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Understanding U.S. Immigration Law

There are several ways to immigrate to the United States to establish permanent residency and, ultimately, gain citizenship. Get the facts on how to qualify and apply for certain types of immigrant visas, sponsor loved ones to enter the country, and more.

Types of U.S. Immigration

Foreign nationals who want to live or work permanently in the United States must obtain an immigrant visa. There are two main types of immigrant visas: family-based visas and employment-based visas.

Family-Based Visas

U.S. immigration law allows United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor certain relatives for temporary and permanent visas in the United States. “Immediate Relative” visas provide priority for immediate relatives of the sponsor, including the following individuals:

  • The spouse of a U.S. citizen

  • The parent of a U.S. citizen who is 21 years of age or older

  • The unmarried children of a U.S. citizen

  • An orphan who was adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen

  • An orphan whose adoption by a U.S. citizen is pending

There is no limit on the number of “Immediate Relative” visas that may be distributed per year.

The second type of family-based visa, the “Family Preference Immigrant” visa, is limited and capped at a certain number. There are four levels of preference for family members sponsored by this type of visa, including the following:

  • Family First Preference (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children if applicable

  • Family Second Preference (F2): Spouses, minor children, and adult unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents

  • Family Third Preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children

  • Family Fourth Preference (F4): Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children

It is also possible for a U.S. citizen to sponsor a fiancé(e) who lives abroad. The K-1 visa allows the foreign national fiancé(e) to enter the country and marry the U.S. citizen within 90 days from the moment of arrival. Once the marriage takes place, the fiancé(e) must apply for an adjustment of status to a lawful permanent resident.

In order to qualify for a K-1 visa:

  • The petitioner must be a U.S. citizen (not a permanent resident).

  • The couple must marry within 90 days of the fiancé(e) entering the U.S.

  • Previous marriages by both parties must be legally terminated.

  • The petitioner and fiancé(e) must have met at least once within 2 years of filing the petition, unless you meet the exceptions.

At Akula & Associates, our immigration lawyers can assist U.S. citizens who want to bring a family member or fiancé(e) to the United States. We provide compassionate and efficient guidance to facilitate the application process.

Employment-Based Visas

Employment-based visas allow American businesses to recruit international talent, and foreign nationals to pursue career opportunities in the United States.

Depending on your unique situation, there are several different types of employment-based visas, including the following:

  • H-1B: Allows companies to bring in workers with specialized knowledge for a temporary period of time.

  • E-1 Visas, E-2 Visas vs EB-5: Investors and treaty traders can use these visas to enter the U.S. to engage in trade and invest in businesses.

  • R-Visas: These short-term work visas are available to religious workers entering into the U.S. for religious functions.

  • L Visas: L visas allow executives, managers, and professional employees with specialized knowledge to transfer to related foreign entities in the U.S.

  • J Visas: The J non-immigrant visa allows researchers, students, scholars, professors, and exchange visitors to enter the U.S. to pursue their fields of study.

  • O Visas, P Visas: Entertainers, athletes, artists, and other individuals with extraordinary talent can apply for these visas to enter the country.

  • TN/TD Visas: Professionals from Canada and Mexico can apply for TN/TD visas to work in the U.S.

  • PERM: U.S. employers must apply for a labor certification when seeking to hire workers from foreign countries.

Refugees and Those Seeking Asylum

Refugees may seek asylum in the United States if they are unable or unwilling to return to their home country, and cannot obtain protection in that country due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future on account of race, religion, political opinion, or membership of a particular social group. Through United States immigration law, the U.S. has legal obligations to provide protection to those who qualify as refugees.

Those granted asylum in the United States are protected from returning to their home country, may work in the U.S., may request permission to travel overseas, and can petition to bring family members into the country. They may apply for lawful permanent resident status after one year.

How to Immigrate to the United States

In order for a foreign national to obtain an immigrant visa, the following steps must be taken:

  • The foreign national must be sponsored by a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident.

  • The sponsor must file a petition on behalf of the foreign national with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

  • Once the petition is approved, the foreign national may apply for an immigrant visa.

  • Once the proper documents have been submitted and the application has been approved, the foreign national will complete an applicant interview.

  • At the end of the immigrant visa interview, the consular officer will inform the foreign national whether their visa application is approved or denied.

  • If the visa application is approved, the visa will be placed in the foreign national’s passport, and they will be able to travel to the United States and request permission to enter the country.

Need Help with Immigration? Contact Us Today

The immigration process can be complicated, and it’s in your best interest to contact a qualified immigration lawyer who can ensure everything is filed and submitted properly. At Akula & Associates, we have decades of experience in immigration law and we offer a wide variety of services tailored to your unique situation.

Contact us today at (844) 299-5003 to learn how we can help you.

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