How the Immigration System Works

The U.S. immigration system is complex and can be difficult to understand. These resources provide key data points, historical information, and background on hot topics in immigration. Learn the basics about immigration.

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All How the Immigration System Works Content

September 14, 2021
This fact sheet provides an overview of how Temporary Protected Status designations are made, what benefits TPS confers, and how TPS beneficiaries apply for and regularly renew their status.
September 14, 2021
U.S. immigration law is very complex, and there is much confusion as to how it works. This fact sheet provides basic information about how the U.S. legal immigration system is designed.
August 20, 2021
This fact sheet provides information on provision called “registry” that allows certain non-citizens who are long-term residents of the United States, but who are either undocumented or present in...
August 20, 2021
This fact sheet provides an overview of Documented Dreamers, explains how they can age out of immigration status at 21, and summarizes the current federal legislative proposals to protect them from...
August 2, 2021
This fact sheet from the Council provides an overview of how current immigration law allows certain undocumented immigrants to become Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) without first having to leave...
July 8, 2021
Current U.S. immigration law provides several paths for foreign workers to enter the United States for employment purposes on a temporary or permanent basis. This fact sheet provides basic...
June 11, 2020
Asylum seekers must navigate a difficult and complex process that can involve multiple government agencies. This fact sheet provides an overview of the asylum system in the United States, including...
November 25, 2019
There is no line available for unauthorized immigrants and the “regular channels” do not include them.
July 18, 2018
This fact sheet provides an overview of how USCIS calculates processing times and the concerns over the accuracy of these estimates.
June 11, 2018
Some confusion exists regarding the economic aspects of family-based immigration. To help unpack those aspects, this report focuses on one of them—namely, the earnings of family-based immigrants.
February 12, 2021
The Council submitted this declaration in support of the ACLU's defense of the Biden Administration's moratorium on deportations. This declaration explains how the removal and detention system works.
October 13, 2020
The American Immigration Council, the Immigration Defense Clinic at Colorado Law, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, submitted a comment in opposition to the Department of Homeland Security proposed rule on the "Collection and Use of Biometrics by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services."
October 6, 2020

This document provides a summary of the Department of Homeland Security's September 25, 2020, Proposed Rule, "...

September 25, 2020

The American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, through their joint initiative, the Immigration Justice Campaign, submitted this comment in opposition to...

September 15, 2020
This new rule will increase the total number of people who are required to submit biometric data from 3.9 million currently to 6.07 million—an increase of more than 60%.
July 29, 2020

The American Immigration Council submitted a written statement to the House Committee on Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship for a July 29, 2020 hearing on "Oversight of U....

July 16, 2019
The statement highlights the Council’s concerns regarding systemic U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services delays in responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
December 11, 2018
The American Immigration Council, with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, filed comments because a financial litmus test should never serve as a measure for who we welcome into our country.
February 6, 2016
The statement shares our analysis and research regarding the children and families that have fled Central American violence to the United States.
October 21, 2015
The statement shares our research and analysis regarding the children and families that have fled Central American violence to the United States.
September 14, 2021

The September 11th terrorist attacks not only led to the tragic deaths of 2,977 people, they fundamentally changed the nature of immigration law and policy in the United States. Since 9/11, the U....

August 31, 2021

The Biden administration predicts that it will fail to issue many of the legal permanent resident visas—also known as green cards—allotted this year for immigrants who have been sponsored by a U.S...

May 18, 2021

President Biden revoked a proclamation issued by former President Trump in 2019 that required nearly all prospective immigrants to demonstrate that they would be covered by private health...

March 15, 2021

The Biden administration must improve transparency in the U.S. immigration system. Such efforts go hand in hand with strengthening democratic institutions. Under the Freedom of Information Act (...

January 21, 2021

During his campaign, President Biden promised that immigration reform would be one of his top priorities upon taking office. After unveiling the summary of a sweeping immigration reform bill on...

December 2, 2020

As the Biden-Harris administration prepares to take office, many anxiously await what immigration policies the Trump administration will finalize in the lead up to Inauguration Day in the form of...

