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Clear Answers to
Quick and Useful Tips
If you are a DREAMer, or just trying to learn more, here you will find quick tips, updates and information on US immigration.
Clear Answers to Common Questions
FAMILY IMMIGRATIONI am a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. Can I sponsor my family for immigration to the United States? Yes, if you’re a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, you may be able to apply for family-based immigration. Generally, US citizens can sponsor their spouse and children as well as their siblings and parents (if the US citizen is at least 21 years old). Lawful permanent residents can generally sponsor their spouse and unmarried children. The process begins by submitting a Petition for Alien Relative (I-130 packet) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You’ll also need documentation proving your own citizenship or resident status and your relationship to the family member you’re sponsoring. Once the visa petition is approved and an immigrant visa is available, your relative will have to determine whether they can process locally with USCIS or must process abroad at a US consulate. Not everyone with an approved visa petition can immediately obtain status. Visas in some family-based categories are immediately available while other categories are backlogged. It is important to determine eligibility before beginning the process as well as understanding any negative impact from filing a petition. Filing a family-based visa petition in some cases can carry negative consequences for the foreign national’s current status or lack of status. What is the process for sponsoring a spouse? U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents typically can sponsor a spouse, starting by submitting the I-130 packet (Petition for Alien Relative). Spouses of U.S. citizens are considered “immediate relatives” under the immigration law. This means that they may either adjust their status in the US, if they were admitted or paroled, or obtain a visa at a US consulate abroad. Spouses of lawful permanent residents, however, are not considered “immediate relatives.” This means they may adjust status in the US if a visa is available, they were admitted or paroled, and are currently in status. If not, they must wait for a visa to become available and obtain a visa at a US consulate abroad. Is there a temporary visa classification for those planning to marry? Yes, the intended spouse of a U.S. citizen is typically eligible to apply for a K-1 visa, known as a fiancé visa, provided the couple has met at least once in person in the last two years. K-1 visas require that the marriage takes place in the United States within 90 days of arrival on the K-1 visa. After admission on the K-1 visa, and once the marriage takes place, the foreign – national spouse may proceed to apply for adjustment to lawful permanent resident (i.e. a “green card”). Minor children of the foreign national fiancé may also accompany their parent in K-2 status. How many green card categories are there and where can I access them? There are a vast number of green card categories based on, among others, family relationships, employment, educational pursuits, asylee status, and extraordinary ability. You can find a comprehensive list on the Antonini & Cohen site.
STUDENT VISAHow can I enter the United States as an academic student? Schools in the United States offer great opportunities for students who wish to further their education. The intellectual stimulation and social interaction gained by studying in the United States can be a great aid to a student’s growth and development. Foreign – nationals who wish to study in the U.S. usually apply an F-1 visa. To apply for an F-1 visa, you must first be accepted by a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services-approved school. You’ll also need to prove to the U.S. Consulate you can afford the tuition, room and board. F-1 students have the opportunity to work in their field of study both before graduation, through curricular practical training, and after, through optional practical training. Additionally, an F-1 student’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age may receive an F-2 visa to come to the U.S. When you apply for your F-1 visa, bring your spouse and children with you to the consulate. If your spouse or dependent children are joining you later, they’ll need to submit a copy of your F-1 status to the consulate along with documents proving their relationships to you. Your spouse and children’s F-2 status is dependent upon your F-1 status. How can I enter the United States as a vocational student? U.S. vocational schools also offer the opportunity for study. Foreign national students who wish to study at a U.S. vocational school will apply for an M-1 visa. The M-1 visa offers students the opportunity to train in a positive U.S. environment while strengthening their technical and non-academic skills. In order to apply for an M-1 visa, you must first be accepted by a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services-approved vocational school or non-academic school. You’ll also need to prove to the consulate in your country that you can afford the tuition, room and board. The M-1 visa doesn’t apply to language training. Additionally, M-2 status allows your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age to join you in the U.S. in M-2 status. Although M-1 and M-2 visa holders aren’t allowed to work in the United States, M-1 holders may apply for an extension of up to six months for practical training.
