The state of Washington is adjacent to Canada and one of the closest states to Russia, parts of Japan and other countries in eastern Asia. This makes it one of the hubs for immigration to the U.S., both documented and undocumented.

Unsurprisingly, Washington has very robust laws around immigration and immigrants’ rights. A Seattle immigration attorney best understands these laws and can help people with immigration issues navigate the federal and state immigration laws.

Who Is Covered by Immigration Laws in Seattle, WA?

State laws primarily deal with what additional rights immigrants may take advantage of. Washington immigrant laws give rights to undocumented immigrants that they are unlikely to receive in other states.

Federal laws set the policies for immigrating to the United States and who may apply for certain types of immigration. Under federal immigration laws, the Department of Homeland Security recognizes six classifications of immigrants:

  • Relatives of U.S. citizens. Only immediate relatives (spouses, children, newly adopted children, etc.) qualify in this category.
  • Family-sponsored. This classification includes all family members who are not immediate relatives.
  • Employment-based. Immigrants with special skills who are needed by a sponsoring business and their immediate family fall into this category.
  • Refugees and asylees. This includes people who are or would be persecuted if they remained in their native country.
  • Diversity. This covers immigrants who come from countries where immigration to the U.S. is rare.
  • Other. This is a catch-all category that includes immigrants who are admitted under special legislation.

Immigrant Rights Under Washington Immigration Laws

All immigrants, documented or not, have access to public benefits in Washington. The list of benefits that undocumented immigrants can access is more restricted than what documented immigrants can access. Undocumented immigrants can access all of the following:

  • driver’s licenses
  • medical coverage for pregnant people, prenatal care, cancer care and dialysis
  • emergency benefits like disaster relief or emergency Medicaid
  • housing assistance
  • TANF benefits
  • immunizations and infectious disease treatment

An experienced Seattle immigration attorney can help immigrants determine what benefits they can use based on their documentation status.

Washington Laws That Impact Immigrants

Washington state is considered a sanctuary state. This means that local authorities are prohibited from complying with voluntary immigration holds, sharing nonpublic personal data with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), asking about peoples’ immigration status or depriving people of public benefits based on their immigration status.

Additionally, with some exceptions, employers in Washington are not required to use the E-Verify system to determine the immigration status of an employee before hiring them. The most notable exceptions are in Pierce County, Woodland County and Whatcom County. Local laws in the first two areas require some contractors to use E-Verify. In Whatcom County, all employers must use this system.

Filing Process for Immigration in Seattle, WA

Immigration filing is a federal process. It involves a lot of steps that can take months or even years to resolve. If the applicant makes any mistakes, they will likely be denied and may even become ineligible to file for immigration in the future. Seattle immigration attorneys understand this process and can protect their clients from making mistakes. Typically, the filing process involves the following steps.

  • Sponsorship. Usually, a U.S. citizen files a petition on behalf of the applicant. Refugees, asylum seekers, diversity candidates and some others may sponsor themselves.
  • First decision by USCIS. USCIS confirms that the application is valid and approves it if there is a visa available in the relevant category.
  • The applicant chooses residency type. The applicant files a green card application if they are seeking permanent residency or a visa application if they are seeking temporary residency.
  • Biometrics. The applicant provides the government with their fingerprints, photo and signature.
  • Interview. The applicant is interviewed by a USCIS representative who confirms that the applicant wants to travel to the U.S. for legitimate reasons.
  • Final decision. Based on all the evidence gathered to that point, USCIS decides whether to approve the application or deny it.

Categorized in:

immigration law, immigration-law,

Last Update: July 3, 2024

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