IMMIGRANT VISAS (GREEN CARDS)

A permanent resident (Green Card holder) is an individual who has been granted the right to permanently live and be employed in the United States. An alien granted permanent residence status will receive a “permanent resident card,” commonly known as a Green Card. There are several ways in which one can become a permanent resident. Individuals may be sponsored by an employer or a family member in the United States, or become permanent residents through asylee or refugee status.

Marriage Based Green Cards

A United States citizen may sponsor his or her spouse through a petition for a Green Card by marriage. In order to obtain immigration benefits available to a “spouse”, there must be a valid, good-faith marriage between the parties.

When the petitioner- spouse is a U.S Citizen

A beneficiary-spouse of a U.S Citizen can be sponsored as an “immediate relative.” For “immediate relatives,” as soon as the sponsor’s petition (Form I-130) is approved, a visa number becomes readily available and the beneficiary can apply for a Green Card.

If the beneficiary-spouse is located in the United States, the U.S. citizen-spouse may file his immigrant visa petition at the same time as applying for Adjustment of Status of the beneficiary, since visa numbers are immediately available after the I-130 petition is approved.

If the applicant is located outside the United States, he or she must apply for an immigrant visa through the U.S. Consulate in their home country. Once the applicant is approved for an immigrant visa, he or she will be able to travel on the visa and will become a permanent resident upon entering the United States.

When the petitioner-spouse is a Permanent Resident

Permanent Residents of the U.S. may sponsor their spouses seeking to obtain a Green Card. If the petitioner- spouse is a permanent resident, the process might take longer, as a visa number will not be immediately available. Once the sponsor’s petition (I-130) is approved, beneficiary- spouses will be required to wait for their priority date (the date on which the sponsor filed the petition) to become current. Once the date is current, a visa number becomes available and a beneficiary-spouse may apply for a visa. The availability status may be checked by visiting the Visa Bulletin.

Employment and Travel Authorization for beneficiary-spouses waiting on a Green Card

All beneficiary-spouses applying for a green card may obtain the right to be temporarily employed in the United States while he or she is awaiting their permanent resident status. Additionally, a beneficiary-spouse may apply for a right to travel outside the United States while their green card application is pending.

Family Based Green Cards

A U.S. Citizen’s spouse, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents, are all referred to as “immediate relatives.” Other relatives of U.S. Citizens such as married children of any age, siblings, and unmarried children over the age of 21, are grouped under the “family preference category.”

If the beneficiary-spouse is categorized as an “immediate relative,” as soon as the sponsor’s petition (Form I-130) is approved, a visa number becomes readily available and the beneficiary can apply for a Green Card. This may be done by applying for Adjustment of Status, if the relative is located within the United States, or an Immigrant Visa, if the relative is outside the United States.

As opposed to someone in the “Immediate Relative” category, a “Family Preference” relative has a longer process to undergo. Because of the limited number of Green Cards issued per year, a “Family Preference” beneficiary has to wait for his green card to become available. The availability and waiting times may be checked by going to the Visa Bulletin.

U.S CITIZENSHIP & NATURALIZATION APPLICATION

U.S Citizenship

There are many invaluable advantages to becoming a United States Citizen. A U.S. Citizen has the right to obtain Citizenship for children born abroad, vote, travel across U.S. boarders, and become an elected official or a federal employee. A Citizen may also take advantage of U.S. benefits such as Medicare and Social Security.

Lawful Permanent Residents whose Green Card has been valid for at least 5 years may file for United States Citizenship. An applicant who is married to a U.S. Citizen is eligible to apply for U.S. Citizenship after 3 years of having a valid Green Card.

NONIMMIGRANT VISAS

Generally, if a foreign national wishes to visit the United States he or she must first obtain a Visa. There are two categories of U.S. Visas: immigrant and nonimmigrant. Foreign nationals wishing to permanently reside in the United States must obtain an Immigrant Visa. Those who wish to temporarily enter the United States should apply for a nonimmigrant Visa. The type of nonimmigrant Visa required depends upon the reason for the temporary visit (work- related, business, tourism, or others). Travelers from certain countries may be exempt from this requirement through the Visa Waiver Program.

Tourist Visa (B2)

The Tourist Visa (B2) is a nonimmigrant Visa reserved for individuals wishing to enter the U.S. for medical treatment or tourism/pleasure.  Study or work during their stay while on this Visa is not allowed. A Tourist Visa holder may be able to participate in courses which are recreational and not credit based, and which are for no longer than 18 hours per week. An example would be a tourist attending an art workshop once a week while on a visit for purely tourism purposes without credits being earned.

