US Immigration Laws Better Explained

Immigration Laws

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Immigration into the United States is a difficult process, yet it’s a process through which so many individuals spend years of their life and much of their money working through. Various levels of the US government have taken different stances on immigration in terms of where immigrants should come from, whether or not the nation should allow skilled versus unskilled workers, and how much immigration there should be. Given the complexity of the laws — that are likely to evolve given recent Senate action — the only certainty is that it is essential for those involved to speak to an immigration lawyer when assistance is required in navigating the process.

Current US Immigration Laws

Currently, there are several important US laws that relate to immigration to the country:

  • IMMACT, the 1990 Immigration Act, describes the criteria under which legal immigration is acceptable;
  • The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), which outlines the consequences for living in the US illegally;
  • The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), which outlines many categories of criminal activity for which immigrants, including green card holders, may be deported.

These are the main laws pertaining to immigration within the US. Most issues that immigrants experience, whether it be with the criteria for legal immigration, or the chance of facing deportation versus detainment, fall under the jurisdiction of these three acts.


The Immigration Act passed in 1990 sets out all the criteria for legal immigration into the United States, and focuses on the following:

  • Limiting overall legal immigration to 700,000 visas per year;
  • Allowing reunion of families by providing visas for close family members of US citizens;
  • Meeting labor market needs by increasing the number of employment-based visas and giving high priority to the entry of professional and highly skilled persons;
  • Increasing diversity in the US by making more visas available to potential immigrants from countries that do not see much US immigration.

Becoming familiar with the conditions of this law will greatly improve your chances of submitting a successful application for permanent residence to the US. If you are already in the US on some form of temporary visa, an immigration expert, such as US immigration lawyers in Dallas TX, will be of great assistance to you.


The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act outlines the dire consequences of living within the US without the permission to do so. This act means that:

  • Immigrants who have been illegally living in the US for between 180 and 365 days must leave and remain outside the US for three years unless a pardon is obtained;
  • Immigrants who have been illegally living in the US for over 365 days must leave and remain outside the US for ten years;
  • Returning to the US earlier than this may result in deportation and the inability to return to the US for a further ten years.

What’s more, deportees may detained for up to two years before being brought before an immigration board, which occurs at the cost of the defendant.


This act, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, was passed following the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City bombings. It is intended to deter terrorists and terrorism, provide justice for victims, and permit use of the death penalty where necessary. It also outlines how many different crimes committed by aliens in the US are punishable with regards to deportation or detainment.

Prior to ADEPA, a US alien had to receive a minimum jail term of five years for the crime to be considered an aggravated felony, but under ADEPA it is just one year. A crime considered an aggravated felony puts the alien at high risk from deportation from the US.


Author: Wyatt Hendricks is an immigration lawyer in Dallas, Texa s. Writing is his passion and he uses it as a tool to help out those who have questions about the immigration process. 


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