U.S. Immigration Made Easy

U.S. Immigration Made Easy

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U.S. Immigration Made Easy

, J.D.

, 17th Edition

Legally enter and live in the United States with help from U.S. Immigration Made Easy. Learn how the immigration system really works and determine if you qualify for:

  • green cards
  • work visas
  • other remedies such as DACA and asylum

Save time and money with this all-in-one guide!

Ready to move to the USA? Here’s the insider’s guide you need!

Want to live, work or travel in the United States? U.S. Immigration Made Easy has helped tens of thousands of people get a visa,
green card or other immigration status. You’ll learn:

  • whether you and your family quilify for a short-term visa, permanent U.S. residence or protection from deportation
  • how to obtain, fill out and submit the necessary forms and documents
  • insider tips on dealing with delays, denials and bureaucratic officials
  • strategies for overcoming low income and other immigration barriers
  • where to find the latest forms online
  • and more

U.S. Immigration Made Easy provides detailed descriptions of application processes. There’s also an immigration eligibility self-quiz, which helps you match your background and skills to a likely category of visa or green card—and avoid traps that might destroy your chances.

The 17th edition is thoroughly updated and revised to cover recent legal and fee changes including new rights for same-sex couples and new opportunities expected based on President Obama’s 2014 Executive Order. It also includes new chapters on deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), the U Visa and other humanitarian remedies.

 

“The clearest, most accurate explanations of immigration laws for nonlawyers thus far.”-Immigration Today

“Well worth the investment—considerably less than what one would pay for an hour’s consultation with a lawyer.”-Irish Echo

“Highly recommended...instructive and explanatory.”-United States Information Agency

ISBN
9781413321104
Number of Pages
688

Your Immigration Companion

I. Getting Started: U.S. Immigration Eligibility and Procedures

1. Where to Begin on Your Path Toward Immigration

  • Roadmap to U.S. Immigration
  • The Typical Application Process
  • Immigration Eligibility Self-Quiz

2. Are You Already a U.S. Citizen?

  • Acquisition of Citizenship Through Birth to U.S. Citizen Parents
  • Automatic Derivation of U.S. Citizenship Through Naturalized Parents
  • Obtaining Proof of U.S. Citizenship
  • Dual Citizenship

3. Can You Enter or Stay in the U.S. at All?

  • Particularly Troublesome Grounds of Inadmissibility
  • Avoiding or Reversing an Inadmissibility Finding

4.Dealing With Paperwork, Government Officials, Delays, and Denials

  • Getting Organized
  • How to Obtain and Prepare Immigration Application Forms
  • How to Obtain Needed Documents
  • Before You Mail an Application
  • Dealing With Delays
  • Attending Interviews With USCIS or Consular Officials
  • Procedures for USCIS Interviews
  • What to Do If an Interview Is Going Badly
  • What to Do If an Application Is Denied
  • When All Else Fails, Call Your U.S. Congressperson

5. Special Rules for Canadians and Mexicans

  • Canadian Visitors and Nonimmigrants
  • Special Work Privileges for Canadian and Mexican Visitors
  • Simplified Procedures for Canadian Students and Exchange Visitors
  • F-3 Visa for Border Commuter Students
  • Preflight Inspections for Canadians

6. How and When to Find a Lawyer

  • When Do You Need a Lawyer?
  • Where to Get the Names of Good Immigration Lawyers
  • How to Avoid Sleazy Lawyers
  • How to Choose Among Lawyers
  • Signing Up Your Lawyer
  • Paying Your Lawyer
  • Firing Your Lawyer
  • Do-It-Yourself Legal Research

Part II. Introduction to Permanent U.S. Residence (Green Cards)

  • Categories of Green Card Applicants
  • How Many Green Cards Are Available?

7. Getting a Green Card Through Family Members in the U.S.

  • Are You Eligible for a Green Card Through a Relative?
  • Quick View of the Application Process
  • Step One: Your U.S. Relative Files the Visa Petition
  • Step Two: Preference Relatives Wait for an Available Visa
  • Step Three: You Submit the Green Card Application
  • Step Four: You Enter the U.S. With Your Immigrant Visa
  • Removing Conditional Residence in Marriage Cases

8. Getting a Visa to Marry Your U.S. Citizen Fiancé (K-1)

  • Do You Qualify for a K-1 Visa?
  • Quick View of How to Apply for a K-1 Visa
  • Step One: Your U.S. Citizen Fiancé Submits a Visa Petition
  • Step Two: You Apply at a U.S. Consulate
  • Step Three: You Enter the U.S. on Your Fiancé Visa

