The United States is a nation of Immigrants. For centuries people have come to the U.S. in search of prosperity, freedom and financial success. By definition of the Microsoft Bookshelf Encyclopedia an immigrant is a person who leaves one country to settle permanently in another country or region to which one is not native. People immigrate for different reasons -- A group of people may immigrate to another country because of some conditions which make it difficult for them to live in their home environment. According to Microsoft Bookshelf Encyclopedia, the reason for immigration is often social for example, population increases, defeat in war, desire for a better life through material gain and the search for religious or political freedom. These reasons have usually prompted many more immigrants to the U.S. than natural causes have. The website of the Federation for American Immigration Reform explains how the first great wave of immigrants came to the U.S. In the early 19th century, large numbers of people from Western Europe left their countries to escape poverty. Many of the immigrants also came to escape religious persecution and political oppression. By the end of the 19th century, the majority of the immigrants were from Southern and Eastern Europe. After 1921, immigration declined due to new and better conditions in Europe and to limitations established by the U.S. government. The first law was passed by the United States Congress in 1862, restricted immigration to the U.S.. This law forbade American vessels to transport Chinese immigrants to the United States. Later, in the 1800s, the U.S. Congress passed acts which prevented convicts, polygamists, prostitutes and persons suffering from contagious diseases to enter the U.S. In 1917, Congress passed an immigration law that required a literacy test. Aliens unable to meet minimum mental, moral, physical and economic standards were excluded form the U.S. as well. In 1921, a congressional enactment created a quota system for immigrants, by which the number of aliens of any nationality admitted to the United States in a year could not exceed three percent of the number of foreign-born residents of that nationality living in the United States. It would seem that the number would be quite small, however, the year was 1919 and the majority of the U.S. population was foreign born. In 1924, the basic immigration quotas were changed to a system based on the desirability of the different nationalities. A congressional act of 1943 repealed the laws keeping the Chinese from entering the United States.
(Microsoft Bookshelf Encyclopedia) One will probably agree that it is important that every nation controls the flow of people who enter and exit. To this extent, the United States has an agency which controls and regulates these events. The Immigration and Naturalization Service will determine how many people may enter, seek employment, and settle within the U.S. Territory without altering the opportunities for U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents to develop their own lives. The INS agency of the United States Department of Justice is empowered to administer federal laws relating to the admission, exclusion, deportation, and naturalization of aliens. The agency investigates the qualifications of applicants for citizenship and provides public schools with materials required for educating candidates for citizenship. Another duty of the INS is to patrol the borders of the United States to prevent the illegal entry of aliens. The agency also registers aliens residing in the country. ( Encarta Encyclopedia article on immigration, http://www.usdoj.gov/ins ) Before a person can apply for Citizenship in the United States, one has to be a lawful, permanent resident for five years. In the case of permanent residency that has been acquired through marriage to a U.S. citizen the time of residency is reduced to three years before an application for citizenship can be made assuming the person continues to be married to that U.S. citizen. According to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, there are six other ways to obtain permanent residency besides through marriage. (1) Qualifying persons may obtain a visa based on employment and on special abilities the person my possess. (2) A person may obtain a visa through a family member that already is a citizen or permanent resident. (3) The INS holds an annual lottery in which some 50,000 visas are given out. (4) Persons may obtain a visa based on religious work they perform in the US. (5) Refugees seeking asylum may obtain visas. (6) Persons who are willing to invest in a US based business that will employ at least 11 workers will qualify for permanent residency as well. A person may also apply for naturalization if he or she is under 18 and may automatically become a citizen when their parents naturalize. The fee for filing for Citizenship is $225 and it is payable to Immigration and Naturalization Service. Further information may be obtained through your local Immigration and Naturalization Service Center. The Siskind^s Visalaw website warns that if you have decided to live in the United States for an indefinite period you should comply with U.S. Immigration laws and procedures, as it would make it really difficult to obtain citizenship or just even residency. The site also mentions that it is usually very difficult to qualify for permanent residency. Siskind^s Visalaw website also warns to submit a complete and accurate application form with all the necessary attachments and requirements. Also one must insure that the application is submitted to the correct Immigration Office. Advise is given to speak with a reputable Immigration Attorney, browsing through Immigrations books at the library, or "surfing the net" etc., will likely inform on ways to obtain residency. Those who meet the above qualifications are issued Immigrant visas for residence in the United States. (Siskind, Susser, Haas & Devine) A person who desires to be naturalized as a citizen of the United States may obtain the necessary application form, as well as detailed information, from the nearest office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, or from the clerk of a court handling naturalization cases. An applicant must be at least 18 years old and must have been a lawful resident of the United States continuously for 5 years. Again for husbands and wives of U.S. citizens, the period is 3 years in most instances.
Special provisions apply to certain veterans of the armed forces. An applicant must have been physically present in the country for at least half of the required 5 years^ residence. Every applicant for naturalization must: (1) demonstrate an understanding of the English language, including an ability to read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage in English (persons physically unable to do so and persons who, on the examination date, are over 55 years of age and have been lawful permanent residents of the United States for 15 years or more, or who are over 50 and have been residents 20 or more years, are exempt); (2) have been a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States for 5 years just before filing the petition or for whatever other period of residence is required in the particular case and continue to be such a person until admitted to citizenship; and (3) demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, and the principles and form of government, of the United States. This can be done at private, designated testing entities or at the interview before an immigration examiner. At the interview the applicant may be represented by a lawyer or social service agency. If conditions are favorable, and the application is approved and your interview is successful one will be required to take an oath to the United States in order to become a citizen. In the swearing ceremony conducted administratively the following oath of allegiance is given: I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, to whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God. (American Immigration Center www.us-immigration.com/do.htm, U.S.Immigration and Naturalization Services www.ins.usdoj.gov/law, A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO IMMIGRATING TO THE U.S.@ http://shusterman.com/homepage.html, Chang & Boos Attorneys @ www.americanlaw.com/info.html,) Needless to say the U.S. is a nation of Immigrants. Even though some of the proceedings might seem confusing and complicated there is a lot more detail to all the steps than one could imagine, and it certainly would provide for many more pages of information. So far the immigration agencies in the U.S. has served well. Even though changes and improvements could have been made it is amazing that the system has worked so well considering the large number of applicants each year and the budget the INS has to work with. Over all the U.S. is the most popular country to immigrants.