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What you should know about immigration

Would you risk your life traveling in shark infested waters, floating 90 miles across the Florida straits in a makeshift raft overflowing with people, all in the hopes of making land in the United States to start a new life? This phenomenon is just one example of our current immigration policy. Our current immigration policy is receiving increased attention due to the growing concern over terrorism and the lack of comprehensive immigration reform.

Since 1966, Cubans successfully making this trip are granted political asylum and ultimately a green card under the Cuban Adjustment Act; a remnant of our cold war policy towards Cuba. In light of our improving relations with Cuba, increasing number of Cubans are attempting this trek in anticipation of a change in the US immigration policy that will close this loophole.

But how does our immigration system work? Immigration laws not only impact individuals attempting to live in the U.S. but all of us- whether you are a Native American, been here for a few years or several generations.

The Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) provides for up to 675,000 permanent immigrants each year with certain exceptions for close family members. Our policy is guided by the principles of reunification of families, individuals with valuable skills to the U.S. economy, protecting refugees and promoting diversity.

Family-Based Immigration

According to the American Immigration Council, there are as many as 480,000 family-based visas available each year. This immigration category allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to bring certain family members to this country. Immediate family members must meet certain age and financial requirements. They must be spouses, unmarried minor children or parents of U.S. citizens.

If not immediate family members, a limited number of visas are available under a family preference system that includes adult children and siblings of U.S. citizens and spouses and unmarried children of lawful permanent residents.

Employment-Based Immigration

Permanent employment-based immigration is based on a preference system. Priority is given to persons of extraordinary ability in the arts, science, education, business or athletics. Individuals with advanced degrees, skilled workers, and persons who will invest in job creating enterprises that employs at least 10 fulltime U.S. citizens.  

Temporary visas are available for nonimmigrant workers in more than 20 different categories. These individuals are generally only expected to stay in the U.S. for a period of time before returning to their home country. These include individuals transferring to a division in a business located in the U.S., athletes, entertainers, religious workers, diplomatic employees as well as highly skilled workers.


There are many different types of legal admission available for individuals escaping persecution or facing life-threatening conditions in their native country. According to the Congressional Research Service, the worldwide refugee limit is 70,000 and is allocated based upon a regional distribution with a majority coming from Africa and Asia.

Persecution must be due to race, membership in a social group, political opinion, religion or natural origin.

Diversity Visa Program

The Immigration Act of 1990 created the Diversity Visa lottery as a route for individuals with low immigration rates to our country. Each year, 55,000 visas are allocated randomly and applicants must have a high school education and at least two years working in a skilled profession.

U.S. Citizenship

In order to qualify for U.S. citizenship through naturalization, an individual must have a green card for at least five years, must be at least 18 years of age, demonstrate good moral character, pass English, U.S. History and Civics exams among other requirements.  

As you can see, citizenship is a valuable right that should not be taken take lightly. For immigration questions, do consult with an attorney experienced in immigration!  

Till next time, God bless, keep smiling, when Your Legal Corner will discuss “Staying in your own home as you age…tips on retaining a home service specialist.” Victoria M. Dalton is a dedicated Family/Elder Law Attorney with the Law Offices of Hoffman DiMuzio. Email correspondence to [email protected] or call 856-845-8243.

Please note that Your Legal Corner was created to provide educational material about the law and is not legal advice.

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