9. Getting a Green Card Through Employment

  • Are You Eligible for a Green Card Through Employment?
  • Quick View of the Application Process
  • Step One: The Prevailing Wage Determination
  • Step Two: Employer Advertising and Recruitment
  • Step Three: Your Employer Seeks Labor Certification
  • Step Four: Your Employer Files the Visa Petition
  • Step Five: You Might Have to Wait for an Available Visa Number
  • Step Six: You Submit the Green Card Application
  • Step Seven: Entering the U.S. With Your Immigrant Visa

10. Getting a Green Card Through the Diversity Visa Lottery

  • Are You Eligible for a Green Card Through the Lottery?
  • Quick View of the Application Process
  • Step One: Registering for the Lottery
  • Step Two: The Green Card Application
  • Step Three: Entering the U.S. With Your Immigrant Visa

11. Getting a Green Card as an Investor

  • Are You Eligible for a Green Card Through Investment?
  • Quick View of the Application Process
  • Step One: You File a Visa Petition
  • Step Two: You Await an Available Visa Number
  • Step Three: You Apply for a Green Card
  • Step Four: You Enter the U.S. Using Your Immigrant Visa
  • Step Five: Converting Your Conditional Residence Into Permanent Residence

12. Getting a Green Card as a Special Immigrant

  • Do You Qualify for a Green Card as a Special Immigrant?
  • Quick View of the Application Process
  • Step One: You File the Visa Petition
  • Step Two: You Await an Available Visa Number
  • Step Three: You Apply for a Green Card
  • Step Four: You Enter the U.S. With Your Immigrant Visa

13. Getting a Green Card as an Asylee or Refugee

  • Do You Qualify as a Refugee or an Asylee?
  • How to Apply for Refugee Status
  • How to Apply for Asylum
  • How to Get a Green Card as a Refugee or Asylee

14. After Your Approval for a Green Card

  • How to Prove You’re a U.S. Resident
  • Traveling Abroad
  • Your Immigrating Family Members’ Rights
  • Losing Your Permanent Resident Status
  • How to Renew or Replace Your Green Card
  • Green Cards and U.S. Citizenship
  • Green Cards and U.S. Taxes

Part III Introduction to Nonimmigrant (Temporary) Visas

  • Types of Nonimmigrant Visas
  • Difference Between a Visa and a Status
  • Heightened Security Measures
  • Getting Your Visa at a Consulate Outside Your Home Country
  • At the Border
  • Time Limits on Nonimmigrant Visas
  • Effect of Nonimmigrant Visas on Green Cards
  • Nonimmigrant Visas and U.S. Taxes

15. Getting a Business or Tourist (B-1 or B-2) Visa

  • Do You Qualify for a Visitor Visa?
  • How to Apply for a Visitor Visa
  • Visa Issuance and Entry Into the U.S.
  • Extensions of Stay

16. Getting a Temporary Specialty Worker (H-1B) Visa

  • Do You Qualify for an H-1B Visa?
  • Quick View of the H-1B Visa Application Process
  • Step One: Your Employer Files an LCA
  • Step Two: Your Employer Files a Visa Petition
  • Step Three: Applicants Outside the U.S. Apply to a U.S. Consulate
  • Step Four: You Enter the U.S. With Your H-1B Visa
  • Extending Your U.S. Stay
  • Your Rights as an H-1B Worker

17. Getting a Temporary Nonagricultural Worker (H-2B) Visa

  • Do You Qualify for an H-2B Visa?
  • Possibilities for a Green Card From H-2B Status
  • Quick View of the H-2B Visa Application Process
  • Step One: Employer Applies for PWD
  • Step Two: Conduct Recruitment
  • Step Three: Your Employer Applies for Temporary Labor Certification
  • Step Four: Your Employer Submits an H-2B Visa Petition
  • Step Five: Applicants Outside the U.S. Apply to a U.S. Consulate
  • Step Six: You Enter the U.S. With Your H-2B Visa
  • Extending Your U.S. Stay

18. Getting a Temporary Trainee (H-3) Visa

  • Do You Qualify for an H-3 Visa?
  • Quick View of the H-3 Visa Application Process
  • Step One: Your Employer Submits an H-3 Visa Petition
  • Step Two: Applicants Outside the U.S. Apply to a U.S. Consulate
  • Step Three: You Enter the U.S. With Your H-3 Visa
  • Extending Your U.S. Stay

