents, sometimes called lawful permanent residents, are not United States citizens, but they still gain many advantages. Permanent residents hold green cards, which prove the person has the right to live in the United States. Permanent residents can apply for public benefits, such as federal help with student tuition and food assistance programs.

Anyone who is a permanent resident can apply to become a naturalized U.S. citizen after a predetermined period. The period is typically between three to five years, and the timespan depends on how the permanent resident obtained the green card. For example, permanent residents who obtained their green cards through marriage may wait three years until they can start the process to become naturalized citizens. On the other hand, permanent residents who received a green card to work in the country for a company usually have to wait five years to seek naturalized citizenship.

Conditional Resident of the United States

A conditional resident of the United States is a person who can obtain a green card but has to wait for a period of time. Most conditional residents in the U.S. are married. They have a small window of time to file a petition for permanent residency with their spouse’s help. If they do not file for permanent residency, they may run the risk of immediate deportation when the time runs out on their conditional status. Consequently, many conditional residents work with immigration lawyers to ensure that they do not miss critical deadlines in the process to file for green cards. As a reminder, any conditional resident who becomes a permanent resident can eventually become a naturalized citizen after waiting and filling out the correct paperwork.

What If Someone is Temporary to the United States or a Non-Immigrant?

Plenty of people from foreign countries live, attend school, or work in the United States, but may have no desire or intention to become permanent residents or naturalized citizens. These temporary residents are non-immigrants who are legally allowed to be in the country for a specific period. Examples of non-immigrants include college students seeking higher education at an American institute on an F-1 visa and foreign citizens who are engaged to a U.S. citizen with K-1 visas to temporarily stay in the nation. B1 and B2 visas are typically held by travelers or corporate employees who plan to be in the U.S. for an extended time.

What Does It Mean When Someone is an Undocumented Non-Citizen?

The news is filled with headlines about undocumented non-citizens, but it can be tough to understand what that term means. As an immigration status category, it encompasses anyone who does not fit into the categories of U.S. citizen, naturalized citizen, permanent resident, conditional resident, or non-immigrant. Anyone who overstays a visa may be designated as an undocumented non-citizen.

Undocumented non-citizens may come from any other foreign country and are not offered the public benefits afforded to other categories of immigrants or naturalized citizens. Although some employers may illegally hire undocumented workers, the workers cannot receive any advantage of living in the nation, such as holding a legally obtained driver’s license or receiving a social security number.

How can I Become a Naturalized Citizen?

The United States immigration process is complex and can be difficult to understand, especially if people interested in eventually becoming permanent residents or naturalized citizens experience a language barrier. However, any immigrant who has been lawful may want to investigate the process.

Visiting an immigration lawyer is a good first step for anyone who is an immigrant in the U.S. Lawyers specialize in understanding the nuances of immigration law, and they stay on top of any changes. Plus, an immigration lawyer can be of great assistance to those who want to pursue family-sponsored visas, or individuals who are interested in self-petitioning for permanent residency.

Currently, immigration is a hot topic for many politicians, which could affect the ability of a non-citizen to become a naturalized citizen in the future. Partnering with a helpful lawyer can make the experience of filling out and submitting necessary forms easier and can ensure that deadlines are not overstepped.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at the MC Law Group, LLC Help Clients with Citizenship Issues

If you have concerns about your immigration status, contact a Philadelphia immigration lawyer at the MC Law Group, LLC today. We will review your case and determine how you can obtain a visa, green card, or citizenship. Call us at 215-496-0690 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout the tri-state area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.