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United States Immigration Laws

  • Immigration and Nationality Act: Codified under Title 8 of the U.S. Code, this 1952 act and its 1965 amendments form the basic body of U.S. immigration law.

  • Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986: This act strengthened U.S. measures to deter illegal immigration through bolstered border enforcement and sanctions against employers that knowingly hire illegal aliens. It also offered certain eligible illegal aliens to apply for temporary-resident status.

  • Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986: Under the presumption that many marriages between foreign nationals and U.S. citizens are simply attempts to circumvent the U.S. immigration system, this act imposes a two-year conditional status for those immigrating under the basis of marriage when the marriage is less than two years old. If the marriage is not deemed valid, conditional status may be removed and the person may be deported.

    • Legitimacy issues that arise under this act include whether:
      • There is an obstacle such as an unresolved prior marriage that renders the current marriage void
      • The marriage was entered into with the good-faith intention to live together as spouses
      • The marriage was legal or valid in the place where it occurred

    • Couples should be prepared to offer proof of the legitimacy of the marriage, such as:
      • Proof of divorce decree or death certificate, if either spouse was previously married
      • Marriage certificate or wedding photographs
      • Birth certificates for children of the marriage
      • Copies of contracts concerning the property of both spouses
      • Letters from U.S. citizens verifying that the marriage is legitimate

    • Related forms and other documentation:
      • I-130, Form I-485, G-325A
      • Medical exam and biometrics required of foreign spouse
      • Passport, birth certificate or naturalization certificate of U.S. citizen spouse

  • Immigration Act of 1990: This act lists the nine preference visa categories forming the basis for family- and employment-based immigration.

    • Family-sponsored preferences
      • Unmarried children of U.S. citizens
      • Spouses, children and unmarried children of permanent resident aliens
      • Married children of U.S. citizens
      • Siblings of U.S. citizens

    • Employment-based preferences
      • Priority workers: persons of outstanding ability, professors and researchers, and certain multinational executives
      • Professionals with advanced academic degrees or ability
      • Skilled workers, professionals without advanced degrees and needed unskilled workers
      • Special immigrants, such as ministers
      • Investors or other employment-generating immigrants

  • Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996: This act prescribes mandatory deportation, called “removal,” has crime-based mandatory detentions and can bar residency status for anyone providing false information in immigration documents.

Last update: Sept. 25, 2008

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