19. Getting an Intracompany Transferee (L-1) Visa

  • Do You Qualify for an L-1 Visa?
  • Possibilities for a Green Card From L-1 Status
  • Quick View of the L-1 Visa Application Process
  • Step One: Your U.S. Employer Files a Visa Petition
  • Step Two: Applicants Outside the U.S. Apply to a U.S. Consulate
  • Step Three: You Enter the U.S. With Your L-1 Visa
  • Extending Your U.S. Stay

20. Getting a Treaty Trader (E-1) Visa

  • Do You Qualify for an E-1 Visa?
  • Quick View of the E-1 Visa Application Process
  • How to Apply From Outside the U.S.
  • How to Apply If You’re in the U.S.
  • Extending Your U.S. Stay
  • Visa Revalidation

21. Getting a Treaty Investor (E-2) Visa

  • Do You Qualify for an E-2 Visa?
  • Quick View of the E-2 Visa Application Process
  • How to Apply From Outside the U.S.
  • How to Apply If You’re in the U.S.
  • Extending Your U.S. Stay
  • Revalidating Your Visa

22. Getting a Student (F-1 or M-1) Visa

  • Do You Qualify for a Student Visa (M-1 or F-1)?
  • How Long the Student Visa Will Last
  • Quick View of the Student Visa Application Process
  • Step One: Your School Issues a SEVIS I-20
  • Step Two for Applicants Outside the U.S.: Applying at a U.S. Consulate
  • Step Two for Some Applicants Inside the U.S.: Applying to USCIS for a Change of Status
  • Step Three: You Enter the U.S. With Your Student Visa
  • Extending Your Student Stay
  • Reinstatement of Student Status
  • Getting Permission to Work
  • Transferring to a Different School
  • Changing Your Course of Studies

23. Getting an Exchange Visitor (J-1) Visa

  • Do You Qualify for a J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa?
  • How Long the J-1 Visa Will Last
  • Students: Comparing J-1 Visas to F-1 and M-1 Visas
  • Business and Industrial Trainees: A Good Option for Work in the U.S.
  • Internships as a Way for Foreign Students to Work in the U.S.
  • Can You Apply for a Green Card From J-1 Status?
  • Quick View of the J-1 Visa Application Process
  • Step One: Your Sponsoring Organization Issues a Certificate of Eligibility
  • Step Two for Applicants Outside the U.S.: Applying at a U.S. Consulate
  • Step Two for Some Applicants Inside the U.S.: You Apply to USCIS for a Change of Status
  • Step Three: Entering the U.S. Using Your J-1 Visa
  • Extending Your J-1 Stay in the U.S.
  • Transfer to a New Sponsor
  • Reinstatement
  • Working as an Exchange Visitor
  • Annual Reports for Foreign Medical Graduates

24. Getting a Visa as a Temporary Worker in a Selected Occupation (O, P, or R Visa)

  • Do You Qualify for an O, P, or R Visa?
  • Quick View of the O, P, and R Visa Application Process
  • Step One: Your Employer Submits a Visa Petition
  • Step Two: Applicants Outside the U.S. Apply to a U.S. Consulate
  • Step Three: You Enter the U.S. With Your O, P, or R Visa
  • Extending Your U.S. Stay

IV  Introduction to Other Forms of Long-Term Legal Status in the U.S.

25. Humanitarian Remedies Allowing Stays in the U.S.

  • Do You Qualify for TPS?
  • TPS Application Process
  • Are You Eligible for Deferred Enforced Departure?
  • Humanitarian Parole

26. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

  • Do You Qualify for DACA?
  • Who Is Not Eligible for DACA
  • Risks and Downsides to Applying for DACA
  • Who Shouldn’t Apply for DACA
  • How to Apply for DACA

27. Getting a U Visa as a Crime Victim Assisting Law Enforcement

  • Are You Eligible for a U Visa?
  • How to Apply for a U Visa
  • Will You Be Eligible for a Green Card After Your U Visa?

Glossary

Index

Chapter 1
Where to Begin on Your Path Toward Immigration

 

If you’ve already tried to research how to immigrate to the United States, you may have come away more confused than enlightened. We’ve heard immigrants ask frustrated questions like, “Are they trying to punish me for doing things legally?” or “I can’t tell whether they want to let me in or keep me out!”

