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Immigration law is very complex and subject to frequent change. The following information provides an overview, but it is necessary to consult an immigration attorney regarding your specific situation to ensure the success of an individual petition or application.

People who reside in the United States fall into the following classifications: a) US citizens, born here or legally naturalized, b) lawful permanent residents, c) foreign nationals who legally reside and work here, and c) undocumented immigrants who enter the US illegally and are unauthorized to live or work here.

Foreign nationals can enter the United States for various reasons but must have visas to legally arrive and stay here. A visa is a document that certifies that a US embassy or consulate abroad has determined that the holder is eligible for entry to the US for a specific purpose and can travel to a port of entry to be inspected. Immigrant and nonimmigrant visas are visas that allow qualified aliens to live and work here. Immigrant visas are usually employment-based or family-based. Immigration laws establish the criteria for visas and set caps on the number of visas conferred.

US businesses or organizations can sponsor foreign workers for various types of nonimmigrant visas, immigrant visas, or permanent resident status. Nonimmigrant and immigrant worker visas fall into different categories dependent on the occupation of the individual. Family-based petitions allow US citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor relatives who live abroad to immigrate here. Additionally, immigrants, under some conditions, can self-petition for permanent resident status. Lawful permanent resident status gives foreign nationals the right to live and work in the US permanently and qualifies them to apply for naturalization as US citizens.