What Immigration Laws Should I Be Aware Of?

With the number of immigrants in the United States of America at around 45 million, there’s more awareness around immigration than ever. Immigrants are much more common in society than they might have been a few decades ago, and provide a huge amount for the US economy.

Unfortunately, however, when moving to a strange country, some people aren’t aware of the immigration laws that they should be. 

Immigration is a long and complicated process, and until naturalization, there are many stipulations around applying to become a resident of the US and existing as one. 

That’s why it’s essential that you look into the immigration laws applicable to your specific situation and stay on top of them. 

Family-Based Immigration Laws

Family-based immigration can include spouses, children, and other immediate relatives. Many people assume that being an immediate relative of a US citizen means applying for a Green Card and exiting the same way a citizen might as soon as they get here.

What You Should Know as an Immediate Relative

As an immediate relative, your class of visa has likely granted you a green card upon entering the country. The stamp you’re granted at the border means you can immediately start to work, but there are certain things that will still cost you your Green Card, including voting and abandoning your residence in the States.

Your Green Card will also likely have an expiration date. Make sure you apply to renew it, or remove the conditions if applicable, at the right time. Otherwise, your presence might end up being unlawful. 

Make sure you know what’s required to keep your permanent residency and file all paperwork at the right time. 

What You Should Know as a Significant Other

A citizen can petition for their significant other to join them in America in two ways — as a spouse, or as a fiancé.

A spouse exists the same way any other immediate relative might, granted a Green Card on arrival, but for a fiancé, it’s even more essential to be aware of immigration law. Fiancés must marry within 90 days and apply for adjustment of status, which means they cannot get a social security number, work, or leave the country.

Doing any of this will cost you your future residency as a fiancé, and it’s important to remember. 

The Public Charge Law

Whether you’re an immediate relative, a soon-to-be spouse or anyone else immigrating on a family basis, you must be aware of the public charge rule and its updates in 2020. 

This means that you can be denied admission if it doesn’t seem like you’re going to be self-sufficient, and might try to claim government benefits.

It’s important to be aware of this through the application process especially so you will not be denied. Make sure your sponsor (the person petitioning you to move to the States) is not claiming any benefits and making enough money to support you, and try to build a good employment history for yourself. 

Since the rule is somewhat vague and often comes down to officer discretion at the day of the immigration interview, it’s important to be prepared. It might be no concern for them at all, or it might be a huge one, and many factors come into play. 

Employment-Based Immigration Laws

US immigration laws are different for those who come to the country through their employment. Although various employment visas are offered, most of these are nonimmigrant (including the H1B visa). It is illegal to establish residency on one of these, and the only true way to immigrate on an employment basis is to be an extremely skilled and desired worker.

Do not enter the US on a nonimmigrant work visa with the intent to establish residency and stay, as this is illegal. 

Asylum or Refugee-Based Immigration

US immigration laws surrounding asylum seekers and refugees are constantly changing, but they must have fled their country and prove that they are leaving behind potential persecution because of race, religion, or a number of other factors. 

It is important to note that although you can come to the US and apply for asylum, the laws surrounding this may make things difficult and it’s important to remember this. You can’t apply for employment authorization until a year after your asylum application was filed, and it’s nearly impossible to get healthcare. 

The laws make the country difficult for asylum seekers and refugees, but it’s presumably less so than their home country. It’s just important to ensure you don’t do anything wrong and risk your application being refused, because that will lead to deportation. 


Deportation is what happens when you break immigration law. You are sent out of the United States, and it can happen for a number of reasons:

  • You worked when you weren’t supposed to, breaking the terms of your visa
  • You established residency on a nonimmigrant visa
  • You had a criminal conviction for something unrelated to immigration, but that breaks the terms of your visa or residency
  • You’ve overstayed your visa
  • You committed fraud — for example, married someone purely for a green card and did not enter “in good faith”

The reason it’s important to be aware of every new immigration law, as well as the ones who’ve been around forever, is because you never want to hit this point. By staying educated about what laws apply to you, you can avoid breaking them.

If you do know someone who has been detained by ICE, visit here to find out about immigration bail bonds and anything else you might need to know. 

Keep Yourself Informed

Keeping yourself updated when it comes to immigration laws is the only way to stay on top of them. As an immigrant, it’s important to keep a clean record and know what’s allowed and what isn’t so any future applications go smoothly and you aren’t deported from the States.

Ultimately, you will only have exactly the same leisures as a citizen if you choose to naturalize, which will take years. Until then, make sure you know the difference.

For more life tips, check out the rest of our blog!

Written by George K.

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