The trouble is, the U.S. immigration system is a little like a mythical creature with two heads. One head is smiling and granting people the right to live or work in the United States, temporarily or permanently—especially people who:

   will pump money into the U.S. economy (such as tourists, students, and investors)

   can fill gaps in the U.S. workforce (mostly skilled workers)

   are joining up with close family members who are already U.S. citizens or permanent residents, or

   need protection from persecution or other humanitarian crises.

This creature’s other head wears a frown. It is afraid that the U.S. will be overrun by huge numbers of immigrants, and so it tries to keep out anyone who:

   doesn’t fit the narrow eligibility categories set forth in the U.S. immigration laws

   has a criminal record

   is a threat to U.S. ideology or national security

   has spent a long time in the U.S. illegally or committed other immigration violations

   is attempting fraud in order to immigrate, or

   will not earn enough money to stay off government assistance.

Not surprisingly, these two heads don’t always work together very well. You may find that, even when you know you have a right to visit, live, or work in the U.S. and you’re trying your best to fill out the applications and complete your case properly, you feel as if you’re being treated like a criminal. The frowning head doesn’t care. It views you as just another number and as no great loss if your application fails—or is, literally, lost in the files of thousands of other applications.

 

CAUTION

Have you heard people say that a U.S. citizen could simply invite a friend from overseas to live here? Those days are gone. Now, every immigrant has to find a legal category that he or she fits within, deal with demanding application forms and procedures, and pass security and other checks.

 

CAUTION

Almost everyone should at least attend a consultation with an experienced immigration attorney before submitting an application. Unless your case presents no complications whatsoever, it’s best to have an attorney confirm that you haven’t overlooked anything. However, by preparing yourself with the information in this book, you can save money and make sure you’re using a good attorney for the right services.

Example: An American woman was engaged to a man from Mexico and figured, since she herself had been to law school, that she didn’t need an attorney’s help. She read that a foreign-born person who was in the U.S. on a tourist visa could get married and then apply for a green card within the United States. Unfortunately, what she didn’t realize was that this possibility only works for people who decide to get married after entering the United States. Applying for a tourist visa with the idea of coming to the U.S. to get married and get a green card amounts to visa fraud and can ruin a person’s chances of immigrating. Are you already confused by this story? That’s all right, the U.S. immigration system doesn’t always make a lot of sense. This is why an attorney’s help is often needed—to get you through legal hoops that you’d never imagined existed.

Roadmap to U.S. Immigration

This book will cover a lot of territory—
almost all of U.S. immigration law, including your basic rights, strategies, and the procedures for getting you where you need to go. Any time you cover this much ground, it helps to have a road map—particularly so you’ll know which subjects or chapters you can skip entirely.

Take a look at the imaginary map below, then read the following subsections to orient yourself to the main topics on the map.

As you can see, the first stop along the way is the Inadmissibility Gate. This gate represents a legal problem that can stop your path to a visa or green card before you’ve even started. If, for example, you have committed certain crimes, been infected with certain contagious diseases, appear likely to need welfare or government assistance, have violated U.S. immigration laws, or match another description on the U.S. government’s list of concerns, you are considered “inadmissible.” That means you won’t be allowed any type of U.S. visa or green card, except under special circumstances or with legal forgiveness called a waiver. This gate gets closed on a lot of people who lived in the U.S. illegally for more than six months, which can create either a three-year or ten-year bar to immigrating. Even if you think you haven’t done anything wrong, please read Chapter 3 for more on the problem of inadmissibility.

If you get past the inadmissibility gate, the next stop along your theoretical journey is the Eligibility Bridge. This is where you must answer the question, “What type of visa or green card are you eligible for?” Answering this question will involve some research on your part. You might already know the answer—for example, if you’ve just married a U.S. citizen, it’s pretty obvious that you want to apply for a green card on this basis and should read the appropriate chapter of this book (Chapter 7). Or, if your main goal is to attend college in the U.S., then you probably know that you need a student visa, and can proceed straight to the chapter covering that topic (Chapter 22).

If you don’t already know you’re eligible for a certain type of visa or green card, however, then start by reading Section B, below, which reviews the possibilities for spending time in the U.S. and directs you to the appropriate chapters for follow-up.

You’ll see that this book covers more than just permanent green cards—we know that not everyone will either want, or be eligible to receive, the right to live in the U.S. his or her whole life. There are many useful ways to stay in the U.S. temporarily, for example on a student or employment-based visa. And even if you don’t fit into one of the usual categories, there may be an emergency or other special category that helps you.

