A society of immigrants, each of whom had begun life anew, on an equal footing. This is the secret of America: a nation of people with the fresh memory of old traditions who dare to explore new frontiers” U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

The United States is among the countries that require most visitors to apply for and receive a visa before legally entering the country. Visas equal advance permission to enter the United States.

US Embassies and consulates around the world are operated by the Department of State (DOS) and employees are called Consular Officers. These are the people who review visa applications and interview applicants. Although Consular Officers issue visas, they do not decide on whether you will be allowed to gain entry into the United States. The visa in a passport simply means qualifies to seek entrance. The Customs and Border Protection officer has the power to grant entrance into the US upon arrival at the port of entry in America.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the agency which took over the duties of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) after the Homeland Security Act of 2002 went into effect. The USCIS now operates under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) alongside the United States Customs Service to better handle security issues as well as immigration matters.

Foreigners in the US can be divided into two categories: illegal aliens and legal aliens. Alien refers to a person who is not a US citizen.

  1. Illegal aliens are people who entered and remain in the US without proper authorization. An illegal alien is someone who does not have valid status.
  2. Legal aliens are non US citizens who were given permission to enter the US for a short stay, or Green Card holders who are entitled to work and reside in the US permanently.

Aliens do not have the right to vote or hold certain government positions and may have their status taken away for committing certain crimes.

Nearly 14 million immigrants entered the United States from 2000 to 2010. 990,553 people obtained permanent residence status in the US in 2013.