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Benefits Immigrants Receive when They Come to the U.S.

In late 2023, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a plan to allow undocumented migrants to obtain healthcare services through the state’s Medi-Cal program. A similar approach is being considered by New York City for 2024. These developments caught the attention of lawmakers such as United States Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who issued a press release opposing any federal funds going to such programs, which he described as “immigration benefits.”

While Senator Cassidy is correct in characterizing socialized healthcare plans such as Medi-Cal as benefits, they’re not the kind of benefits provided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. San Diego immigrants should understand that immigration benefits are federal programs that foreign-born individuals must apply for to attain legal status. These benefits range from entry visas and work permits to green cards and naturalization. To a great extent, they’re both rights and privileges, but they’re called immigration benefits.

Immigrants don’t “get benefits” upon arrival. If their visas were processed through USCIS instead of the State Department, their entry is secured through a benefit they applied for. Those who arrive at a port of entry without visas can request asylum or refuge, which are also immigration benefits. Technically speaking, work visas such as the H-1B for skilled foreigners aren’t benefits because they’re non-immigrant programs managed by the Department of State, even if USCIS participates in the processing of applications and petitions.

Family-Based Entry Visas

Being issued a visa to enter the U.S. for immigration purposes, which denotes an intention of making this country a new home, is part of the core USCIS benefits, which are largely family based and humanitarian. While the direct recipients of the benefits are immigrants, participants may include American citizens required to file petitions on behalf of others. The most common examples are the K-1 visas for fiancés, fiancées, and their minor children.

Visas Granted for Humanitarian Reasons

Beyond family-based immigration, USCIS benefits include humanitarian programs such as Temporary Protected Status (TPS), asylum, special status for juvenile and child migrants, refugee resettlement, and visas for victims of abuse, crime, and human trafficking. The special nature of these humanitarian benefits often requires applicants to seek assistance when submitting their petitions. 

Visas for Investors & Skilled Professionals

Other immigration benefits are jointly managed by USCIS and the State Department. The EB-5 visa for foreign investors is an example in this regard, and the same can be said about the EB-2 and EB-3 visa programs because they reward skilled professionals who can contribute to economic progress with green cards. Navigating the path and paperwork required to obtain these benefits often calls for the involvement of immigration law firms because they tend to be more complex.


Naturalization is the highest USCIS benefit immigrants can apply for, and it usually culminates after years of petitions and processing. For the most part, naturalization is granted to those who have obtained the green card benefit through legal residency. However, there are exceptions for individuals who were adopted or born outside the U.S. to American parents. 

Hiring a highly qualified immigration attorney is one of the best ways to make the immigration process less complicated and stressful. If you need reliable, high-quality legal advice about immigration issues, reach out to the San Diego immigration attorneys at KS Visa Law. To schedule an appointment, call us today.

June 2024