The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement are components of the Department of Homeland Security and handle the processing, enforcement, and adjudication of U.S. immigration matters. U.S. immigration laws treat persons as either citizens or aliens. The law classifies aliens according to immigration status, with each group afforded different rights and obligations, such as the right to reside in the United States, the right to sponsor relatives, and the right to work in the United States. Aliens may be lawful permanent residents (i.e., green card holders), immigrant visa holders, temporary lawful visitors, or undocumented persons.
Immigration lawyers represent persons seeking visas or green cards, which allow them to enter or remain in the United States. Two common types of visas are employment-based visas and family-based visas. Employment-based visas grant a non-U.S. citizen the right to work in the United States. Spouses and children may sometimes accompany employment-based immigrants. Family-based visas confer lawful permanent resident status to a foreign national based on an immediate relationship to a U.S. citizen.
Immigration attorneys also handle deportation/removal, naturalization (citizenship) and asylum matters. Because immigration proceedings are often complex, an immigration attorney is invaluable to those dealing with immigration issues.
Deportation/removal: The formal removal of an alien from the United States when the alien has been found removable for violating the immigration laws. Removal (formerly called deportation) is ordered by an immigration judge without any punishment being imposed or contemplated.
Lawful permanent resident: Any person not a citizen of the United States who is residing in the U.S. under legally recognized and lawfully recorded permanent residence as an immigrant.