FAQs about Immigration 

Basic answers to questions about immigration procedures and proceedings

As business expands globally and international borders blur, more and more people from other nations seek to come to the United States. The Pacific Northwest in particular — with its tech industry base, relaxed atmosphere and breathtaking landscapes — has become popular as a destination for companies who wish to hire people from all over the world.  Kell, Alterman & Runstein, L.L.P. offers both businesses and foreign nationals sensible and knowledgeable immigration attorneys who know how to resolve the most difficult immigration situations and obtain visas, green cards and permanent residency for clients.

Treating clients in the Pacific Northwest with care and respect

The attorneys of Kell, Alterman & Runstein, L.L.P. have been providing the highest levels of legal service for more than 80 years. To speak with a dedicated attorney about immigration, contact the firm online or call us at 503-222-3531.

  1. Who is permitted to enter the United States from a foreign country?
  2. Can family members sponsor relatives for U.S. immigrant visas for permanent entry?
  3. How can a foreign national gain lawful permanent resident (LPR) status?
  4. What is naturalization?
  5. What is the diversity lottery?
  6. How does a foreign national extend his or her stay in the United States?
  7. What are deportable offenses?
  8. Does the United States set a limit on the number of people designated as refugees and asylum seekers on humanitarian grounds each year?

1. Who is permitted to enter the United States from a foreign country?

U.S. law establishes four principal means by which a foreign national legally can enter the country:

  • Employment-based immigration
  • Family-based immigration
  • Refugee or asylee status
  • The diversity lottery

Each category covers a variety of situations, some allowing permanent immigration and some only temporary stays in the country. The government allows temporary or permanent immigration for economic reasons, such as filling jobs for which there are few qualified U.S. workers — or in which a foreign national has a greater specialization — and for humanitarian reasons, such as reuniting families or granting asylum or refugee status.

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2. Can family members sponsor relatives for U.S. immigrant visas for permanent entry?

With some exceptions and restriction, a U.S. citizen may sponsor a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a minor or adult child, or a fiancé for an immigrant visa. Additionally, a foreign national in the United States with lawful permanent resident status — a green card holder — may sponsor a spouse, or an unmarried child for residency. Citizens and permanent residents who sponsor relatives for immigration must have a certain level of earnings and agree to support legally incoming family members.

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3. How can a foreign national gain lawful permanent resident (LPR) status?

This is the area of immigration law for which it is most advisable to seek representation by an immigration attorney. The two main ways a foreign national can become an LPR are:

  1. Sponsorship by  a family member already living in the United States as a citizen or lawful permanent resident
  2. Sponsorship by an employer for a U.S. job that falls into a particular category set out by federal law

Foreign nationals also may be eligible to register for the diversity lottery and those with fear of persecution at home may qualify as refugees or asylees. Kell, Alterman & Runstein, L.L.P. offers both businesses and families sensible and knowledgeable immigration attorneys to help a close relative or an employee gain permanent residency in the United States.

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4. What is naturalization?

Naturalization allows a foreign national with a visa granted in the United States to become a U.S. citizen. To gain naturalization, a foreign national must almost always have held a green card for a number of years. With some exceptions, to be allowed to naturalize, the individual must:

  • Be of “good moral character”
  • Take an oath of allegiance to the United States
  • Pass English literacy, history and government tests
  • Interview successfully with a government official to establish the right to citizenship

The decision to naturalize is highly subjective; an immigration attorney can answer some crucial questions.

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5. What is the diversity lottery?

The diversity lottery is a U.S. Department of State program that issues up to 55,000 diversity visas (DVs) each year to foreign nationals from regions and countries with low immigration rates to the United States, generally fewer than 50,000 immigrants over the past five years. Each year, foreign nationals who meet the criteria for the lottery are placed into a pool and randomly selected by a computer program for the available visas. An immigration attorney can help foreign nationals determine if their country falls under the current lottery and how to apply for a spot in the annual process.

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6. How does a foreign national extend a stay in the United States?

Many nonimmigrant visa categories, such as student visas and temporary business visas,  allow for extensions of time in the United States, but they are limited. Government permission to stay beyond the original time periods granted is highly discretionary, not automatic. To extend a foreign national’s stay in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa, the person must apply with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before the foreign national's last authorized day in the United States.

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7. What are deportable offenses?

Deportable offenses are those actions for which foreign nationals of any type of visa must leave the United States and return to their home countries immediately. Some deportable offenses are:

  • Using fraudulent documents to enter the United States
  • Providing material misrepresentations to receive a visa
  • Committing certain types of crimes
  • Posing a threat to national security or engaging in terroristic activity
  • Helping others enter the country illegally
  • Overstaying a visa
  • Voting illegally

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8. Does the United States set a limit on the number of people designated as refugees and asylum seekers on humanitarian grounds each year?

The President of the United States sets an annual limit on the numbers of refugees to be admitted from outside the United States, but not on the number of asylum seekers who have already arrived on U.S. soil. Kell, Alterman & Runstein, L.L.P. attorneys can help a persecuted foreign national make a claim for asylum, but cannot help bring a refugee to the United States.