Going through the immigration process is fraught with uncertainties and questions. This comprehensive article discusses frequently asked questions (FAQs) about U.S. immigration laws. It also answers the complexities of migrating to the United States.
- Why should I immigrate to the U.S.?
- What is a green card?
- What is the difference between a green card and a U.S. visa?
- How long does it take to immigrate to the U.S.?
- How do I immigrate for a job in the U.S.?
- Can I immigrate to the U.S. without a job offer?
- What factors does USCIS consider in granting immigration status?
- What causes immigration officers to deport you?
- What is the purpose of the diversity (DV) lottery program?
- How does the deportation process begin?
- Can I appeal a deportation or removal order?
- Can I cross the U.S. border before I have a visa?
- Can my family members immigrate to the U.S. with me?
- Can I bring my fiance to the United States?
- Can my fiance apply for a green card?
- Why would a foreign spouse's permanent resident status be conditional?
- Can my fiance apply for work in the U.S.?
- Can a U.S. citizen apply to adopt a foreign-born child before they choose a child to adopt?
- How can I become a U.S. citizen?
- What is naturalization?
- Get legal advice from an immigration attorney
Foreign nationals migrate to the United States for various reasons. Among them are better job opportunities, reuniting with family members, accessing educational prospects, or escaping persecution and adverse conditions in their home countries.
A "green card" is a document given to the person offered a lawful permanent resident status. It often comes in the form of a card with a green-colored design.
The U.S. government grants permanent resident status to foreign nationals. The green card serves as their identification. With this immigration status, they can live, study, and work in the country.
The main difference between a green card and a U.S. visa is the length of time you can stay in the United States. With a U.S. visa, you can stay in the U.S. for a temporary period. It ranges from a few months to a few years. But, a green card is permanent, allowing the holder to stay in the U.S. indefinitely. The green card provides a path to U.S. citizenship, whereas a U.S. visa does not.
How long it takes to process immigration applications, petitions, or requests depends on several factors. Included are the number of applications pending, the type of U.S. visa you are applying for, the number of visa applications pending, and other related factors. For instance, petitioning immediate family members has preference categories. The application process to petition your spouse and children might be shorter than petitioning your siblings. The location of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or U.S. embassy handling your case may also affect the processing times.
The USCIS displays the average time to issue U.S. visas or petitions. It has a tool that you can use to check your case status online. The processing times get updated monthly based on the latest data available. So, it is best to check the USCIS Check Case Status tool for updates.
Immigration to the U.S. through a job opportunity is employment-based immigration. You must have a job offer from a U.S. employer who will sponsor your employment visa. The first step of employment-based immigration is for the U.S. employer to apply for labor certification from the Department of Labor.
The U.S. employer will then file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker or Form I-140 with the USCIS. After the USCIS approves the petition, the National Visa Center (NVC) receives it for visa processing.
The NVC will pre-process the visa application by instructing the employer to pay application fees. Then, the NVC will ask you to submit the necessary documents, including application forms. The final step of the process includes attending your visa interview with the U.S. embassy or U.S. consular office in your home country. The decision made during the interview will determine whether you can migrate to the United States.
Yes. The most common way to gain entry to the U.S. through employment is by having a job offer, where a U.S. employer petitions the employee's employment visa. But, there are other possible ways to immigrate to the U.S. without a job offer from a U.S. employer. You can do this through employment-based visa categories such as EB-1, EB-2, and EB-5.
- EB-3: Skilled/Professional Workers. For skilled workers, professionals, and capable unskilled workers (you must have a labor certification and a permanent, full-time job offer).
- EB-4: Special Immigrants. For religious workers, broadcasters, Iraqis who have helped the U.S., physicians, and others.
- EB-5: Immigrant Investors. To people investing in a new commercial enterprise that creates or preserves at least 10 full-time jobs.
Factors the USCIS considers:
- Whether the applicant has an immediate relative who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
- Whether the applicant has a permanent employment opportunity in the U.S. and whether that employment fits under one of the five eligible employment categories
- Whether the applicant is making a capital investment in the U.S. that meets certain dollar thresholds and that either creates or saves a specified number of jobs
- Whether the applicant qualifies for refugee status as someone who suffers or fears persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political view, or membership in a particular group in the country of origin
Yes. You can extend your stay in the United States by filing a request with USCIS. Before your authorized visit expires, you can file Form I-539 or an application to extend your stay. You can apply to extend your stay in the U.S. under the following conditions:
- You have a nonimmigrant visa and admitted legally into the United States
- Your nonimmigrant status remains valid
- You have not committed any crimes that would make you ineligible to apply for a U.S. visa.
- You have not violated the conditions of your admission to the U.S.
