There are two main kinds of visas: non-immigrant and immigrant. Non-immigrant visas allow a person to come to the United States and live and study and perhaps even work, depending on the type of visa issued. However, these visas are for a specified period. When that period is over, the non-immigrant visa holder must leave the United States.
Immigrant visas are different. The immigrant visa holder can live and work permanently in the United States. Immigrant visas typically result in the issuance of a document or a identification card we have come to know as the “green card.” The green card holder is also called a “legal permanent resident” in the United States.
How does one obtain an immigrant visa, and therefore apply for a green card?
There are many paths to obtaining an immigrant visa. For example, the immigrant visa may be obtained through a family relationship.
United States Citizens can apply for immigrant visas for their spouses, the spouse’s children, their own children – whether married or unmarried, their parents, and their brothers and sisters.
Green card holders can apply for immigrant visas for their spouses and children.
Besides family relationships, employment status can also be a route to obtaining an immigrant visa. Employees of U.S. companies who have non-immigrant visas can a Besides family relationships, employment status can also be a route to obtaining an immigrant visa. Employees of U.S. companies who have non-immigrant visas can apply for immigrant visas through complicated immigration processes. One of these processes which is widely known is referred to as “labor certification.” An employee who obtains labor certification can then apply to the Immigration Service for an immigrant visa. Besides labor certification, categories of immigration through employment are also available for multi- national managers, aliens with extraordinary or exceptional ability, skilled workers, religious workers, and immigrant investors.
The requirements for immigrant visas for each of the above categories are significantly different. Therefore, an intending immigrant should obtain qualified legal assistance before filing any application with the Immigration & Naturalization Service or any other appropriate U.S. Government agency.
Obtaining an immigrant visa is an interesting mix of working with up to three different federal government agencies: the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Immigration & Naturalization Service – and sometimes more! The laws and trends affecting immigration change regularly and rapidly. It is therefore necessary to be aware of the substantial impact that new laws and regulations can have on any of these immigrant visa categories.
Besides family-based and employment-based immigration, immigrant visas can also be issued to refugees, asylees, and “diversity immigrants.” The diversity immigrant category makes available immigrant visas to hopeful immigrants from countries that are “under- represented” in the United States’ population. Countries such as India or China, which have a significant presence in the United States population as a percentage of all new immigrants are excluded from the diversity immigrant program.
Having a green card may entitle the holder to live and work permanently in the United States. Simultaneously, it also requires that the green card holder file U.S. tax returns declaring all of his or her worldwide income. Also a green card holder can be deported for committing a crime, even if he or she has substantial family or business ties in the United States. Therefore, once the immigrant visa holder has obtained his or her green card, he or she should seriously consider applying for naturalization (becoming a U.S. Citizen) at the first available opportunity. For more information on naturalization, refer to the article on naturalization , elsewhere on this website.
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