U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
A person who is granted permanent residence is authorized to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. There are several ways to obtain a permanent resident card, also known as a “green card”. Most commonly individuals are sponsored by a family member, or employer in the United States.
Other avenues for permanent residence may be through refugee or asylum status, or other humanitarian programs. Each avenue for obtaining a permanent residence card has its own rules and regulations.
Naturalization grants U.S. citizenship to a foreign citizen or national after the requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act have been fulfilled. In most all cases, an applicant must be a permanent resident (green card holder) and lived in the United States for 5 years.
You may also apply if you have been a permanent resident for 3 years and have been living in marital union with the same U.S. Citizen spouse during the 3 years and meet other requirements. In some cases, spouses of U.S. citizens working abroad may qualify regardless of their time as permanent residents.
A person born outside of the United States to a U.S. Citizen parent or parents may qualify for U.S. citizenship depending on the law that was in effect at the time of birth.
The laws vary, but generally require one of the parents being a U.S. citizen when the child was born and having lived in the U.S. for a period of time.
Children born outside the United States may also become citizens after birth based on their parent’s citizenship.
U.S. citizens may petition for certain family members to receive a green card, fiancée visa, or a K-3/K-4 visa based on your relationship. You may petition for a green card for your spouse, children (unmarried and under 21), any sons and daughters (married and/or 21 or over), and parents and siblings (if you are 21 or over).
You may petition for a fiancé visa for a fiancé residing outside the U.S. and for the children of your fiancé that are under 21 years of age. Lastly, you may petition for a K-3/K-4 nonimmigrant visa for your spouse and children of your spouse if they are unmarried and under 21.
As a permanent resident (green card holder), you may petition for certain family members to immigrate to the United States as permanent residents. You may petition for your spouse, unmarried children under 21, and unmarried sons or daughters of any age.
A temporary worker may enter the United States for a temporary period of time. Their stay in the U.S. is for a specific purpose and they are restricted to the activity or reason for which their nonimmigrant visa was issued.
A permanent immigrant worker is authorized to work and live permanently in the United States. There are about 140,000 immigrant visas available each fiscal year for immigrants and their family (spouses and children) who seek to work in the United States based on their job skills.
There are five categories of employment based immigrant visas which are based different combinations of skills, education, and work/or work experience.
There are thousands of foreign students in the United States each year. To study in the United States, individuals need a student visa. There are two nonimmigrant visa categories, known as F and M visas.
F-1 Student visas are academic students who attend an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or language training program that culminates in a degree, diploma, or certificate.
M-1 student visas are vocational students who engage in vocational or other nonacademic programs, other than language training.
Exchange program visitors need a J-1 visa which authorizes the participation in programs for the purpose of teaching, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, receiving training, or to receive graduate medical education or training.
Visiting the United States for business requires a temporary visitor for business visa (B-1). Activities that fall under this visa category may be of a commercial or professional nature.
For example, consult with business associates, negotiate a contract, attend a business conference, for medical treatment, or to accompany a family member who is requires medical treatment.
A tourist visa B-2 is for individuals who want to visit the United States for pleasure which is a temporarily visit for vacation or to visit family or friends.
The treaty trader (E-1) or treaty investor (E-2) visa is for a national of a country to carry on substantial trading, or to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which the national has invested, or is in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital in the United States.
Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age may receive a derivative E visa to accompany the main visa holder.