When immigrating to the US, there are four different immigration status categories that immigrants may fall into: citizens, residents, non-immigrants, and undocumented immigrants.
A US citizen is either a person who was born in the US or became a naturalized citizen following a period of three or five years as a resident in the country. US citizens are unable to be deported with the exception of cases involving citizenship gained by fraudulent means.
Immigrants who gain citizenship will be able to work legally and receive public benefits for which they qualify. They can also help family members such as spouses, children, parents, or siblings become legal residents and citizens.
Conditional and Permanent Residents
Conditional residents are individuals who receive their green card prior to completing two years of marriage. Conditional residency also requires immigrants and their spouses to jointly file to remove the condition before two years pass after receiving the green card. Otherwise, the green card will expire and the resident could be deported.
Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) are immigrants who have obtained a green card and are authorized to live and work in the US permanently. LPRs receive permanent resident cards, or green cards, that prove their status.
It’s possible to become a permanent resident by having an employer or family member sponsor the green card applicant, or if the immigrant becomes a permanent resident via asylee or refugee status. Some individuals may also be able to file for themselves under certain circumstances, such as when a spouse is unable or unwilling to file for them.
Individuals who are considered non-immigrants are legally living and working in the country on a temporary basis. Some examples of people with non-immigrant status could include students on an F-1 visa, fiancées on K-1 visas, tourists or business visitors on B1 or B2 visas, and others who are given temporary protected status.
Typically, individuals with non-immigrant status don’t intend to become residents. However, overstaying a visa, violating its terms, or obtaining a visa through fraudulent means could result in a change to undocumented status.
Undocumented immigrants are individuals who are in the country illegally or otherwise without permission, in which cases they would be unable to live in the US temporarily or permanently. They are also unable to legally work in the US and won’t have access to benefits accessible to residents such as driver’s licenses and health insurance.
Undocumented individuals face deportation at any time. Individuals will be considered undocumented if they overstay a temporary legal visa or enter the US illegally and neglect to go through a port of entry.
Understanding these statuses can help determine which steps to take to become legal citizens and avoid becoming undocumented or otherwise facing deportation.