Not many people will travel down the Citizen Parents or Grandparents Alternate Access Road. It’s for the lucky few who, after doing a little research, realize that they are already U.S. citizens because their parents or grandparents had U.S. citizen­ship. Okay, we admit that this is rare. Most people would not be picking up a book on immigration if they were already U.S. citizens. Nevertheless, a few people are surprised to find that, because their parents were either born in the U.S. or became U.S. citizens later (possibly because their own parents were U.S. citizens), they are already U.S. citizens themselves—in which case they can put this book back down and go get a U.S. passport. See Chapter 2 for a full discussion of who can claim U.S. citizenship through parents.

The next stop along your journey is the Application Process Bog. We added this because, even after you realize that you match the eligibility requirements for a U.S. visa or green card, you can’t just march into a U.S. immigration office and claim your rights on the spot. The application process involves intensive document collection, form preparation, and generally molding your life around monitoring the handling of your case until you’ve gotten what you want. Even if you do your part correctly, most visas and green cards take a much longer time to obtain than you would ever imagine—anywhere from a few months to several years.

Some people never make it through the bog, simply because they fail to adequately prepare their applications or to respond to government follow-up requests on time. Others get bogged down through no fault of their own because the U.S. government loses track of their application. Dealing with bureaucracy and delays is such a large concern that we’ve devoted a whole chapter of this book to it: Chapter 4. And you should also read Chapter 6, on how to find and work with a high-quality immigration attorney. Attorneys are familiar with the difficulties of the application process, and the good ones will have access to inside phone numbers or email addresses to use when there’s a problem. You only have one chance at getting this right, so it’s often worth paying the money to hire an attorney.

If you make it this far, then the door to U.S. immigration will be opened to you.

 

What You’ll Need to Know

We try not to use confusing legal language in this book. However, there are a few words that will be helpful for you to know, especially if you look at other books or websites. For further definitions, see the Glossary at the back of this book.

Citizen (U.S.). A person who owes allegiance to the U.S. government, is entitled to its protection, and enjoys the highest level of rights due to members of U.S. society. A person can become a U.S. citizen through birth in the United States or its territories; through parents who are citizens; or through naturalization (after applying for citizenship and passing the citizenship exam). Citizens cannot have their status taken away except for certain extraordinary reasons.

Immigrant. Though the general public usually calls any foreign-born newcomer to the United States an immigrant, the U.S. government prefers to think of immigrants as only including those people who have attained permanent residence or a green card.

Nonimmigrant. Everyone who comes to the United States legally but with only a short-term intent to stay is considered a nonimmigrant. For instance, students and tourists are nonimmigrants.

Green card. This slang term refers to the identification card (printed in green) carried by lawful permanent residents of the United States. The government name for the green card is an I-551, or Alien Registration Card (ARC).

Lawful permanent resident. See Permanent resident, below.

Permanent resident. A green card holder. This is a person who has been approved to live in the United States for an unlimited amount of time. However, the status can be taken away for certain reasons, such as having committed a crime or made one’s home outside the United States. Usually after five years, a permanent resident can apply for U.S. citizenship. That number drops to three years if the immigrant has been married to and living with a U.S. citizen all that time.

Visa. A right to come to the border and apply for entry into the United States. An immigrant visa allows someone to enter the U.S. permanently; a nonimmigrant visa allows one to enter for a short-term, temporary stay. Physically, the visa usually appears as a stamp in the applicant’s passport, given by a U.S. consulate overseas. Having a visa doesn’t guarantee you’ll actually be able to enter the U.S., because U.S. immigration officials at the border must give you the final permission to do so. But assuming you pass this inspection, your visa is your ticket in.

If you forget these words, or encounter other words that you don’t understand, check the list at the back of this book.

