When immigrating to the US, there are four different types of immigration status categories that individuals may fall into: citizens, residents, non-immigrants, and undocumented immigrants.
What Is an Immigration Status?
Everyone within the U.S. has an immigration status, which refers to the type of presence individuals have in the country. There are several non-immigrant and immigrant status types based on the level of residency in the country and whether a person has citizenship.
Immigrants and non-immigrants can change their status by taking the proper steps and going through various government agencies. These agencies include the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) under the DHS, the Department of State (DOS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The American government gives non-immigrants and immigrants the ability to adjust their status under certain circumstances when they complete the necessary forms, including Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. However, you must meet specific requirements to qualify for the different immigration statuses.
Types of Immigration Statuses
If you’re new to the immigration process, one of your first questions is likely to be, “What are the types of immigration status?” There are four main immigration status types that are important to know.
Here, we’ll provide an overview of these immigrant status types to help you determine which steps to take. Based on your current immigration status, you can also learn more about your rights and how to proceed with an immigration case.
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. The 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 refugee status. Immigrants can seek asylum in the U.S. by meeting some requirements. 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 case 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.
You should understand the different types of immigration status and what they entail if you want to adjust your status, whether you aim to become a lawful permanent resident or a U.S. citizen.
An experienced immigration attorney may be able to help you determine what options you have regarding immigration. You may then get a better idea of what steps to take to adjust your status and become a lawful resident or citizen.