Immigration law refers to the national statutes, regulations, and legal precedents governing immigration into and deportation from a country. Strictly speaking, it is distinct from other matters such as naturalization and citizenship, although they are sometimes conflated. Countries frequently maintain laws that regulate both the rights of entry and exit as well as internal rights, such as the duration of stay, freedom of movement, and the right to participate in commerce or government.
Immigration laws vary around the world and throughout history, according to the social and political climate of the place and time, as the acceptance of immigrants sways from the widely inclusive to the deeply nationalist and isolationist. National laws regarding the immigration of citizens of that country are regulated by international law. The United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights mandates that all countries allow entry to their own citizens.
The guidance of an immigration lawyer is particularly critical in the employment context. Most countries place stringent restrictions on the ability of non-citizens to work, in order to protect their native workforce. In many cases, a company that wants to hire a foreign national must get authorization from both immigration and labor authorities – a complex process that requires the sure hand of a lawyer experienced in practicing before all the relevant government agencies.
The work of the immigration attorney doesn’t stop when visas and other government authorizations are obtained. Once an individual enters a foreign country, there may be important compliance responsibilities facing him or her, family members and employers, from registration with local police, tax, or social insurance authorities to reporting obligations before government agencies. Failing to comply with these responsibilities can mean fines, penalties, and restrictions on an individual’s future travel or an employer’s ability to sponsor additional foreign nationals. The advice of an immigration lawyer is critical throughout an individual’s overseas stay.