- Your passport was valid and will stay valid for the duration of your stay in the United States
Remember that if you stay in the U.S. longer than your authorized stay, immigration authorities can bar you from returning to the United States. They may also deport you. So, check the date stamped on your passport when you enter the country. You can also check the date at the lower right-hand corner of your Arrival Departure Record (Form I-94) to learn when your authorized stay expires.
You can check your eligibility to extend your stay through the USCIS webpage.
Deportation is sending a person back to their home country after a breach of laws or regulations.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provided specific grounds for deportation or removal of foreign nationals. Some common grounds for deportation or removal are violation of immigration laws, conviction of criminal activity, fraud, and threat to national security.
The purpose of the DV Lottery Program is to annually award immigrant visas to applicants who come from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The visa lottery program randomly picks visa applicants from these specific countries. The ones chosen from the lottery get immigrant visas. Every fiscal year, the U.S. federal government grants 50,000 immigrant visas through the DV lottery program.
The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement issues a Notice to Appear (NTA) stating the reasons for deporting or removing you. After you get the notice, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) files the notice to appear with the immigration court. The first hearing is also called the "master calendar." It is a hearing before an immigration judge, where they will ask you if you are ready to proceed with the hearing. The judge will then verify the facts on the NTA and ask you to plea to the alleged charges.
If the immigration judge decides to deport or remove you from the U.S., you may appeal the decision with the
Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). You must appeal within 30 days after the immigration judge rules for your deportation. If the BIA decides against your case, you may appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals. After the Court of Appeals, you can also escalate your case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
When facing deportation proceedings, it is best to seek legal advice from an immigration attorney. They can provide legal representation and assist you with navigating the complex rules of immigration law.
A U.S. visa is an essential legal document that serves as an authority for you to enter the United States. Crossing the U.S. port of entry without a U.S. visa is generally not allowed. Attempting to enter the U.S. without this legal document could lead to deportation or detention. You may also get barred from reentering the United States in the future. So, it is crucial to get a U.S. visa before you cross the U.S. borders.
Yes. Family members of U.S. Citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPR) can immigrate to the United States. The process is a family-based immigration visa. Your status will help determine which family members are eligible to migrate to the United States. For instance, for U.S. citizens, you can petition your spouse, children, parents, and siblings. For permanent residents or green card holders, you can petition your spouse and unmarried children of any age.
But, if the U.S. government granted you asylum status in the past two years, you can also petition your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age. This is derivative refugee or asylee status.
Yes. If you are a U.S. Citizen with a foreign-national fiance, you can petition for Alien Fiance Visa (Form I-129F). With this U.S. visa, you can bring them to the United States. But, to get the fiance visa, you and your fiance should marry within 90 days from the date your fiance entered the United States. Also, you must have a bona fide marriage, meaning you both intend to establish a married life together. And you and your fiance entered the marriage not merely to get immigration benefits.
Yes. Your fiance can apply for permanent resident status if they marry you within 90 days of entering the United States with a
K-1 nonimmigrant visa. You must then file an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485). The USCIS will then review your application. If the USCIS needs more documents or information, they will mail a request for evidence to your address.
After this, you and your now-spouse may need to appear for an interview with a USCIS officer. If your Form I-485 gets approved, and you have been married for less than two years, then the USCIS will give your spouse a conditional LPR status. The USCIS will issue a green card that is valid for two years.
A spouse's permanent resident status will be conditional if the marriage is less than two years old from when they got permanent resident status. To remove the conditions, the spouse must establish that the purpose of the marriage was not to get around the U.S. immigration laws. They should also submit evidence that their lives are still commingled and their marriage is still valid. To remove the conditions, the spouse should file a Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence (Form I-751).
Yes. After admission to the U.S. on a fiance visa, they may immediately file for an Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765) when filing the adjustment of status. The form will serve as a work authorization once approved. In this case, you should file the Employment Authorization Form and the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
Yes. A married U.S. citizen or an unmarried citizen who is at least 24 years of age and will be at least 25 when they file the petition may file a Form I-600A (Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition) to speed up the adoption process. Findlaw has more on international adoption law.
There are three primary means to get U.S. citizenship:
- By birth, if you are born in the United States
- Through derivation, if you are born to parents or a parent who is a U.S. citizen
- Through naturalization
Naturalization is when the U.S. Congress grants U.S. citizenship to foreign nationals who meet certain requirements. The process begins by submitting an Application for Naturalization with the USCIS. To be a naturalized U.S. citizen, you must meet a few requirements. Included among them is the continuous residency rule. You must continuously live in the United States for five years or three years for spouses of U.S. citizens.
Going through the complexities of U.S. immigration law is challenging and confusing. If you have questions about the application process, contact an immigration attorney near you. They can give you personalized legal advice tailored to your case. They can help you understand your visa options and how you could get an immigrant status.
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