Immigration law refers to national government policies which control the phenomenon of immigration to their country.
Immigration law, regarding foreign citizens, is related to nationality law, which governs the legal status of people, in matters such as citizenship. Immigration laws vary from country to country, as well as according to the political climate of the times, as sentiments may sway from the widely inclusive to the deeply exclusive of new immigrants.
Immigration law regarding the citizens of a country is regulated by international law. The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights mandates that all countries allow entry to its own citizens.
Certain countries may maintain rather strict laws which regulate both the right of entry and internal rights, such as the duration of stay and the right to participate in government. Most countries have laws which designate a process for naturalization, by which immigrants may become citizens.
Immigration law in the USA
The immigration laws in the United States have experienced uneven progress. During colonial times independent colonies created their immigration laws. The first attempt to naturalize foreigners was through the Naturalization Act of 1790. However many years later the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed to stop the immigration of Chinese people. The Emergency Quota Act of 1921 and the Immigration Act of 1924 put a quota on how many immigrants were permitted, based on nationality and previous influx years. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 led to the creation of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the Department of State, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Health and Human Services. Of the five, the Department of Homeland Security, which replaced the Immigration and Naturalization Service, enforces immigration laws and bestows benefits on aliens. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection.
Every year, the federal government conducts a Diversity Visa Lottery. The lottery grants citizens of other countries legal entry into the United States. However only those from countries “with low rates of immigration to the United States” are allowed to apply.
Presently, visas in the United States can be broadly separated into two categories: one for people seeking to live in the US; termed Immigrant Visas, and the other for people coming for limited durations, termed Non-Immigrant Visas. The former visa has “per country-caps”, and the latter does not. Most non-immigrant visas are for work purposes, and usually require an offer of employment from a US business. Such immigration may involve restriction such as a labor certification to ensure that no American workers are presently able to fill the role of the job, hence designed to protect wages and conditions. Other categories include student, family and tourist visas. Each visa category is presently further divided into numerous subcategories; the large number of specific categories has been recommended as a main area for comprehensive immigration reform.
The United States allows more than 1 million aliens to become Legal Permanent Residents every year, which is more than any other country in the world. The United States also issues more Visas than any country in the world.
Immigration law became a serious political issue in the USA, particularly after 9/11.
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