First, immigration law includes individuals who are attempting to come to the United States for temporary periods of time. Those people are called non-immigrants. These are limited duration visa cases, like student visas or certain investment-based visas. Certain employment-based visas fall under this category also, as do visitors or tourists to the United States.
The second realm of immigration law includes individuals who are legally considered immigrants. Immigrants are those who are trying to stay here permanently. These people are applying for green cards (legal permanent residence), or naturalization.
The third realm of immigration law involves people who are in the United States without permission and may be trying to obtain legal status by changing their status from undocumented to documented. These people may deal affirmatively with USCIS, or they may be in removal proceedings, which is a process that would benefit from the experience of a DC immigration attorney. Removal proceedings involve people who the government is actively trying to deport (or “remove”) from the U.S. In these cases, the individual has to defend themselves and try to find a route to legalization.
The United States Immigration System
People who are attempting to come to the United States for limited periods of time or who are entering the United States from abroad are applying for nonimmigrant or immigrant visas, and will be dealing primarily with the U.S. Department of State, the consular posts, and embassies abroad. The final decision on whether or not they are allowed entry into the United States is generally determined at the consular post or embassies.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Another branch that is within the United States is called USCIS, or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. If you are applying for some sort of status, like a green card or citizenship, you will apply through USCIS. If you are petitioning for a family member, the first part of your application will be handled by USCIS. USCIS is the branch of the government that dispenses immigration benefits.
There are also different branches of USCIS, like the asylum office that evaluates claims for affirmative asylum, ICE, and Border Patrol. ICE officials are individuals within the United States who are trying to find undocumented people and remove them or place them into deportation proceedings. Border Patrol is a division of ICE, but they are stationed at the border and are in charge of admitting people when they are applying for admission or catching people who are trying to enter illegally.
Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR)
If you apply for an application with USCIS and it is denied, and they determine that you are removable from the United States, your case will be transferred to another branch called the EOIR, or Executive Office of Immigration Review. This is the immigration court, and it is not an administrative office but a formal court setting. There is a judge, a prosecutor who falls under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security, and you are allowed to have an immigration attorney from DC, though they will not be paid for by the government.