This post will cover the various ways that a person can enter the U.S. legally such as seeking asylum, getting a green card, or getting a visa. You will also discover explanations of some of the important terms you might encounter when researching how to enter the U.S.

What is a Visa?

There are many different kinds of visas. They all refer to a document that a citizen of a foreign country must get in order to enter the U.S. This visa is put inside the traveler’s passport when coming to the U.S. to indicate the person’s ability to legally enter the U.S.

What is a Green Card?

A green card refers to a permit that allows a foreign national to work and live permanently in the U.S. While is it not the same as full citizenship, a green card does allow someone from another country to legally live in the U.S. This is also referred to as lawful permanent resident status. Visas are available to both immigrants and nonimmigrants.

The U.S. Immigration Procedure

If you are seeking permanent resident status in the U.S., your process will vary based on whether or not you are already in the U.S. If you are in the U.S. already, you will not apply for a visa. You will need to apply for a green card through a process known as adjustment of status instead.

If you are outside the U.S., you will need to go through consular processing in order to apply for a visa. The procedures that follow apply general to both those getting a visa and those trying to get a green card.

Get a Sponsor or a Completed Immigrant Petition

There are a few ways that a person could be sponsored in relation to immigration. An employer could sponsor a worker to come to the U.S. A family member could sponsor someone attempting to get a green card. The word sponsor can also refer to family members who take financial responsibility for a loved one who intends to immigrate.

These methods might call for certain completed immigrant petitions, such as an employer’s Form 1-140, the Immigrant Petition for an Alien Worker.

Apply for a Green Card or Visa

In order to apply for a green card, the petitioner would fill out Form I-485, the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. From this point, USCIS will review the application and schedule an interview.

In order to apply for a visa, the applicant must fill out Form DS-160, the nonimmigrant visa application form. This includes submitting a fee and a photo before an the application is received and an interview is scheduled.

Attend a Medical Examination

You will need to attend a medical exam with a physician who is already connected to USCIS. This person is known as a civil surgeon. Typical applicants will have to wait four weeks from the time of their medical exam to get results and to have their case moved forward.

Attend Your Interview

Applicants for a visa will go to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for an interview. Bring a passport, visa fee receipt, confirmation page of your submitted forms, and a photograph with you to the interview.

A typical interview for adjustment of status or a green card lasts around 20 minutes. The officer will ask you questions, verify your identity, and verify validity of your documents.

Wait for a Decision on Your Application

It can take several weeks from your interview with U.S. officials to receive a final decision. It can be helpful to have an attorney who has guided you through this process so that you know what to expect at each stage. Depending on the volume of applications for green cards or visas received at that location, your wait time could be longer.

Types of Visas You Can Apply For

There are several different types of visas you can apply for to enter the U.S. These include family-based visas, employment-based visas, student visas, and the visa lottery.

Family-Based Visas

Those who have a close family relationship with a U.S. citizen classified as an immediate relative can come over on one of a few visas. These include being married to a U.S. citizen, a child not married younger than 21 years, an orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen, an orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen, and a parent of a U.S. citizen at least 21 years old.

Employment-Based Visa

Work visas depend on the type of work to be done. Applicants for certain visas, such as the H,L,O, P, and Q must be approved through USCIS. The Form 1-129 has to be approved before the Consulate will accept an application for a work visa. Once the employer has submitted the right documents, the applicant will be scheduled for an interview.

Student Visa

You must be accepted by a school or program for a student visa. You can initiate your student visa application up to 120 days from the beginning of the I-20 visa. An approved student can travel within 30 days of that I-20 start date. There are several different types of visas available for students.

Visa Lottery

This program is referred to as the green card lottery or the Diversity Immigrant Visa program.

In total, 50,000 immigrant visas are made available each year. Applicants in previous years have totaled upwards of 20 million people. Immigrant applicants are more likely to be approved if there have been low numbers of immigrants from that country in the past few years.

How to Get a Sponsor

Whether you are applying for a visa or green card, you will need someone to sponsor you. There are three primary ways that a person can sponsor you.

Have Someone Fill Out a Petition for Alien Relative Form

Someone else can sponsor you by filling out the Petition for Alien Relative form. This is also known as Form I-130. The purpose of this form is to show a relationship between the beneficiary and the petitioner. It can take up to a year and a half from submitting this form for the applicant to be approved, but it should take up to three weeks to get a Notice of Action or Form I-797C.

 Have Someone Fill Out an Affidavit of Support

Another way to get sponsored is to get someone to say they accept financial responsibility for you. This can be done via an affidavit of support. This person must have their own financial means in order to fill out this paperwork. A sponsor must fill out Form I-864 once the relative has been scheduled for an immigrant visa interview or when the relative is about to submit a permanent adjustment of status application.

Get Your Job to Sponsor You

In order for your job to sponsor your green card, employers have to meet an alien labor certification standard. If approved, the worker could become a green card holder who is legally authorized to permanently stay and work in the U.S.

When an employer sponsors someone for a work visa, that immigrant can come to the U.S. based on the employer’s intention to hire.

Seeking Asylum

Seeking asylum in the U.S. is a complicated legal immigration process. Most people will not be eligible for political asylum.

Asylum might be granted to people already in the U.S. who are unwilling or unable to go back to their home country because of fear of persecution or actual persecution. The persecution could be based on their religion, race, political opinion, or membership in a certain social group. Decisions on asylum applications should be made within 180 days after they are submitted.

Contact Attorney Eric Price Today!

Attorney Eric Price has extensive experience helping people legally come to the U.S. As LA’s best immigration lawyer, he relies on his experience to help clients. He assists when people need help with how to immigrate to the USA legally, questions about the United States immigration process, and common challenges with the US immigration process.

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