 

The Typical Application Process

Now let’s assume that you are not inadmissible and that you have what it takes to be eligible for either a permanent green card or a temporary U.S. visa. Although we’ll give you more detail about the application processes later in this book, here’s a preview. Your main steps will include:

deciding whether you’ll need legal help to complete your application

if you’re applying for a permanent green card, or in some cases a temporary work visa, waiting while your U.S. family member or employer fills out what’s called a “visa petition,” proving either that you are the person’s family member or have been offered a job; and then waiting even longer for the U.S. immigration authorities to approve the petition

if, in the category under which you’re applying, only limited numbers of visas or green cards are given out every year, waiting until the people in line ahead of you have received their visas or green cards (which can take years)

filling out your own set of application forms, collecting documents, and submitting them to either a U.S. consulate in your home country or to the U.S. immigration authorities

tracking your application to make sure it doesn’t get lost in the system

attending an interview at a consulate outside of the U.S. or a U.S. immigration office, at which your application is reviewed and you answer questions

receiving either a visa for entry into the U.S. or a green card or another right to stay in the U.S. (unless you are denied, in which case, you may want to reapply), and finally

entering the U.S. (if you’re not already here), protecting your status, and working toward the next step, if any. (If you received a green card, you may want to work toward U.S. citizenship, the highest and most secure status you can receive.)

One issue that will make a big difference in how your application proceeds is whether you are currently living inside or outside the United States. The U.S. has government offices to handle U.S. immigration applications both outside the U.S. (at U.S. consulates) and within (at USCIS district offices and service centers). However, not all of these offices handle all types of immigration applications. See “Which Government Office Will Be Handling Your Immigration Application,” below.

What’s more, many of the people who would prefer to file their immigration applications in the United States—because they have been living here for many years, perhaps illegally—will find that they are not allowed to do so. We will discuss this at length in Chapter 3.

The short explanation is that, if you either entered the United States illegally (not with a visa or another entry document or right), overstayed a visa, or you have worked here illegally, you cannot (with a few exceptions), use the services of a USCIS immigration office. Instead, you must leave the U.S. and go to a U.S. consulate to make your visa or green card request. That creates a huge problem for people who have lived unlawfully in the United States for more than six months after January 1, 1997. Once you leave, you can be prevented from returning for three years if your illegal stay was between 180 days (six months) and one year. If your illegal stay in the U.S. lasted more than one full year, you can be prevented from returning for ten years.

In fact, this problem creates a trap for many people who, although they are technically eligible for a green card, can’t actually get one because they are living in the United States illegally.

Example: Maria crossed the border illegally from Mexico in the year 2009. She married David, a U.S. citizen, in 2014. However, because of Maria’s illegal entry, she cannot apply for a green card at a local USCIS office. She would have to go to a U.S. consulate in Mexico to file her green card application—and then potentially be barred from returning to the U.S. for ten years.

Some people can apply for a waiver to return to the U.S. earlier than the three- or ten-year period during which they are barred, but the circumstances allowing for such a waiver are limited and these waivers are frequently denied. Moreover, you must ordinarily apply for the waiver when you apply for your visa, which can add a long time to the process.

Fortunately, USCIS has developed a “provisional waiver” that will allow some applicants to submit their waiver request before leaving the U.S. for their consular interview, so they don’t have to be stuck outside the U.S. for the time it takes USCIS to rule on their waiver request. For details, see Chapter 7.

Immigration Eligibility Self-Quiz

Since we don’t know who you are, we’re going make a very broad assumption: you’re looking for any possible way to spend time in the United States, preferably permanently.

With that idea in mind, we offer the following quiz to help you find out what type of visa or green card you might be eligible for and which chapter of this book to read for more information. This quiz will also help introduce you to U.S. immigration law—it covers almost all the categories for entering or staying legally.

 

Permanent Green Cards

Question

Possible rights to a visa or green card

For more information

Are you from Canada or Mexico?

 

You have rights and visa possibilities that others don’t.

See Chapter 5 for more on immigration possibilities for Canadians and Mexicans.

Are you engaged to marry a U.S. citizen and living overseas?

You may be eligible for a fiancé visa, allowing you to enter the United States in order to get married.

See Chapter 8 more on obtaining a fiancé visa.

Do you have any close family members (parents, husband or wife, children over 21, or brothers and sisters) who are U.S. citizens?

You may qualify for a green card if one of them is willing to petition for you.

See Chapter 7 for more information on obtaining a green card through family.

Do you have any close family members (parents, husband, or wife) who are U.S. permanent residents (green card holders)?

You may qualify for a green card if one of them is willing to petition for you.

See Chapter 7 for more information on obtaining a green card through family.

Are you a U.S. citizen who wishes to adopt a child from overseas?

You may be able to adopt an orphan or a child under age 16.

See Chapter 7 for more information on obtaining green cards for adopted children.

Do you have a job offer from a U.S. employer?

 

You may be able to obtain a green card, if you have the right background and qualifications, if the employer is willing to sponsor you, and in most cases, if no U.S. workers are willing or able to take the job.

