For your guidance and educational resources, please have a look at the FAQs below.
Basically, there are four broad ways amongst many other minor ways to become a permanent resident:
- Through Family-based petitions
- Through Employment-based petitions
- Through Diversity Visa Lottery
- Through Asylum
- Through Investment
Factors considered by the USCIS include:
- Whether the applicant has an immediate relative who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;
- Whether the applicant has a permanent employment opportunity in the U.S., and whether that employment fits under one of the five eligible employment categories;
- Whether the applicant is making a capital investment in the U.S. that meets certain dollar thresholds, and that either creates or saves a specified number of jobs; and
- Whether the applicant qualifies for refugee status as an individual who suffers or fears persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political view, or membership in a certain group in his or her country of origin.
The purpose of the DV Lottery Program is to annually award immigrant visas to applicants whose country of origin has low immigration rates to the U.S. (not more than 50,000 in the last five years). The program is called a lottery because there are more applicants than available visas, and the visas are granted randomly among qualified applicants.
Deportation (or removal) occurs when an alien is found to have violated certain immigration or criminal laws, consequences being that the alien forfeits his or her right to remain in the U.S., and is usually barred from returning.
The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement issues a Notice to Appear (NTA) stating the reason why the alien should be deported or removed. The NTA is served to the alien and is filed with the immigration court. A hearing is scheduled, at which an immigration judge will determine if the information in the NTA is correct. If it is, removal of the alien will be ordered.
Yes. The alien has 30 days to appeal the decision to the Board of Immigration (BIA). If the BIA decides against the alien, the matter can be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Finally, if the Court of Appeals also finds against the alien, the matter can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A spouse’s permanent resident status will be conditional if it is based on a marriage that was less than two years old from the day the permanent resident status was granted. To remove the conditions, the spouse must establish that the purpose of the marriage was not to evade the U.S. immigration laws.
If the marriage to the U.S. citizen who filed the petition to permit the fiancé(e) into the U.S. does not take place within 90 days of entering the U.S., the fiancé(e) will be required to leave the country.
Yes. A married U.S. citizen, or an unmarried citizen who is at least 24 years of age and will be at least 25 when the petition is actually filed, may file a Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition, to speed up the adoption process.
The federal Immigration and Nationality Act provides the basis for U.S. immigration law.
Yes. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) bureau has discretion to waive a filing fee if the applicant can establish that he or she is unable to pay. In order to have the USCIS consider waiving a fee, the applicant must follow specific instructions, including completion of a form for review by the USCIS.
A relative or employer of the alien must sponsor the alien by filing the appropriate petition with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (previously INS). The Bureau approves the petition, and it is forwarded to the National Visa Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The National Visa Center then informs the beneficiary that an approved petition has been received and provides instructions on the next steps to take. As soon as a visa number is available on a preference petition, or as soon as the Bureau approves an immediate relative petition, the National Visa Center sends the beneficiary instructions on the next steps to take.
Requirements may differ slightly from post to post, but the basic requirements include:
- A passport
- Three photographs
- Birth and police certificates
- Marriage, divorce, or death certificates
- Proof of financial support
- Medical examination
- More detailed information would have to come from the National Visa Center or the processing post.
People from countries that don’t have an American embassy or consulate are considered “homeless” because they cannot return to their home country to be interviewed for the immigrant visa. When the National Visa Center receives an immigrant visa approved petition on a “homeless” case, it assigns the case to an embassy or consulate that has been determined is capable of handling the additional workload. The petitioner or beneficiary will be informed by the National Visa Center of the post that was chosen.
Several factors influence how long the process may take. Immediate relative visas are not numerically limited by statute so, workload permitting, the post may begin processing the approved petition upon receipt. Preference visas are numerically limited, so the post must wait until the priority date on the petition is available before starting to process the case.
The major reason for lengthy waits – priority dates that are months or several years earlier than your inquiry – is the fact that each year many more people apply for immigrant visas than can be satisfied under the annual numerical limit set by law for preference cases. Certain categories, such as the family fourth preference, are heavily oversubscribed.
The priority date, in the case of a relative immigrant visa petition, is the date the petition was filed. In the case of an employer-sponsored petition, the priority date is the date the labor certification was filed with the Department of Labor. The Visa Bulletin — under the Visa Services homepage — gives the changes in availability of priority dates.
Each country has its own requirements for obtaining police certificates or clearances. Specific information is available from the U.S. consulate processing the case.
The cost of an immigrant visa is $260 (U.S.) for application and $65 (U.S.) for issuance per person, regardless of age. There may also be fees to obtain required documents, for certifying or notarizing documents, and for the medical examination. The cost of the immigrant visa itself remains constant, but other fees vary from post to post. The applicant will be informed of fees by the processing post. The fees are payable in U.S. and equivalent local currency. Cash is acceptable at all posts. Other methods of payment must be determined by the processing post.
