The United States has a long and complex history of immigration. People have been coming to America for various reasons. Some families immigrate to be reunited, while some do it to seek greener pastures. This influx of immigrants led the US Government to develop a robust system of immigration laws.
If you or someone you love would like to move to the United States, consider the services of an immigration attorney They can ensure all necessary forms and documents are correctly filled out and submitted on time. They can advise you on the best options available based on your situation. Thus, their service can increase the likelihood of a successful outcome and help you avoid costly mistakes.
At Lincoln-Goldfinch Law, we are committed to helping you reach your immigration goals. For example, if you are unsure of the type of Visa you need and how to get it, our immigration attorneys can help.
To help you understand the different options, this article talks about immigrant and non-immigrant Visas and the various legal issues you may encounter in the U.S. immigration process.
What Are The Types Of U.S. Visas?
People come to the United States for vacation, to visit their relatives, and to work or study. Others aim to reside in the country permanently. Naturally, various types of U.S. Visas are available depending on your visit’s purpose. The U.S. Department of State categorizes each Visa based on what you will do during your visit, the duration of your stay, and your eligibility.
There are two main categories of U.S. Visas: immigrant Visas and non-immigrant Visas. You apply for immigrant Visas if you wish to reside in the United States on a permanent basis. Meanwhile, you apply for non-immigrant Visas if you plan to visit the country temporarily.
What Are Immigrant Visas?
The US Government issues immigrant Visas to allow foreign nationals to live and work in the United States permanently. Typically, certain categories of applicants get priority due to the limited number of available Visas. For example, immediate family members of U.S. citizens or individuals with valuable skills or education are given precedence.
Here’s a list of the most common U.S. immigrant Visas:
- Family-sponsored Visas. These Visas allow U.S. citizens or permanent residents to sponsor their immediate family members.
- Employment-based Visas. These are for individuals who have a job offer in the United States and have exceptional abilities in their field.
- Diversity Immigrant Visa. This is open to individuals from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the U.S. It is also known as the Green Card Lottery.
- Refugee and asylum Visas are available to individuals who fled persecution or fear persecution in their home country.
Other categories include Investor Visas and special immigrant Visas for religious workers or Iraqi or Afghan nationals who worked with the U.S. Government.
As mentioned earlier, immigrant visas are ideal if you plan to live in the United States permanently. If you only need to stay in the country for a short while, then non-immigrant Visas are the best option.
What Are Non-immigrant Visas?
Non-immigrant Visas are temporary and do not provide a pathway to permanent residency. You must demonstrate having strong ties to your home country to convince the U.S. embassy or consulate in your country that you will not overstay your Visa.
Below are the popular U.S. non-immigrant Visas:
- B-1/B-2 Visitor Visa. This Visa is for you if you want to visit the United States for business (B-1) or pleasure (B-2) purposes and stay for up to six months at a time.
- F-1 Student Visa. If you are a foreign student who wants to study at an accredited institution in the United States, then this is for you.
- J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa: You can apply for this Visa if you want to participate in a cultural exchange program.
- H-1B Specialty Occupation Visa. You qualify for this Visa if you have specialized knowledge and a U.S. employer offers you a job in a specialty occupation.
- E-2 Investor Visa. This Visa is ideal if you want to invest a substantial amount of money in a U.S. business.
- TN Visa. You may qualify for this Visa if you are a Canadian or Mexican citizen with a job offer from a U.S. employer. Do note that this Visa can only apply in certain professional fields under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
These are just a few examples of the different types of non-immigrant Visas available. Of course, each Visa has its own set of requirements and restrictions. It is necessary, then, to review the application process and eligibility criteria carefully before you apply for a Visa.
However, an immigrant Visa is still the best option if you plan to stay in the U.S. permanently.
Immigration To The United States
Knowing which Visa you qualify for the most and meeting its requirements raises your chances of getting a U.S. immigrant Visa successfully.
Family Based Immigration
There are different types of Visas available if you wish to join your family members living in the United States. Typically, a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident who is an immediate relative can sponsor you for immigration.
Here are the different Visas under U.S. family-based immigration:
Immediate Relative Visas
This type of Visa is not limited by an annual quota. Close family members of U.S. citizens, including their parents, spouses, and unmarried children under 21 years of age qualify for this Visa.
