Securing a visa is the first step to immigrating to the U.S. As described below, there are several different kinds of visas you may apply for depending on where you are from and your purpose in coming to the U.S. If and when you are given a "visa immigrant number," you may then apply for a "green card," which makes you a legal permanent resident (LPR).
Immigrant Visas through Family Connections
Every year, the U.S. grants 480,000 immigrant visas to foreigners seeking to join their relatives in the U.S. who are already citizens or legal permanent residents. In order to secure an immigrant visa through family connections, your relative in the U.S. must file a I-130 Petition for Alien Relative and provide proof of your familial relationship. Your relative must also submit an Affidavit of Support swearing that he/she can support you at least one hundred and twenty-five percent above the poverty line.
Once your relative submits all the paperwork, the USCIS will notify you if it is approved and, if applicable, what your immigration visa number is. If you are already in the United States, you can then apply to the USCIS to become a "legal permanent resident." If you are still in your home country, you must go to the U.S. consulate there to finish the immigration process.
Whether you are eligible for an immigration visa through family connections partly depends on whether your relative is a U.S. citizen or just a legal permanent resident: Citizens can sponsor their spouses and children, and citizens twenty-one or older can also sponsor siblings and parents. The only relatives a legal permanent resident may sponsor are spouses and unmarried children.
Furthermore, your relationship to your sponsor partly determines how quickly the immigration process will go. If you are an unmarried child (under twenty-one) of a U.S. citizen or are an adult parent or spouse of a U.S. citizen, you do not even have to wait for an immigrant visa number once the USCIS approves the petition. But everyone else needs an immigrant visa number to continue with the immigration process, and they are distributed according to the following order of preference:
- unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens
- unmarried children of legal permanent residents, spouses of legal permanent residents, and those spouses' unmarried children if they are under twenty-one
- married children of U.S. citizens
- siblings of adult U.S. citizens
Click here to learn more about immigration through family connections.
Immigrant Visas through Diversity Lottery Program
Every year the U.S. grants 55,000 visas to people in countries that have a disproportionately low level of U.S. immigration rates. Lottery visa holders can move to the U.S. permanently along with a spouse and unmarried children under twenty-one. To see if your country qualifies for the lottery this year and how to apply, check the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs website.
Immigrant Visas through Employment
Similar to family sponsorships, employers can sponsor foreigners to work for them in the U.S. Employers must first submit a labor certification request to the Department of Labor followed by a Petition for Alien Worker to the USCIS. If they are both granted, you may then receive an immigrant visa number from the State Department.
If you are already in the U.S. when you receive the immigrant visa number, you may apply for adjustment of status. If you are still outside the U.S., contact the U.S. consulate to finish the immigration process. Also similar to family sponsorships, how quickly you receive an immigrant visa number depends on where you rank in the following order of priority:
- priority workers
- professionals with exceptional ability or advanced degrees
- skilled or professional workers
- special immigrants.
Click here to learn more about immigration through employment.
Immigration Visas through Investment
One of the more unusual ways to achieve residency in America is to be granted one of the 10,000 investor visas given every year to people the U.S. government believes can significantly impact the economy in a positive way. 5,000 visas are designated for people applying to USCIS-designated regional centers, which are agencies devoted to increasing sales, producing productivity, and creating new jobs. To obtain a visa through the regional center program, you have to prove that your investment will create at least ten jobs.
Other ways to get an investor visa include starting a business, purchasing and restructuring another business, expanding a business by one hundred forty percent, helping a trouble business, or investing $500,000 in a rural area or a million dollars in another venture.
Even if you do not intend to immigrate to the U.S., you still need a visa to be here. Common types of non-immigrant visas include student visas and visitor visas:
Two types of student visas are available for foreigners wishing to pursue education in the United States. The F Visa is for academic and language studies, and the M Visa is for vocational, non-academic studies.
In order to be eligible for a student visa, you must already be enrolled full-time in an academic, language or vocational program in a school approved by the USCIS. In addition, you must be proficient in English (or enrolled in English-language courses) and have enough money to support your stay in the U.S. while maintaining your residence abroad.
In order to visit the U.S. for business or pleasure, you may apply for a non-immigrant visitor visa as long as your visit is temporary, you maintain a foreign residence, you have a foreign passport, you can show proof of financial support, and you have not committed inadmissible crimes (or you have a waiver for any inadmissibility grounds).
Asylum and Refugees
If you can demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution in your home country, you may apply for "asylum" or "refugee status" in the United States.
Unlike other forms of immigration, asylum has no visa quotas. You just have to apply within one year of arriving in America. You will have a non-adversarial interview with an asylum officer within forty-five days of filing the application, and you usually will be allowed to stay (but not work) in the U.S. while your case is being decided.
To learn more about seeking asylum, click here.
If you are a refugee, you may apply for refugee status in the U.S. if you are referred by the UNHCR, the U.S. Embassy or another organization that the U.S. government recognizes. You might also be able to apply for temporary protected status (TPS), whereby you may live and work in the U.S. for a limited period of time.
To learn more about seeking refugee status, click here.
- To learn about green cards in Nevada, click here
- To learn about naturalization in Nevada, click here.
- To go back to our immigration in Nevada main page, click here.
Call for help
If you or someone you know is an alien and needs a criminal defense attorney in Nevada, phone our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation. We can try to help their case and keep them in the U.S.