The consul may issue an immigrant visa with a maximum validity of six months. If an applicant must delay travel to the U.S. beyond six months, he or she should contact the U.S. consulate and arrange to have the interview scheduled closer to his or her possible departure. If an immigrant visa has already been issued and circumstances force the alien to remain abroad longer, the applicant should contact the U.S. consulate and request an extension of the immigrant visa’s validity. If the validity of an immigrant visa expires, a new one may be issued upon payment of the statutory application and issuance fees (U.S. $325).
Authority to accept a petition rests solely with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (previously INS). The Bureau has determined that petitions must be filed in the petitioner’s place of residence. So, if the petitioner resides in the U S., the petitioner must file at his or her local Bureau office. If the petitioner resides abroad, the petitioner must file at the U.S. embassy or consulate that has jurisdiction.
A U.S. host can help by sending the guest a letter of invitation. The letter should include the invitee’s name, reason for visit, period of stay in the U.S. and method of payment of expenses. If the guest is paying his or her own expenses, he or she must be prepared to show the consular officer that sufficient funds are available for the trip. If the American host is paying the expenses, an affidavit of support may be included.
An applicant must have:
- A passport, valid for six months beyond the duration of the proposed visit
- One passport-size photograph
- Proof of social, economic, professional or other compelling ties to a residence outside the United States to which he or she will be expected to return after the visit.
Many, but not all, immigration procedures require an interview with an official from the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Being prepared and not arousing suspicion will make the USCIS interview as pleasant as possible. The tenor of each interview will depend on the personality of the USCIS official with whom you meet, so it is almost impossible to be entirely prepared. It is important to remember, however, that it is the USCIS official’s job to determine whether there is anything about your background or present circumstances that preclude you from obtaining the immigration status you desire — the officer does not have anything against you personally.
Do prepare for the meeting. Bring copies all of your forms and all your document originals. You should be able to respond to questions about your forms without extensive referencing and confusion.
Do be prepared to answer personal questions if you are at an interview related to your marriage to a U.S. citizen.
Do follow the directions of the USCIS officer. If the officer wants to interview you and your spouse separately, that is perfectly appropriate.
Do listen carefully and answer only the question that the officer asks you.
Do bring an interpreter with you if you do not understand English.
Do dress appropriately for the occasion. This is an important meeting for you, and a good impression can’t hurt.
Do remain calm. If you don’t understand the question, ask the officer to rephrase it. If you really do not know the answer to a question, it is better to admit ignorance than make something up. It also helps to be prepared. If you know there is a part of your application that will raise suspicion, practice a truthful response.
Do show up on time. USCIS officers are notoriously difficult to reach and requests for changes in interview times are not well received. If you fail to show up for your appointment, you may have to endure a lengthy process to get another interview.
Do hire an attorney to accompany you if the thought of going through an interview alone is too overwhelming.
Don’t joke around with the USCIS officer. In particular, avoid joking or sarcasm related to drug dealing, communicable diseases, bigamy, or smuggling people into the country.
Don’t argue with your spouse or other family members in the middle of an interview. Agree before hand on what you will do if a disagreement arises during the interview.
Don’t argue with the USCIS officer. If the USCIS officer says part of your application is incomplete, ask for an explanation and attempt to remedy the situation by using the documents and forms you have brought with you.
Don’t lose your patience with the USCIS officer and refuse to answer questions. Questions that may seem inappropriate or unimportant to you are probably within the boundaries of what is allowed by USCIS policy. Just remember what the payoff is for going through with the interview.
Don’t lie to the USCIS officer. If you feel you have something that would be difficult to explain, hire an attorney. Your attorney should be able to defuse difficult situations during an interview.
Most people who seek legal advice do so in response to a serious problem for which they need immediate help. Seeing an attorney often happens during the most stress-filled time in a person’s life.
To avoid wasted time and added stress, arrive prepared for a productive consultation. Preparation helps you to make a clear presentation of your situation; to focus on the issues and questions that are important to you; and to help the attorney provide specific, useful advice. Here are some suggestions:
- Be sure that the attorney with whom you’re meeting is experienced with legal matters such as yours.
- In advance of the meeting, make written notes on the specific facts related to your problem. Identify all parties who may be involved. Lay out the facts in an organized fashion, in the order in which they occurred. Don’t omit anything; a good attorney will know which facts are relevant and which aren’t.
- Make a list of questions for which you want answers, and arrange them so that you can refer to them quickly.
An initial consultation is a time to exchange information and to determine whether the attorney with whom you’re meeting is right for you. It does not necessarily become the basis for long-term representation. If, after your consultation, you wish to hire that attorney, tell him so. You do not want to leave his office assuming he will be doing work for you, while he leaves the consultation with just the opposite impression, i.e., that there is nothing further to be done.
If you organize your thoughts, are open and concise in explaining your situation, and clearly tell the attorney what you need, you will have taken a positive first step toward achieving a productive working relationship with your attorney and resolving your legal problem.
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