Family Preference Visas
This immigrant Visa is available for other family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. It includes their unmarried adult children, married children, and siblings. Do note that it takes time to obtain these Visas since these are subject to an annual cap.
In family-based immigration, U.S. citizens can petition for their spouse, son or daughter, parent, or brother or sister. Meanwhile, U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents can only petition for their spouse or unmarried son or daughter.
K-1 Fiancé(e) Visas
US citizens can invite their fiancé(e)s to the United States through the K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa. This type of Visa is valid for 90 days, during which time the couple must get married. The next step, then, would be for the foreign spouse to apply for permanent residency.
Spouses, parents, and children who suffered domestic violence from their U.S. citizen or LPR relative may apply for VAWA. The Violence Against Women Act allows for self-petition, providing a pathway to safety and legal residency for victims of abuse.
If you are not qualified for a family-based immigration Visa, then another option would be employment-based immigration.
There are several types of Visas for employment-based immigration. Each Visa has its own set of requirements and the success of an application depends largely on your compliance with these prerequisites.
Here are some popular employment-based immigrant Visas:
Those with extraordinary abilities in science, arts, education, business, or athletics qualify for EB-1 Visa. A job offer is not necessary to start the application.
This Visa is for professionals with advanced degrees or individuals with exceptional abilities in science, arts, or business. Unlike the EB-1 Visa, the EB-2 Visa requires a job offer and a labor certification.
Skilled workers, professionals, and other workers qualify for this Visa. You must submit a job offer and a labor certification as part of the Visa requirements.
Special immigrants, such as religious workers, certain international broadcasters, and employees of the U.S. Government abroad can apply for this Visa.
If you are capable of making a significant investment in a new or existing U.S. business, then you qualify for this Visa. The investment must create at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers.
These Visas have an annual cap, and some categories have long waiting periods. You should anticipate the application to take some time since it requires significant documentation and evidence.
However, it is worth all the effort if you succeed in the Visa application. Why? The main reason is that it paves the way for a more permanent immigration opportunity: the U.S. Green Card.
How To Get A U.S. Green Card
Officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, the U.S. Green Card allows non-citizens to live and work in the country permanently. Although it can be a complex process, there are several pathways to becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR).
Family sponsorship is a common way to become an LPR. A U.S. citizen or LPR can sponsor their spouse, children, parents, and siblings to become Lawful Permanent Residents.
If you are not qualified for a family-based Green Card application, then another option is through employment sponsorship. U.S. employers can sponsor foreign workers for permanent residency based on their skills and qualifications. This process includes obtaining a labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Another way to get a U.S. Permanent Resident Card is the Diversity Visa Lottery program. Individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. can apply for a chance to become an LPR. The U.S. Department of State oversees this program for a limited time each year.
Also, refugees, asylees, and victims of trafficking or domestic violence have their special categories in the LPR application process.
LPR applicants will typically receive a conditional residency status once they get their approval. While having such status, they need to live in the U.S. for a certain period of time, maintain employment, and avoid criminal activity.
Typically after two years, conditional residents can apply to get full LPR status. They need to file a petition with the USCIS and provide evidence that the conditions were met.
After having your full LPR status, you may wonder what happens next. What lies beyond having a U.S. Green Card? The answer is, gaining U.S. citizenship through naturalization.
Benefits Of Citizenship & Naturalization
In contrast to permanent resident status, you enjoy numerous benefits if you are a naturalized U.S. citizen. For instance, U.S. citizenship gives you the right to vote in federal elections and the eligibility to apply for certain Government jobs.
Naturalization protects you from deportation. In addition to that, you can travel freely outside the United States with a U.S. passport. Further, U.S. citizenship gives you access to social security benefits and federal aid for education and home ownership.
Of course, you must meet specific requirements to be eligible for naturalization. First, you must be at least 18 years old and have been a U.S. lawful permanent resident (LPR) for at least five years. If you obtained LPR status through marriage to a U.S. citizen then the residency requirement becomes three years. Read more about our citizenship and naturalization services.
Additionally, you must demonstrate good moral character, pass an English language and civics exam, and pay a filing fee. You must not have any disqualifying factors, such as a criminal record or a history of immigration violations.
