Immigration law is very detailed, and every case is different.

You may have already heard lots of stories about various types of visas or paths to becoming a permanent resident. But before we can learn about any of that we must figure out how you got into the country, or how you plan to enter if you are not already in the United States. The very first question to ask is whether you were lawfully admitted; or are you eligible to be lawfully admitted? 

Lawful Admission is most easily defined as entering the U.S. by lawful means. For admission to be lawful, a foreign person must be inspected and authorized to enter by a United States immigration officer. One way to think of Lawful Admission is to imagine a person ringing the doorbell at the front door of a house. The homeowner opens the door, sees it is you and decides that he or she will allow you to enter their home. 

Since the 1990's, Lawful Admission has been the foundation of building a successful case for immigration. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) was developed to give preference to foreign people who entered the United States or its territory through the proper channels. Anyone who entered without lawful admission is considered to be an "applicant for admission," meaning that they must cooperate under oath with any immigration officers who want to investigate the person's reasons and plans for being in the U.S., how long they intend to stay and whether they plan to stay permanently. During this process officials determine if an applicant for admission is an admissible or inadmissible person.