How the Immigration System Works

The immigration laws and regulations provide some avenues to apply for lawful status from within the U.S. or to seek relief from deportation.  The eligibility requirements for these benefits and relief can be stringent, and the immigration agencies often adopt overly restrictive interpretations of the requirements.  Learn about advocacy and litigation that has been and can be undertaken to ensure that noncitizens have a fair chance to apply for the benefits and relief for which they are eligible.  

Recent Features

All How the Immigration System Works Content

June 29, 2022
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.
December 15, 2021
This fact sheet aims to explain the basics of the federal government funding process, also known as appropriations, and show how it affects the world of immigration and immigration enforcement.
September 28, 2021
This fact sheet provides information on a 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, 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.
November 13, 2017
This fact sheet provides an overview of the diversity visa program, the requirements and security checks currently in place, and demographic information about recipients.
March 21, 2017
This fact sheet explains detainers, how they are used by federal and local enforcement, and the impact they have on immigrants.
December 14, 2015

Americans pride themselves on belonging to a nation of immigrants. In fact, many Americans celebrate not only the traditions of the United States, but the traditions of the countries from which...

This lawsuit challenges USCIS' unreasonable delay in processing naturalization applications that were filed in 2020 and has prevented applicants from becoming U.S. citizens.
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 6, 2020

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

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.
June 29, 2022

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) operates under a flawed funding model. This virtually guarantees that the agency will always be under-funded and under-staffed. As a result, USCIS...

April 22, 2022

The Biden administration failed to issue many of the immigrant visas—more commonly known as green cards—that were allotted last year for immigrants who have been sponsored by a U.S. employer or...

February 22, 2022

The Canadian government released its 2022-2024 immigration targets earlier this week. Should it reach these targets, the number of new immigrants entering Canada would reach levels not seen in...

February 2, 2022

Some media outlets have reached a fever pitch over what they have deemed President Biden’s “secret flights of migrants.” They claim that the Biden administration is covertly flying migrants into...

October 26, 2021

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published new data last week showing that over the past 12 months, the Border Patrol has carried out nearly 1.7 million apprehensions at the southern...

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...

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.
June 29, 2022
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.
This lawsuit challenges USCIS' unreasonable delay in processing naturalization applications that were filed in 2020 and has prevented applicants from becoming U.S. citizens.
June 29, 2022

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) operates under a flawed funding model. This virtually guarantees that the agency will always be under-funded and under-staffed. As a result, USCIS...

May 5, 2022
The Council submitted comments on USCIS suggested changes to Form G-639 and Instructions. The G-639 Form and Instructions are used to submit FOIA requests to USCIS by mail.
April 22, 2022

The Biden administration failed to issue many of the immigrant visas—more commonly known as green cards—that were allotted last year for immigrants who have been sponsored by a U.S. employer or...

February 22, 2022

The Canadian government released its 2022-2024 immigration targets earlier this week. Should it reach these targets, the number of new immigrants entering Canada would reach levels not seen in...

February 2, 2022

Some media outlets have reached a fever pitch over what they have deemed President Biden’s “secret flights of migrants.” They claim that the Biden administration is covertly flying migrants into...

December 15, 2021
This fact sheet aims to explain the basics of the federal government funding process, also known as appropriations, and show how it affects the world of immigration and immigration enforcement.
October 26, 2021

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published new data last week showing that over the past 12 months, the Border Patrol has carried out nearly 1.7 million apprehensions at the southern...

September 28, 2021
This fact sheet provides information on a 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...

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