Immigration law is the federal law which regulates immigration to the United States. Immigration law in the United States is governed by federal statutes and determines whether a person is an alien, the rights, duties, and obligations associated with being an alien in the United States, and how aliens gain residence or citizenship within the United States. Immigration laws also deal with asylum seekers. The Naturalization Act of 1790 was the first federal immigration statute.
Modern immigration rules are governed by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. This Act created the Immigration and Naturalization Service also known as the INS to serve as the federal agency responsible for the enforcement of immigration laws. However post 9/11, the INS was replaced by the Department of Homeland Security. Three agencies of the Department of Homeland Security – U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement (CBE), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – now perform the duties of the INS. The Immigration Act of 1990 equalized the allocation of visas across foreign nations, eliminating archaic rules, and encouraging worldwide immigration.
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 deals with illegal immigration. This Act imposed tough criminal sanctions on employers hiring illegal aliens. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 regulates the process of an alien entry into the United States.
A person can become a US citizen by birth or by naturalization. Naturalization is the process by which aliens can become US citizens. The process of naturalization is governed by the Immigration and Nationality Act. An alien seeking US citizenship must file an application with the USCIS. The alien must be at least 18 years old and a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) and must be residing in the US for five years immediately preceding the date of application for naturalization.
There are separate rules of naturalization of aliens whose one parent is a US citizen or an alien married to a US citizen. Alien relatives of a US citizen can also apply for US citizenship based on the relation to the US citizen. The USCIS will make a decision on the application and inform the alien of its decision. If the application is denied, the alien can file an appeal and request that the application be decided by another officer. If the second officer too denies the application, the alien can seek a review of the decision in the US District Court.