Am I an “immigrant”?
If you were not born in the United States, but are living here now, you are an immigrant. An immigrant is a person who has come to live in the U.S. from another country. If you are an immigrant, you may have arrived in this country with or without the permission of the U.S. government. The type of permission granted by the U.S. government, or the lack of it, is what determines your immigration status.
Throughout history and today, immigrants have helped make the United States a diverse and rich culture, and have made contributions in all areas of society, including business, the arts, sciences, politics, and sports. If you are a young person born in another country, you are still an important member of U.S. society and your local community, and should have as many opportunities to succeed as possible. We hope that this handbook will assist you in getting all of the immigration benefits that are available to make your goals possible.
What is my immigration status?
It is important to understand your immigration status so that you are aware of any rights you might have, as well as any risks you might face, as a result of that status. If you are not sure about your status, you should speak to your law guardian, your caseworker, or an immigration lawyer to find out if you need immigration assistance.
Immigration status is complicated and depends on your unique circumstances. This handbook cannot give you the answers to your exact immigration status. However, it will help you learn about some basic immigration laws that can get you started asking the right questions.
There are many different types of immigration status. As an immigrant, you might be one of the following:
United States Citizen
If you were born in the United States, you are a U.S. citizen, even if you were raised in another country. You also may be a citizen if one of your parents was a U.S. citizen at the time you were born. A United States citizen has the right to live, work and vote in the U.S. and is eligible for many federal benefits, such as educational loans and social services. U.S. citizens cannot be forced to leave the United States or be deported back to their home country.
Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)
An LPR (someone with a “green card”) has permission to live and work in the United States, but is not eligible for certain benefits, such as voting and some social services. An LPR may travel in and out of the country, as long as he/she does not spend a long period abroad. An LPR may only be deported if he/she is convicted of certain crimes or violates an immigration law.
A temporary visitor is someone who has permission from the government, usually in the form of a “visa,” to live in the United States for a limited period of time and for a specific purpose (such as studying, working, visiting family, or tourism). These types of visas generally have expiration dates and if the immigrant does not renew it before it expires, then he/she will no longer have legal immigration status.
An undocumented immigrant does not have permission to live or work in the United States and is at risk of deportation. Anyone who is not a U.S. citizen, and does not have a green card or a current visa, is undocumented.