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					                                           The Legal Immigration Process
                                           The legal immigration process in the United States is complicated, lengthy, costly, and not available to
                                           many who would like to be part of it. For these reasons, and because the process does not provide the
                                           United States with the number of workers its economy demands, the U.S. immigration system is widely
    www.mdcathcon.org                      regarded as “broken.”

                                                                 2. Employment-Based: Employers sponsor a                   Completing the Immigration Process
    Opportunities for Legal Immigration
                                                                 potential employee for immigration; in select
                                                                 cases extraordinarily-qualified immigrants may
The first step in legally immigrating to the                                                                             An immigrant must have a legal immigrant visa
                                                                 immigrate without an employer-sponsor.
United States is to obtain an immigrant visa.                                                                            to be eligible for legal permanent residency and
                                                                 Employer sponsors must demonstrate that
Most immigrants obtain visas through the                                                                                 U.S. citizenship, but the visa is not enough. To
                                                                 there are an insufficient number of qualified
sponsorship of close family                                                                                              acquire a “green card,” an immigrant must first
                                                                 workers available in the United States to meet
members or employers. Others                                                                                             apply to adjust his status to legal permanent
                                                                 their need. The wait can last 7 to 8 years
qualify for visas as asylees or                                                                                          resident. The Department of Homeland Security
                                                                 because of the limited number of visas.
refugees, fleeing persecution in                                                                                         then verifies that there are no medical,
their home countries. Of all                                     3. Asylum and Refugee Status: These                     financial, criminal or prior immigration violation
others wishing to come, only                                     protections are available to people who are             grounds to deny the application, which costs
the luckiest few will have a                                     unable or unwilling to return to their home             $1,010. Most people need an attorney to help
chance to do so legally; those                                   countries because of persecution or a well-             them navigate the complex process, incurring
coming from countries like                                       founded fear of persecution on account of race,         additional costs of several thousand dollars.
Mexico will have virtually no opportunity                        religion, nationality, membership in a particular       Most legal permanent residents are allowed to
whatsoever. Below are the four most common                       social group or political opinion. In general,          apply for citizenship after five years. To gain
ways of obtaining an immigrant visa:                             asylee status is granted in the United States           citizenship, they must demonstrate good moral
                                                                 and refugee status is granted outside of it.            character and a basic knowledge of English,
1. Family-based: A U.S. citizen or a legal                                                                               U.S. history and government. The citizenship
permanent resident (a “green card” holder)                       4. Diversity Lottery: For those who don’t               application costs $675.
sponsors a family member for immigration.                        have a family member or employer to sponsor
Waiting periods for obtaining such visas vary                    them, the Diversity Lottery may be an option.           It is important to note that immigration law is a
depending on the closeness of the family                         Only 50,000 winners are granted visas annually                           type of administrative – not
relationship, and can be lengthy, because a                      in this process. Not everyone is eligible to enter                       criminal – law. Immigration
limited number of visas are available each year.                 the lottery: The program aims to increase                                legal procedures like
                                                                 immigration from underrepresented countries,                             deportations do not proceed
    Sponsor          Family relationship         Wait for visa                                                                            through the U.S. judicial
                                                                 so each year the State Department issues a list
                     Spouse, minor child,
 U.S. citizen
                     parent
                                                Immediate        of those countries whose citizens may not                                system. They take place within
                                                3.5 years        apply. For 2008, immigrants from the following                           the U.S. Department of Justice.
 U.S. citizen        Adult unmarried child
                                                (up to 14*)      countries are excluded from the visa lottery:                            Because deportation is
                                                6.5 years
 U.S. citizen        Adult married child
                                                (up to 14*)      Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, the Dominican                           considered an administrative
 U.S. citizen        Brother or sister
                                                12 years         Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica,           correction and not a criminal punishment,
                                                (up to 20*)
                                                                 Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, Peru, Poland,        undocumented immigrants facing deportation
 Perm. resident      Spouse, minor child         5 years
                                                                 Russia, South Korea, the United Kingdom and             do not have the right to legal counsel provided
 Perm. resident      Adult unmarried child      9 years          Vietnam.                                                by the government. As most cannot afford legal
*Some countries of origin, including Mexico, China, and the                                                              representation, they face the system alone.
Philippines, have more restrictive visa availabilities.
Special thanks to staff of the Hispanic Apostolate/Immigration Legal Services of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Baltimore for their help in preparing this piece.
The Hispanic Apostolate/Immigration Legal Services has provided services to immigrants in the Baltimore metropolitan area for more than 40 years.

				
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