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Non-Immigrant vs. Immigrant Status

Anyone who legally enters the country and is not a United States citizen has either an immigrant or nonimmigrant status. A non-immigrant is someone who enters the country on a temporary basis – meaning they are only approved to stay for a limited period of time. Common examples of non-immigrants include people here on work visa for temporary work, school, tourism or business. Once you enter in the United States on a non-immigrant visa, your stay is restricted to the limited activity that you were approved for. For example, an individual approved for temporary work under an H-1B visa can only stay in the country if they maintain employment with the same employer. They cannot normally leave that job and go to work for a different company, unless it meets the requirements of the work visa. It is important to note that most non-immigrant visas will only be issued to an applicant who can demonstrate his or her intention to return to their home country. If the government thinks you are merely applying for a non-immigrant visa with the dual-intent to actually become a permanent resident, they may not issue it to you. There are only a few exceptions to the dual intent rule which includes the K-1 visa, typically referred to as the fiancé visa. This allows a U.S. citizen or resident alien to bring over their fiancé to the United States with the intention of being married and becoming a legal permanent resident or even U.S. citizen later on.

Green Card vs. Visa Holder

In contrast, someone who is in the country under immigrant status is a legal permanent resident in the United States, also called a green card holder. A legal permanent resident enjoys much more protection under the law than a non-immigrant but still no where near the amount of privileges a United States citizenship. For example, individuals legally present in the United States as a visa holder or legal permanent resident can be become subject to removal and deportation if they violate any regulations including certain criminal convictions. This is why it is so important to go through the naturalization process and obtain citizenship because you will receive every protection guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. An adjustment of status to get your green card or to obtain citizenship down the line can be a lengthy and complicated process. It is always recommended that you consult with an experienced immigration attorney about the procedures and requirements well in advance. At the Law Offices of William A. Proetta our immigration lawyers offer free initial consultations so you can learn more about how we can help you and your family. Contact us today at (732) 450-8300 to speak with a representative 24/7.


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