All foreign citizens who seek entry to the United States for the purpose of permanently living in the United States, shall apply for an immigrant visa.
In general, there are three main groups of immigrant visas depending on the legal basis of immigration:
- Family based immigration
- Employment based immigration
- Immigration through Diversity Immigrant Visa Program („green card lottery”).
In general, a person who wishes to immigrate to the United States must have a petition approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before applying for an immigrant visa. The petition is filed either by a qualified relative or a potential employer at a USCIS office in the United States.
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Family based immigration
The Immigration and Nationality Act of the United States allows immigration of foreign nationals based on a family realtionship to a U.S. citizen or permananent resident.
- S citizens may submit an immigration petition on behalf of their spouse, children, parents and siblings.
Lawful Permanent Residents (Green card holders) may petition for their spouse and their unmarried children under the age of 21 or unmarried children over the age of 21. Lawful permanent residents may not submit a petition for their parents, married children or siblings.
Additionally, a member of a special category of family based immigrants may obtain permanent residence. This special category can include battered spouse or child (VAWA), a K nonimmigrant, a person born to a foreign diplomat in the United States, a V nonimmigrant or a widow(er) of a U.S. Citizen.
Immigrant status may not be acquired on the basis of any further family relationships other than the ones listed above.
Employment based immigration
The Immigration and Nationality Act of the United States provides five preference categories of employment based visas depending on the professional expertiese of the applicant who wishes to immigrate to U.S. based on one of the below preference categories.
EB-1 visa may be requested for employees with extraordinary abilities
- in the field of science, arts, education, business or athletics who can demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim;
- who can demonstrate international recognition for their outstanding achievements in a particular academic field, having at least 3 years of experience in teaching or research in their academic area; or
- who are managers or executives of multinational companies subject to an international transfer to the United States.
EB-2 visa may be requested for professionals
- who hold an advanced degree or its equivalent,at least a bachelor (BA) degree combined with at least 5 years progressive work experience in the same professional field; or
- who have an exceptional ability in the field of sciences, arts, or business, due to which their degree of expertise is significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the given field.
EB-3 visa may be requested for skilled workers, professionals, or other workers, who work in a field where there is a shortage in the workforce in the United States and
- whose job as a skilled worker requires a minimum of 2 years training or work experience, not of a temporary or seasonal nature;
- whose job as a professional requires at least a U.S. bachelor degree or a foreign equivalent thereof; or
- who are performing unskilled labor as other workers, which jobs require less than 2 years training or experience and is not of a temporary or seasonal nature.
EB-4 visa may be requestedfor special immigrants set forth by the law, such as
- religous workers;
- employees of certain international organizations and their family members;
- certain overseas employees of the U.S. Government;
- certain members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
EB-5 visa may be requeted for investors, whose invesments contribute to the economic growth of the United States. To qualify, an investor must invest a minimum of either U.S. $500,000 or $1,000,000, depending on the employment rate in the geographical area, in a commercial enterprise in the United States which creates at least 10 new full-time jobs for U.S. citizens, permanent resident aliens, or other lawful immigrants, not including the investor and his or her family.
Immigration through Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (“green card lottery”)
The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program) makes up to 50,000 immigrant visas available annually, drawn from random selection among all entries to individuals who are from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. “Winning” a green card lottery however, does not result an immigrant status automatically, it only ensures the possibility to apply for an immigrant visa. Applicants still have to comply with the relevant legal regulations. You may apply for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program by visiting http://www.dvlottery.state.gov/.