Legal Immigrant Classifications, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

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Life in the USA
Immigration and Citizenship

Legal Classifications
Immigrants and Aliens. The legal terminologies are important to know. An alien is a person who was not born in the United States and comes into the country from outside. (Do not confuse this use of the term “alien” with its frequent use in science fiction to refer to people from outer space.) After the alien enters the United States legally with the intent to stay in the country, he or she becomes an immigrant. Aliens admitted legally into the country for temporary periods of time such as tourists or students are called nonimmigrant aliens. The term legal aliens refers to both these types of aliens. An alien whose temporary visa has expired and who remains in the country or a person who entered the country illegally is called an undocumented alien.

Asylees and Refugees. A person who, while in the United States received political asylum is called an asylee, while a person who applies for this status from abroad is called a refugee. In both cases the person must prove that he or she would be subject to persecution in the home country if forced to return.

Residency and Naturalization. A permanent resident alien is a person who is allowed to live and work in the country without restriction. The permanent resident alien holds an Alien Registration Receipt Card or Green Card, proof of that status, and is thus a Green Card holder (the Green Card may not actually be colored green). A permanent resident can become a citizen through the process of naturalization, and will thereby become a naturalized citizen, with all rights except the ability to serve in the office of President of the United States.


Next Section: History of Immigration Laws

Immigration: Chapter Home

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