The immigration status that you have in the United States affects your rights and obligations according to the law. It is possible to change categories, but sometimes this is practically impossible.

  1. American Citizens

Being a citizen has important advantages such as the impossibility of being deported. Additionally, only in extreme and specific cases, the citizenship is cancelled. The papers for different categories of relatives can be requested, and through DAPA, citizens may extend their protection against deportation to their parents.

American citizenship extends to U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico.

  1. Legal Permanent Residents (LPR)

Legal permanent residents hold a Green Card. They are allowed to live and work indefinitely in the United States, but they are not citizens. This means that their rights are more limited, and that they have specific obligations that apply only to them.

  1. Foreginers with a Nonimmigrant Visa or Tourists without a Visa

This category includes the following types of visa:

Dual Intent Visas: they are usually H-1B work visas for professionals and models, and the L-1 (versions A and B) for executives, managers and staff with specialized knowledge working for multinationals.  This type of visa is highly coveted, especially because their holders do not have to prove their intention to go back to their country. They may stay in the U.S. as immigrants, and get a Green Card through sponsoring.

Special Visas: the K-3/K-4 for spouses/children of American citizens, which is little used; and the K-1/K-2, for boyfriends/girlfriends of citizens and their children, which is more commonly used. Once you enter the U.S., follow all visa requirements. That is, not getting married in time or marrying someone different from the person who requested the visa is a serious mistake.

  1. Nonimmigrant Visas:

There are many and they are very different from one another (students, businesses and even tourism). However, they have one thing in common: in order to get them, immigrants have to prove that they will not to stay in the United States, and that they have strong family and economic ties in the country where they currently live.

  1. Undocumented Immigrants

It is estimated that in the United States live more than 11 million undocumented people. They lack access to benefits and, in most states, they cannot get a driver’s license (although there are important exceptions).

Special Situations

Some people in the United States have a special situation because of their personal circumstances such as: Asylum U visa for victims of violence, VAWA or T Visa for victims of human trafficking

In general, if they meet the requirements, these people may eventually obtain a Green Card.