There are a few ways by which a person might qualify to immigrate to the United States. The categories are very restricted, but their basis varies. For each different basis, Labor, Family, or Asylum, a different agency starts the application, and yet others may take it on if initially denied.
Employers may make applications to hire aliens. To begin these applications, the employer has to start with the Department of Labor. The Department of Labor’s job is to protect the labor market in the US to give priority to US citizens and lawful resident aliens. If it finds that there are able, willing, qualified US citizens or lawful permanent residents who qualify for the job, or that the employer is not offering the prevailing wage or is not offering the job on the same terms and conditions to US citizens and lawful residents, it will deny the application.
The place to start is the Department of Labor, armed with a full job description and proof that the alien applied for is qualified for the job. The Department of Labor will lead the employer through a process requiring the employer to advertise the job.
US citizens and lawful permanent residents can petition for limited family members to become lawful permanent residents: their spouses, minor children and stepchildren, unmarried children of adult age, and in the case of US citizens, even married children, parents, or siblings.
If the family member lives in the United States and, in the case of relatives other than spouses, minor children and parents of US citizens, is in the U.S. legally at the time of application, that family member can apply for adjustment of status (to the lawful resident alien). Such an application starts with US Citizenship and Immigration Services. There is a national, central office that takes all applications initially. After initial processing, the USCIS itself transfers the application to the District Office having jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence.
If the beneficiary is outside the United States, the citizen or lawful resident has to start by filing a form called I-130 with the USCIS Service Center with jurisdiction over the U.S. citizen or resident alien’s place of residence. If the USCIS approves the I-130 petition, it transfers the case to a location called the National Visa Center, an arm of the Department of State. Ultimately, the National Visa Center transfers the case to the US consulate in the country where the beneficiary lives.
Port of Entry
An alien at an airport or other port of entry has to pass inspection with the US Customs and Border Patrol. That officer may deny entry even if the alien has a visa if the officer determines that the alien is not eligible for entry after all. There is no review of this decision. The only possible relief has a credible fear of persecution if returned to the country the alien set out from.
Executive Office for Immigration Review
The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) has ultimate jurisdiction over applications where the alien is in removal proceedings. This is the case where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has detained the alien and accused him of being in the U.S. unlawfully. The alien may defend this proceeding by applying for permanent residence, asylum, or any other type of relief from removal.
The alien can also end up in removal proceedings if US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) denies an application the alien had made, and it appears to the USCIS that that denial leaves the alien with no right to remain in the US The EOIR may then review the denied application and allow the alien to present evidence on it. EOIR may come to a different conclusion and grant the application, or it might affirm the USCIS determination and order the alien deported.