The United States has been a nation of immigrants from its early foundations, going back to when Puritans arrived at Plymouth Rock. Although the Puritans may have been off course -- landing in modern day Massachusetts while shooting for Virginia -- immigrants have set a course to the U.S. ever since. They all have different reasons for coming to America. Some arrive for economic opportunity, others to flee tyranny in their home countries and some for the equal opportunities that come from living in a more open and tolerant society. Whatever the reason, just about every American has a unique immigrant story.
Perhaps the most iconic symbol of immigration in this country, Ellis Island was designated an arrival point for incoming ship passengers in 1892. In the subsequent 62 years, that one facility near Manhattan processed 12 million people Ellis Island Foundation. Granted, there were many other immigration stations along the coasts, but this one, with the eventual addition of the Statue of Liberty, came to symbolize the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free." As the United States enjoyed the prosperity of the Industrial Revolution, 27 million people migrated to the country between 1880 and 1930 PBS.
Today, the U.S. Congress has jurisdiction to make immigration laws, and agencies within the Department of Homeland Security enforce them. Among these is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, which manages immigration. Employees of U.S. Customs and Border Protection are responsible for border control and managing the flow of people and goods in and out of the United States.
If you're not a citizen of the United States, you'll need a visa to enter the country legally. There are different types of visas. Most common is the tourist visa, which allows legal visitation to the country for a short period of time. You can apply for other types of visas, which may be more difficult to get. For example, there are permanent residence visas, employment visas and investment visas. They each have different requirements and conditions, but you must have one if you want to stay in the U.S. longer than a tourist visa allows.
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