An Introduction to the Immigration and Nationality Act and How it Can Help Your Family

An Introduction to the Immigration and Nationality Act and How it Can Help Your Family

For over 50 years, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1965, also known as the Hart-Celler Act, has changed the face of America by ending an immigration admissions policy based on race and ethnicity. The Act helped facilitate large-scale immigration, both legal and unauthorized. It continues to have far-reaching benefits and consequences for both immigrant and non-immigrant families today. Below we provide an overview of the Act and discuss the ways in which it still helps immigrant families today. The Act’s Main Purpose The primary significance of the Act was that it abolished the national origins quota system that had been in place as America’s immigration policy since the 1920s. The old quota system essentially ensured that immigration into the U.S. was reserved for those of European descent. By enacting the law, the U.S. marked a radical change from its past discriminatory policies. Further, removing racial and national barriers significantly altered the demographic mix in the U.S. Under the INA, a new preference system based on immigrants’ skills and familial relationships with U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents replaced the old quota system. It also capped the number of visas the U.S. would issue at 170,000 per year, with a per-country-of origin quota (a.k.a. no single country could ever get more than 20,000 visas per year). And, for the first time ever, it capped the number of visas for immigrants from the Western Hemisphere at 120,000. However, it’s important to note that immediate relatives (e.g. spouses, minor children, and parents of adult U.S. citizens) have no restrictions. In 1978, the U.S. set a worldwide visa quota at 290,000. These quotas are now outdated, and they have caused backlogs and extremely long processing times. Some cases are currently taking more than 20 years! How does the Act help immigrants today? The framework enacted by the INA still defines the legal immigration system today. Without it, we might still have the same discriminatory quota system. In addition to family-based and employment-based admissions categories, there are now other special protective channels that enable people to immigrate under certain situations. These include refugees, those seeking asylum, and the Diversity Visa Lottery, which is a program that is designed to bring in immigrants from countries that are underrepresented in the flow of immigration to the U.S. To facilitate immigration even further, Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1990 which allows a greater share of highly skilled and educated immigrants to be admitted through employment channels. If you are from an immigrant family and have relatives that want to come to the U.S., the Act means that your family members have a higher chance of being able to immigrate to the U.S. as well. It also means that if you or a member of your family have a high skill set that is beneficial to employment, then you also might be eligible under an employment-based admissions category. Contact an experienced immigration law attorney When it was signed into law, lawmakers did not realize how significant the changes would be. In a short period of time, the structure of the United States’ population was transformed. The number of new lawful permanent residents (or green-card holders) has risen drastically since, with just 297,000 in 1965 to an average of about 1 million each year. For the most updated information, especially under the current administration, please consult the USCIS website or call us at (510) 756-4468! We would be happy to answer your questions. If you are an immigrant and have family members or friends that meet the criteria of the Act, or just have questions about how you and your family can take advantage of its provisions, the Landerholm Immigration is here to help. If you are in the process of applying for a visa, or have family members who are, please don’t hesitate to contact us today!
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