Approved applicants will then take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony, officially becoming U.S. citizens. With that, naturalization is a significant and rewarding process that allows you to fully integrate into American society. You can then enjoy all the rights and benefits of U.S. citizenship.
Applying For Asylum
You qualify for asylum if you are escaping harm such as persecution and violence in your home country. Through this process, you can seek protection and lawful residence in the United States.
You must demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution in your country if you choose this option. Such oppression may be on account of your ethnicity, faith, nationality, or political affiliation. You must also prove that your home Government is unable or unwilling to protect you from harm.
Obtaining asylum in the U.S. can be complex and lengthy, and you may face significant barriers and delays. Despite these challenges, asylum remains a critical pathway to U.S. immigration if you are fleeing oppression from your country.
Legal Issues For Immigrants
The common legal issues for U.S. immigrants are deportation, immigration appeals, and adjustment of status. If you are an immigrant, these legal issues can have a significant impact on you and your family. Additionally, navigating the complex U.S. immigration system can be daunting without proper guidance and legal assistance.
Deportation removes non-citizens from the United States. You can get deported for various reasons, including criminal activity, immigration violations, and overstaying a Visa.
An immigration judge hears your case and then determines whether you should be deported or allowed to remain in the country. Of course, deportation can have devastating consequences for an immigrant. These include separation from loved ones, loss of employment, and disruption of educational opportunities.
Thus, do not take lightly the possibility of being deported. You can use asylum, cancellation of removal, and VAWA self-petition as possible defenses. Consult with an experienced deportation attorney to explore all available options when you face deportation proceedings.
Filing Immigration Appeals
If by any chance you are facing deportation orders, it’s not necessarily the end of the road. You can file an appeal to challenge such decisions by the authorities much like how it is done in local courts. This does not only apply to deportation but applies to the revocation of a Green Card and denial of an immigration application as well.
For example, you can file an appeal at the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) if the immigration court denies your asylum application. Beyond that, higher courts such as the U.S. Court of Appeals can hear your case.
To start the process, you must submit a Notice of Appeal within 30 days of the decision. The outcome of an immigration appeal can significantly impact your ability to live and work in the United States, so you need to make well-informed decisions.
Adjustment Of Status
Adjustment of status leading to permanent residency is another issue you may need to deal with as an immigrant. Of course, you must meet certain criteria to be eligible. For example, you must be admissible to the United States and have an immediate relative who is a U.S. citizen or LPR to sponsor you.
As an initial step, you need to submit an application and supporting documentation to the USCIS. Then you need to attend a biometrics appointment and anticipate an interview. Note that the whole process can take several months to complete.
Once approved, you will receive a Green Card granting you permanent resident status. Do note that you can face removal proceedings if immigration authorities deny your application.
To even the odds, having an adjustment of status attorney to guide you in the process of adjustment of status raises your chance to succeed. They can ensure proper filing of forms and help you avoid potential pitfalls.
What Can An Immigration Lawyer Do For You?
One of the primary ways that an immigration lawyer can help you is by providing guidance on Visa applications. For example, they can help you determine which type of Visa is appropriate for your situation. They can also help you prepare the correct documents and forms whether you’re applying for a Work Visa, Student Visa, or Family-Based Visa.
In addition, it is equally important to hire the services of an immigration counsel to represent you in legal proceedings. For example, they can provide you with the most viable legal options if you are facing deportation orders. They can also help you file an appeal if necessary.
Also, note that U.S. immigration laws and policies can change over time. Your lawyer can help you understand how these changes might affect your case or situation. They can also help you stay informed about any deadlines or important dates related to your immigration status.
About Lincoln-Goldfinch Law
At Lincoln-Goldfinch Law, we are committed to providing exceptional customer service and legal representation. We work hard to develop strong relationships with you, listen to your concerns, and provide personalized solutions to your immigration concerns.
Our experienced immigration attorneys in Austin TX have successfully handled family-based immigration, employment-based immigration, naturalization, Green Card petitions, and deportation defenses.
Also, we have a close-knit and empathetic team that continues to find innovative ways to provide legal remedies that educate and empower you. We provide customized legal representation with the goal of getting the best possible outcome for you.
Do reach out to us today, as we are always ready to help you decide on the best course of action and achieve your immigration goals.