See Chapter 9 for more information on getting a green card through employment.

Note: Some job offers may qualify you for temporary work visas; keep a lookout for these farther on in this quiz.

Do you (or your spouse or parents) come from a country on the State Department’s list of countries eligible to participate in the diversity visa lottery?

You can enter the visa lottery once a year. Winners who meet the educational and other qualifying criteria can apply for green cards.

See Chapter 10 for more on how the visa lottery works.

Do you have $500,000 or more to invest in the creation or expansion of a U.S. business?

You may be eligible for an investment-based green card.

See Chapter 11 for more information on obtaining an investment-based green card.

Are you a member of the clergy or a religious worker wishing to come to the U.S. to work for the same religious organization that you’ve already been working for over the last two years?

You may qualify for a green card as a special immigrant (or for a temporary “R” visa, described below).

See Chapter 12 for more information on obtaining a green card as a special immigrant.

Are you a graduate of a foreign medical school who came to the United States before January 10, 1978, and are you still living in the United States?

You may qualify for a green card as a special immigrant.

See Chapter 12 for more information on obtaining a green card as a special immigrant.

Are you a former overseas U.S. govern­ment worker or a retired employee of an international organization, and have you worked half of the last seven years in the United States?

You may qualify for a green card as a special immigrant.

See Chapter 12 for more information on obtaining a green card as a special immigrant.

Are you helping a child who is living in the U.S. and has been declared dependent on a juvenile court and eligible for long-term foster or state agency care?

The child may qualify for a green card as a special immigrant.

See Chapter 12 for more information on the child’s obtaining a green card as a special immigrant.

Have you served in the U.S. armed services for a total of 12 years or more after October 15, 1978?

You may qualify for a green card as a special immigrant.

See Chapter 12 for more information on obtaining a green card as a special immigrant.

Do you live in a country (non-U.S.) where you have faced or fear persecu­tion, either by the government or by someone the government can’t control—and is that persecution because of your race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group?

You may qualify as a refugee, which would allow you to travel to the United States and apply for a green card after one year.

See Chapter 13 for more information on obtaining refugee status from overseas.

Are you in the United States now, but fear returning to your home country because you have faced or still fear persecution, either by the government or someone the government can’t control—and is that persecution because of your race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group?

You may qualify for asylum, which would allow you to stay in the United States, and apply for a green card after one year.

See Chapter 13 for more information on obtaining asylum.

Have you lived in the U.S. continuously since January 1972?

You may be eligible for a green card based on registry.

See a lawyer for more information on obtaining a registry-based green card.

Have you said “no” to all of the above questions?

 

See an immigration attorney to reevaluate whether you qualify for any type of green card.

 

Temporary Visas

Question

Possible rights to a visa or green card

For more information

Are you interested in a short trip to the U.S. for pleasure, business, or medical care?

You may qualify for a B-1 or B-2 visitor visa.

See Chapter 15 for more information on obtaining B visas.

Has a U.S. employer offered you a job requiring highly specialized knowledge gained from a university degree or equivalent work experience?

You may qualify for an H-1B work visa (good for up to six years).

See Chapter 16 for more information on obtaining H-1B visas.

Has a U.S. employer offered you a temporary or seasonal nonagricultural job, whether skilled or unskilled?

You may qualify for an H-2B work visa (good for up to one year).

See Chapter 17 for more information on obtaining H-2B visas.

Does a U.S. company plan to offer you on-the-job training in order to help your career in your home country?

You may qualify for an H-3 visa (good for the length of the training, up to two years).

See Chapter 18 for more information on obtaining H-3 visas.

Does your company, which has offices both inside and outside the U.S., want to transfer you to the U.S. as an owner, executive, manager, or an employee with special knowledge?

You may qualify for an L-1 visa (usually good for five to seven years).

See Chapter 19 for more information on obtaining L-1 visas.

Are you a part owner or key employee of a company that trades with the U.S., and coming to the U.S. to trade or help develop or direct the company’s operations?

You may qualify for an E-1 treaty trader visa (initially good for up to two years).

See Chapter 20 for more information on obtaining E-1 visas.

Are you a part owner or key employee of a U.S. company supported by investment from natives of your home country, and coming to the U.S. to work for that company?

You may qualify for an E-2 treaty investor visa (initially good for up to two years).

See Chapter 21 for more information on obtaining E-2 visas.

Have you been accepted to study at an academic or vocational school in the U.S.?

