Introduction to US Immigration:
Temporary Visas, Permanent Visas (“Green Cards”) and Becoming a Citizen
Nonimmigrant Visas & Temporary Residence
The first entry into the US for a foreign national commonly takes place on a nonimmigrant visa for a temporary stay with a specific purpose. The majority of short term entries to the US are on visitor visas (B-1) for business or tourism (90 percent). The activities of a temporary visa holder are proscribed by his or her visa status or class of admission. The maximum duration of stay is also set by the visa holder’s class of admission.
To enter the US, a non-immigrant generally obtains a visa at a US consulate or embassy abroad, after electronically filing a visa application and interviewing at the consular post. He or she undergoes a second check at the US port of entry, an airport or land border, by a Customs & Border Protection (CBP) officer. The CBP officer determines the duration of stay for the non-immigrant and enters it on a non-immigrant entry document, the I-94.
Visa Waiver Program. Citizens of several countries, allies of the US, have been given the privilege of using the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This program may be used for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less. Qualified nationals for these countries must have a machine-readable passport valid for six months beyond their expected stay and a return ticket if they arrive by air or sea. They also must be able to show the CBP officer an intent to leave the US and sufficient funds to support themselves during their stay.
More Commonly Used Employment Based Temporary Visas, Student & Exchange Visitor Visas
For more information about these visas, and how Chavin Immigration helps to obtain them, please see our Services Offered.
|Temporary Workers & Trainees|
|H-1B||Specialty Occupation Workers|
|H1B1||Chile & Singapore Free Trade Agreement Aliens|
|H-2A||Seasonal Agricultural Worker|
|H-2B||Seasonal Non-Agricultural Worker|
|O-1||Extraordinary Ability/Achievement Workers|
|P-1||Internationally Recognized Athletes or Entertainers|
|P-4||Spouse and Children of P-1 Workers|
|R-1||Workers in Religious Occupations|
|TN||NAFTA Professional Workers|
|Treaty Traders & Investors|
|E-3||Australian Free Trade Agreement|
|F-1 (J-1)||Academic Students|
Temporary visas for fiance(e)s of US citizens (K-1) and spouses of US citizens with petitions pending (K-3) are classed as temporary resident classes of admission, the members of which will likely become legal permanent residents.
Legal Permanent Residence (LPR) or “Green Cards”
Permanent resident status confers the right to live, work and study permanently in the US. LPRs may also apply to become US citizens after meeting certain requirements.
Adjustment of Status. Most LPRs live in the US before becoming green card holders. They start out as temporary workers, academic students, family members of LPRs or US citizens, or even those here out of status. The procedure for changing from a temporary resident or visa overstay (unlawful presence) to an LPR while in the US is called “adjustment of status.” This process typically starts with an application to the US Customs & Immigration Service (USCIS).
Consular Processing. The other path to green card is via a consular office of the US Department of State located in a country abroad. Once issued a visa at the consulate or US embassy, a foreign national becomes an LPR upon admission to the US at a port of entry, like an airport or land border.
Employment or Investment Based Immigration
There are five preference categories of employee or investor immigrants (and their spouses and children): (EB-1) priority workers, (EB-2) professionals with advanced degrees or aliens of exceptional ability, (EB-3) skilled workers, professionals (without advanced degrees) and needed unskilled workers. There are also (EB-4) special immigrants, those who work as ministers, religious workers or employees of the US government abroad, and (EB-5) job creation immigrants or investors. For more information about these visas and services offered by Chavin Immigration Law Office, please click here.
Family Based Immigration
The majority of LPRs obtain their status based on a family relationship with a US citizen. Those with an “immediate relative” relationship to a US citizen aged 21 or over have immigrant visas available to them without much wait. Most family based immigrant visas are granted to spouses, children under 21 and parents of US citizens for this reason.
Those with a similar relationship to an LPR or a close, but not immediate relationship to a US citizen may also apply for a family-based immigrant visa, but they have a several year wait for visa availability. They fall into family-sponsored preference categories, and their “place in line,” or wait time depending on their filing date, can be found in the monthly Department of State Visa Bulletin.
Diversity Lottery Immigration
Foreigners from countries with small numbers of US immigrants are allowed to participate each year in a lottery October to December of each year. A maximum of 3,850 per country are permitted to immigrate from the lottery winners.
Refugee and Asylum Immigration
Refugees are eligible to adjust their status to permanent resident after one year of living in the US. Asylees must also wait one year after they are granted asylum to apply for a green card.
Naturalization and US Citizenship
Legal permanent residents over age 18 may apply for US citizenship after waiting the statutory period of five years, or three years for those living in marital union with a US citizen spouse. Application for US citizenship should not be taken lightly however by those who have had an encounter with the police, have registered to vote in the US, or had trouble obtaining their green card. They could risk a loss of their green card status. At an interview at the USCIS local office, applicants will take a English language, civics and history test, and go over their N-400 application for citizenship. LPR children under 18 may acquire citizenship automatically from their US citizen parents.
Help Is Available
Chavin Immigration Law Office has helped citizens of Ghana, the Philippines, China, South Korea, Australia, India, Pakistan, Yemen, Jordan, Israel, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, Georgia, Lithuania, Canada, Argentina, and others on their immigration and naturalization needs. Find out how she can help you. Click here to arrange a consultation, email Melissa@chavinimmigration.com, or telephone Munich, Germany: 49(176)286-6463-5.Share this Article