What Are the Key Rules on Immigration in the U.S.?

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As of 2015, the Immigration and Naturalization Act, the body of laws that guide U.S. immigration policy, limits the maximum annual number of permanent immigrants to 675,000 people, states the American Immigration Council. The president and Congress determine yearly numerical admission limits for refugees.

U.S. immigration policy revolves around several basic principles, as the American Immigration Council explains. These are promotion of diversity, family reunification, refugee protection and admission of immigrants with skills vital to the U.S. economy.

To promote family reunification, the Immigration and Naturalization Act allows for 480,000 family-based visas per year so that U.S. citizens and permanent residents can bring certain family members to the country, explains the American Immigration Council. However, due to the complex system that Congress uses to limit the number of these visa types, the actual yearly number of family-based visas is usually higher than 480,000. Petitioners seeking to bring family members to the country must fulfill certain age and financial requirements.

The Immigration and Naturalization Act also regulates employment-based immigration, notes the American Immigration Council. In this category, the Act prescribes temporary and permanent visas, with annual limits for each type. For instance, as of 2015, the law allows for 40,000 visas for people of unparalleled ability in the fields of business and science.

The Act also governs the Diversity Visa program, a scheme that is designed to provide a legal immigration channel for people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States, explains the American Immigration Council.