November 17, 2020

Lawful permanent residents seeking to become U.S. citizens will now be required to take a more difficult and longer citizenship test. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced...

November 12, 2020

This article is part of the Moving Forward on Immigration series that explores the future of immigration in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.  President-elect Joe Biden’s plan on...

October 21, 2020

The application fee to apply for U.S. citizenship was due to rise from $640 to $1170 on October 2. Though the fee hike was temporarily blocked in federal court, this is not the first time U.S....

October 12, 2020

The effort to permanently replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day signifies a growing movement to honor the resilience and history of indigenous communities. The day presents an...

October 22, 2020
The proposal would negatively impact American colleges and universities and foreign students seeking a higher education degree in the United States and have long-term effects for the legal immigration system.
July 31, 2020
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services—the government agency that administers the country's legal immigration system—is expected to announce Monday major fee hikes for many immigration-related applications and petitions. The increased fees will impact people applying for U.S. citizenship and asylum, as well as American businesses hiring or retaining employees vital to our country’s recovery from a global health and economic crisis.
May 27, 2020
The American Immigration Council's latest report examines major changes to the U.S. immigration system in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unique challenges the pandemic has created for noncitizens and government agencies.
April 22, 2020
President Donald Trump signed an executive order to temporarily suspend immigration to the United States. The order applies to many individuals currently outside the United States who do not yet have immigrant (permanent) visas.
August 12, 2019
The Department of Homeland Security announced a new regulation that redefines who can be considered a “public charge” under immigration law. The new regulation will likely have a chilling effect on America’s family-based immigration system, drastically limiting who will be permitted into the United States.
November 21, 2018
The American Immigration Council announced today that it will focus on the critical need for access to an attorney when navigating the immigration system during its #GivingTuesday and year-end fundraising campaign starting November 27.
November 8, 2018
The Trump administration revealed today a new interim final regulation that restricts access to asylum at the border, causing chaos and uncertainty for many seeking protection.
October 30, 2018
President Donald Trump said yesterday in an interview that he plans to sign an executive order to eliminate birthright citizenship, a principle enshrined in the U.S. Constitution that grants citizenship to any person born within the territory of the United States.
June 12, 2018
Through analysis of data from the decennial census and administrative data from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, this special report examines the earnings gains over time of all immigrants, as well as the earnings gains experienced by family-based immigrants compared to employment-based immigrants.
September 14, 2021

The September 11th terrorist attacks not only led to the tragic deaths of 2,977 people, they fundamentally changed the nature of immigration law and policy in the United States. Since 9/11, the U....

September 14, 2021
This fact sheet provides an overview of how Temporary Protected Status designations are made, what benefits TPS confers, and how TPS beneficiaries apply for and regularly renew their status.
September 14, 2021
U.S. immigration law is very complex, and there is much confusion as to how it works. This fact sheet provides basic information about how the U.S. legal immigration system is designed.
August 31, 2021

The Biden administration predicts that it will fail to issue many of the legal permanent resident visas—also known as green cards—allotted this year for immigrants who have been sponsored by a U.S...

August 20, 2021
This fact sheet provides information on provision called “registry” that allows certain non-citizens who are long-term residents of the United States, but who are either undocumented or present in...
August 20, 2021
This fact sheet provides an overview of Documented Dreamers, explains how they can age out of immigration status at 21, and summarizes the current federal legislative proposals to protect them from...
August 2, 2021
This fact sheet from the Council provides an overview of how current immigration law allows certain undocumented immigrants to become Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) without first having to leave...
July 21, 2021
The Council led a letter urging the Biden administration to ensure that all immigrant visas are processed up to the numerical limits by September 30, 2021 to avoid the loss of visas and further...
July 8, 2021
Current U.S. immigration law provides several paths for foreign workers to enter the United States for employment purposes on a temporary or permanent basis. This fact sheet provides basic...
June 24, 2021
This written statement submitted by the Council to Congress shares our analysis of the archaic U.S. immigration policies which are making the United States a less attractive destination for highly...

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