Business Visa (B1)

The Business Visa (B1) is a nonimmigrant Visa obtained for business related trips of a short duration. A B-1 will only be granted for the period of time which is necessary for the person’s business activities. A visitor on business in the United States may not work in the U.S. The business visitor must intend to return to his home country and maintain a residence abroad. To be eligible for a B1 Business Visa, an applicant may participate in business activities, including but not limited to: negotiating a business contract, consulting with associates and partners, training, and more.

Investor Visa (E-2)

An Investor Visa (E-2) is a nonimmigrant Visa which entitles foreign nationals to enter the United States pursuant to a treaty of commerce and navigation between the United States and the foreign country of which he is a national, exclusively to develop the operations of a business venture in which he is investing or had previously invested no less than $50,000.

Fiancé Visa (K1)

A Fiancé Visa is a nonimmigrant Visa allowing a fiancé of a U.S. Citizen to enter the U.S. for 90 days during which time they must marry and apply for Adjustment of Status to permanent residence. After the marriage, the applicant will be eligible for a two year conditional Green Card and after two years of marriage, the beneficiary –spouse may apply for a permanent 10 year Green Card and eventually Citizenship.

Student Visa (F1)

A Student Visa (F1) allows foreign nationals to pursue academic studies in the U.S. Aliens admitted to the United States with an F1 Student Visa may remain in the United States for the duration of their studies. They may also engage in a period of practical training (OPT) after their studies have been completed, as long as such training is not available in their home country.

“Exchange Visitor” Visa (J1)

A J-1 Visa is a nonimmigrant Visa reserved for foreigners known as “exchange visitors.” To obtain a J-1 Visa, an applicant must be sponsored by an employer through an Exchange Visitor Program. An alien may be eligible for a J1 Visa if he or she desires to come to the US and take part in a U.S. Department of State approved program for training, study, or research. J-1 holders are generally permitted to work for the program sponsors and in some limited circumstances they may work for non-sponsored employers. The duration of J-1 status is contingent upon the J-1 holder’s program of study. A J-1 visitor may extend his or her stay if his or her total period of stay does not exceed the maximum duration of stay for the program, and his program sponsor agrees to the extension.

The Foreign Worker Visa (H-1B)

An H-1B Visa allows foreign, highly skilled professionals, to obtain temporarily employment within their field in the U.S. The H1-B Visa is ideal for nurses, professors, engineers, computer programmers, researchers, as well as other professions. The H-1B Visa is available exclusively to highly specialized professionals who possess knowledge which is normally obtained through a four-year college degree. To be eligible, the applicant must have an equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. The H-1B Visa holder may be permitted to be employed in a professional capacity up to a period of six years.

The Religious Worker Visa (R1)

The Religious Worker Visa (R1) is reserved for foreign nationals who wish to enter the United States on a temporary basis to be employed at least part of the time (at least 20 hours per week on average) by a U.S. non-profit religious organization in order to work as a minister or in a religious occupation. In order to qualify for the R1 Visa, the applicant must have been a member of the religious denomination of the organization for at least two years and the religious organization must have or qualify for a (501)(c)(3) tax exempt status.

O1 Visa

In order to qualify under the O1 nonimmigrant Visa category, an alien must have an extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, business, education, or athletics. Each field has a different standard of eligibility. The alien must be coming to the United States in order to work in his field of extraordinary achievement or ability. The duration of stay under this category is approved for the time necessary to complete the activity for which the alien is admitted to the United States, up to a period of three years.

U-Visa

The U-Visa is a nonimmigrant Visa reserved for those who wish to come forward and assist U.S. law enforcement in the prosecution or investigation of certain crimes which they fell victims to. Victims who suffered various types of mental or physical abuse, such as “domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of aliens,” and wish to cooperate with law enforcement in order to apprehend the criminal, might be eligible for a U-Visa.

DEFERRED ACTION FOR CHILDHOOD ARRIVALS (DACA)

In 2012, the Obama administration created a discretionary policy allowing deferred action for certain undocumented individuals who came to the United States as children. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), acts to defer removal action against an individual for the period of two years and is subject to renewal. DACA also provides qualified applicants with work authorization. In order to be qualified, the applicants must meet certain guidelines: the applicant must have been “under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012; must have come to the United States before reaching his or her 16th birthday; continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007; was physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012; had no lawful status on June 15, 2012; is currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; has not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and does not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.” Deferred Action does not provide a direct path to Citizenship and does not afford lawful status.
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