Immigration is the act of entering a country with the intention of living or working there permanently. In the United States, the immigration process is regulated by specific laws and steps, with the purpose of maintaining order and control over who enters and leaves the United States.
There are also laws that administer visa and permit procedures for foreigners who only come to the country temporarily.
The U.S. immigration system is quite broad, and understanding it can be challenging, because laws and procedures change frequently or new ones are created.
The following is an overview of the immigration process in the United States. In this section you will also find a series of articles that explain how to immigrate to the United States legally, what to do according to your case, and where to find legal help.
Requirements to qualify as a legal immigrant
In the United States, certain people are granted immigrant status based on factors already established by law. The most common are:
-Permanent job offer.
The immigration system also regulates entry for humanitarian reasons to:
And it also provides an option to promote diversity:
The “visa lottery”.
The procedure to obtain a legal immigrant status will depend, among other factors, on the steps that you must follow according to your employment, level of education and family situation, among others.
An individual can obtain immigrant status if she has relatives who are US citizens or permanent residents (they carry a green card or “green card”). But the applicant must meet the following requirements:
-The individual must qualify for legal permanent residence if they have a family relationship that is recognized by US nationality and immigration law. In this case, the laws are based on a system of preferences, and spouses and children have higher priority than other relatives who are not direct.
-The individual’s family member (called the sponsor) must submit form I-130 (in English). This document is the petition for a foreign relative. Evidence proving the family relationship should also be included. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must approve the application.
Through a job offer
This category includes individuals who can apply to be immigrants due to a permanent job opportunity. The applicant must comply with these guidelines:
-Must qualify under one of the five immigration categories based on employment
-The individual’s employer must submit a request for labor certification to the Employment and Training Administration of the Department of Labor.
-The employer must submit an application for an immigrant visa, usually Form I-140 (in English) or alien worker petition.
-USCIS approval of adjustment of status as lawful permanent residents.
If an individual makes a capital investment in the United States, she may also qualify for immigrant status, as long as she meets these rules:
-The investment must be of a minimum amount set by law, it must benefit the US economy and generate or preserve a specific number of jobs.
-File the form I-526 (in English) or petition for an immigrant as a foreign entrepreneur.
-Acceptance from USCIS.
Immigration process as refugees and asylees
In order to obtain refugee status, an individual must have been a victim of persecution in her country of origin in the past, or fear being so in the future. The persecution must be because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or affiliation with a certain group.
It is very important that you verify these requirements because you will need proof if you have to go before an immigration judge.
An individual who qualifies for refugee status must meet certain medical and security criteria in order to enter the United States.
The United States has a Diversity Visa Lottery program, through which it offers an annual quota of immigrant visas to people whose home countries have low rates of immigration to the United States.
Each year, the Department of State selects a certain number of applicants from among all eligible participants and guarantees their entry into the country through this route with the option of obtaining a residence card (“green card”).
Legal assistance with the immigration process
The United States government’s immigration system is designed in such a way that all persons who meet the eligibility requirements can complete their own procedures to become citizens or lawful permanent residents.
However, the interpretation of the laws is complex and the steps to be followed very meticulous, and involve deadlines that must be met.
If you or your family members are considering moving to the United States, it is advisable to seek the legal services of an immigration lawyer, who can guide you and make the most appropriate recommendations during your immigration processes.
Talk to a qualified immigration attorney today
This article is intended to be helpful and informative, but legal matters can be complicated and stressful. A qualified immigration attorney can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local immigration attorney to discuss your unique legal situation.