You may qualify for an F-1 (academic student) or M-1 (vocational student) visa (good for the length of your studies except that M-1s are limited to a one-year stay).

See Chapter 22 for more information on obtaining F-1 and M-1 visas.

Have you been accepted to participate in an exchange program in the U.S.?

You may qualify for a J-1 exchange visitor visa (good for the length of the program).

See Chapter 23 for more information on obtaining J-1 visas.

Has a U.S. employer offered you a job based on either your extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics; or as a religious worker?

You may qualify for an O, P, or R visa (good for the time period necessary to accomplish an event or activity, up to three years for O and P visas, and five years in the case of R visas).

See Chapter 24 for more information on obtaining O, P, or R visas.

Have you said “no” to all of the above questions?

 

See an attorney to see whether you have over­looked any possibility.

 

Which Government Office Will Be Handling Your Immigration Application

 

Getting your green card or nonimmigrant visa may require dealing with more than one U.S. government agency, and maybe more than one office within that agency. The possibilities include the following:

The U.S. Department of State (DOS, at www.travel.state.gov), through U.S. embassies and consulates located around the world, and its Kentucky Consular Center, which handles the diversity visa lottery and coordinates USCIS petition approval with the embassies and consulates. If you’re coming from outside of the U.S., you’ll be dealing primarily with a U.S. consulate—and if you’re currently in the U.S., you, too, may have to travel to a consulate to complete your application. Not all U.S. consulates provide visa-processing services. To find more information about the U.S. consulate nearest to your home, either check the phone book of your country’s capital city, or go to www.usembassy.gov. Note that you cannot normally apply for an immigrant visa (permanent residence) in a U.S. embassy or consulate outside your home country, unless the U.S. has no diplomatic relationship with the government of your homeland. You may be able to apply for nonimmigrant visas (such as a tourist visa) in a third country, so long as you have never overstayed your permitted time in the U.S., even by one day.

The National Visa Center (NVC), a private company under contract to the DOS for the purpose of handling case files during certain intermediate parts of the green card application process. After USCIS approves a visa petition by a U.S.-based family member or company, the NVC is given the file and handles the case until it’s time to forward the file to the appropriate U.S. consulate or USCIS district office.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly called INS, at www.uscis.gov), an agency of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Even if you’re living outside the United States, you may have to deal with USCIS, particularly if you’re applying for a green card rather than a temporary visa. Most green card applications must be started by a U.S.-based family member or company filing a visa petition with USCIS. USCIS has various types of offices that handle immigration applications, including Service Centers and Lockboxes (large processing facilities that serve a wide region, which you cannot visit in person), district offices (which interact with the public by providing forms and information and holding interviews), suboffices (like district offices, but smaller and with more limited services), Application Support Centers (where you go to have fingerprints taken and, in some cases, pick up forms or turn in applications), and asylum offices (where interviews on applications for asylum are held).

Customs and Border Protection (CBP at www.cbp.gov), also under DHS, responsible for patrolling the U.S. borders. This includes meeting you at an airport or other U.S. entry point when you arrive with your visa and doing a last check to make sure that your visa paperwork is in order and that you didn’t obtain it through fraud or by providing false information.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL at www.dol.gov), through its Employment and Training Administration, at www.doleta.gov. If your visa or green card application is based on a job with a U.S. employer, certain parts of the paperwork may have to be filed with and ruled on by the DOL. The DOL’s role is to make sure that hiring immigrant workers doesn’t make it harder for U.S. workers to get a job and that you’re being paid a fair wage (one that doesn’t act to bring down the wages of U.S. workers).

Although you needn’t learn a lot about these various agencies, it’s important to keep track of which one has your application as it makes its way through the pipeline.

This is especially true if you ever change your address, because you should advise the office that actually has control of your application. (These offices don’t communicate well with each other—if you tell one place about your change of address, it may not tell the one that actually has your file, and you may not hear about important requirements or interviews.)

 

 

 

 

Now that you have some idea whether there’s a visa or green card that you qualify for, please go on to read either Chapter 2 (if you have parents or grandparents who were U.S. citizens) or Chapter 3, concerning inadmissibility. Then proceed straight to the chapter concerning the visa or green card you’re interested in. If, after reading the detailed eligibility requirements, you confirm that you qualify, don’t forget to read Chapter 4, with crucial advice on handling the paperwork and dealing with bureaucrats, and Chapter 6 on when and how to find a good lawyer.

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