Last updated on: 3/27/2017 | Author:

What Is Legal Immigration?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con), an online law and government information site, in an article, “What Is Immigration Law?,” accessed on Mar. 10, 2017, available at, stated:

“Generally speaking, people from foreign countries obtain permission to come to the United States through a visa approval process. Visas are available for two purposes. Immigrant visas are for those who want to stay in this country and become employed here. These visas are limited by country-specific quotas. Non-immigrant visas are for tourists, students, and business people who are here temporarily.

Citizens of certain developed countries deemed politically and economically stable by the U.S. government are allowed to visit for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. Known as the visa waiver program, this expedited system is primarily used by people coming here on vacation. It does not allow foreign citizens to work, go to school, or apply for permanent status. The visa waiver program is currently available to citizens of 37 countries.”

Mar. 10, 2017 -

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in a Feb. 2011 release, “Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2010,” available at, stated:

“The legally resident immigrant population as defined for these estimates includes all persons who were granted lawful permanent residence; granted asylee status; admitted as refugees; or admitted as nonimmigrants for a temporary stay in the United States and not required to leave by January 1, 2010. Nonimmigrant residents refer to certain aliens who were legally admitted temporarily to the United States for specified time periods such as students and temporary workers.”

Feb. 2011 - US Department of Homeland Security

The United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in a section entitled “Immigration Terms and Definitions Involving Aliens” on its website (accessed Jan. 31, 2007), offered the following:

“Immigrant [is] an alien who has been granted the right by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to reside permanently in the United States and to work without restrictions in the United States. Also known as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). All immigrants are eventually issued a ‘green card’ (USCIS Form I-551), which is the evidence of the alien’s LPR status. LPR’s who are awaiting the issuance of their green cards may bear an I-551 stamp in their foreign passports.”

Jan. 31, 2007 - US Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), in a May 20, 2003 report entitled “Immigration and Naturalization Fundamentals,” offered the following:

“Immigrants are persons admitted as legal permanent residents (LPRs) of the United States. The conditions for the admission of immigrants are much more stringent than nonimmigrants, and many fewer immigrants than nonimmigrants are admitted. Once admitted, however, immigrants are subject to few restrictions; for example, they may accept and change employment, and may apply for U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process, generally after 5 years.

Immigration admissions are subject to a complex set of numerical limits and preference categories that give priority for admission on the basis of family relationships, needed skills, and geographic diversity. These include a flexible worldwide cap of 675,000, not including refugees and asylees (discussed below), and a per-country ceiling, which changes yearly. Numbers allocated to the three preference tracks include a 226,000 minimum for family-based, 140,000 for employment-based, and 55,000 for diversity immigrants (i.e., a formula-based visa lottery aimed at countries that have low levels of immigration to the United States). The per country ceilings may be exceeded for employment-based immigrants, but the worldwide limit of 140,000 remains in effect.

In addition, the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (i.e., their spouses and unmarried minor children, and the parents of adult U.S. citizens) are admitted outside of the numerical limits of the per country ceilings and are the ‘flexible’ component of the worldwide cap.”

May 20, 2003 - CRS 2003 Immigration and Naturalization Fundamentals Report Congressional Research Service