REFUGEES AND ASYLUMWhat are the qualifications for asylum? For those seeking asylum, the U.S. offers a safe haven from persecution in their home countries. The asylum-seeker must be unwilling or unable to return to his or her home country because of past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution at the hands of their government, or those their government cannot or will not control, on account of: Race Religion Nationality Membership in a particular group Political opinion In order to seek asylum, an individual must apply in the U.S. at the border or within one year of entering the U.S. How do I submit proof of persecution? Once an asylum-seeker enters the U.S., he or she must submit extensive documentation to establish that their persecution resulted directly from one of the grounds mentioned above and not on the basis of general crime or a private disputes. While race, religion, and nationality may be understandable to most, membership in a particular group and political opinion likely need a bit more explanation. Membership in a particular social group is based on an immutable characteristic, such as sex, race, or sexual orientation. To establish persecution based on membership in a particular group, you must submit documentation that: The group has a discernible identity; You’re a member of the group; and And the group’s members are persecuted as a result of the group’s distinguishing characteristic(s). To establish persecution on the basis of political opinion, one must demonstrate an actively and openly held opinion (or an imputed or falsely perceived opinion) in opposition to those in a position of authority. As mentioned above, an asylum seeker may apply for protection in the U.S. based on either past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution. A simple assertion of past persecution is insufficient. The asylum seek must provide extensive documentation of injuries, threats of violence, and restrictions. To file for asylum based on a well-founded fear of future persecution, one must prove a reasonable likelihood of persecution by their government or a group the government is unwilling or unable to stop. The asylum seeker must submit evidence showing likely persecution even they can relocate within their country. It’s important to remember that persecution isn’t limited to physical abuse or torture. Denial of education and employment opportunities, arbitrary interferences with an individual’s family members, and restrictions on an individual’s rights amounting to a “threat to life or liberty” also constitute persecution. But general conditions of hardship and criminal prosecution don’t constitute persecution under U.S. immigration law. Also, certain individuals are precluded from seeking asylum, even if they meet the requirements above. These include individuals who have: Participated in the persecution of others; Been convicted of a serious crime or a serious nonpolitical crime outside the U.S.; Engaged in terrorism or endangered the security of the U.S.; Been offered permanent resident status or citizenship in another country Failed to file the application within one year of entering the U.S. (certain exceptions may apply)
WORK VISAHow can I enter the United States to work in a “specialty occupation”? If you work in a “specialty occupation” like architecture, engineering, or health and medicine, an H-1B temporary visa allows you to work in the U.S. You may not self-petition, so a sponsoring employer must petition for you. To qualify, you’ll need a U.S. bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent, plus practical skills in your specialized area. In addition, if this is your first time applying for an H-1B visa, you’ll need to participate in the lottery that takes place every year during the first week of April, as only a limited number of visas are issued annually. H-1B visas are issued in three-year increments or less with a maximum of six years. The six year maximum may be extended in limited circumstances. How can I transfer employees to a United States operation? Companies conducting business in both the U.S. and abroad may need to shift executives, managers, or employees with specialized knowledge from one country to another. The L-1 temporary work visa, called an “intra-company transferee” visa, allows international businesses with U.S. offices to temporarily transfer such employees. The L-1 visa also allows executives and managers to come to the U.S with the purpose of opening a new office affiliated with the foreign business. To qualify, foreign nationals must have worked for the company for at least a full year within the three years preceding application. Executives and managers will receive an L-1A visa while employees with specialized knowledge receive L-1B visas. Are there visas connected to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)? Yes. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, (NAFTA), certain Canadian and Mexican citizens may enter the United States to work temporarily. The TN (Trade NAFTA) visa allows trained or licensed professional workers in NAFTA-approved positions to work for a U.S. employer. Canadian citizens will receive a TN-1 visa while Mexican citizens receive TN-2 visas. How can an individual with extraordinary ability enter the United States? The O-1 temporary work visa allows those people with a demonstrated extraordinary ability in arts, education, business, athletics, the sciences, or the motion picture or TV industry to work in the United States. One may not self-petition; rather, a U.S. employer or agent must petition for the visa holder. The visa requires “a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.” Applicants must demonstrate proof of this through the receipt of major awards, published material, authorship, or other means. How can support personnel of people with extraordinary abilities enter the United States? The United States allows individuals with extraordinary abilities to work in the country under the O-1 visa. The O-2 visa allows support personnel of those individuals to join them. A U.S. employer or agent may petition for an O-2 visa. How can artists or entertainers involved in an exchange program enter the United States? Entertainers, bands, and groups entering the United States as part of an exchange program may qualify for a P-2 temporary work visa. The U.S. sponsor of the exchange must file the petition. P-2 applicants will be asked to provide documentation of the reciprocal exchange agreement and proof that his or her skills are comparable to the U.S. artists or entertainers involved in the exchange. How can art educators enter the United States? If an art educator is considered “culturally unique,” he or she may travel to the U.S. for temporary work under the P-3 visa. P-3 visa holders must demonstrate their skills and talents through letters, articles or reviews their education or events will be culturally unique. What is the visa classification for “treaty traders”? To support international investors and foreign commerce, U.S. immigration allows individuals known as “treaty traders” to obtain an E-1 visa. E-1 applicants must come from countries with whom the U.S. maintains an E-1 trade treaty has United States through trade partnerships or treaties, and they must plan to invest in, develop, or direct substantial trade operations. What is the visa classification for “treaty investors”? Much like the E-1 visa for treaty traders, the E-2 visa allows individuals known as “treaty investors” to enter the country to oversee and direct ventures in which they’ve invested a significant amount of money. An E-2 applicant must own more than 50 percent of a proposed investment or enter the U.S. as the employee of an E-2 investor. Where can I find out more information about employment-based immigration? While temporary, nonimmigrant visas might be the right fit for many people coming to the United States for short periods of time, lawful permanent resident status provides a wider range of rights and privileges. Employment-based immigration, or business immigration, is a widely used method for obtaining permanent U.S. resident status. In most cases, your employer will have to obtain a Labor Certification before filing an immigrant visa petition (Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker) on your behalf. Once the petition is approved, you’ll have to wait until a visa in your particular employment-based preference category becomes available and then apply for a change to lawful permanent resident status.
NON-IMMIGRANT VISAWhat is the ideal tourist visa? If you’re a tourist hoping to briefly visit the United States, the B-2 visa allows you to stay for up to 6 months at a time. To qualify, the visit must be for pleasure, defined as recreational activities like tourism, amusement, visits to friends or relatives, rest, or service. Visitors seeking medical treatment can also qualify for B-2 visas. I wish to participate in an exchange program. Which visa should I apply for? If you’re participating in an educational or cultural exchange program, the J-1 visa allows you to stay in the United States for up to 18 months in such a program. Students, trainees involved in on-the-job training, visiting scholars and researchers, and consultants are all eligible for a J-1 visa. I am an exchange visitor interested in receiving training in the United States. What visa should I apply for? Visitors planning to participate in an international cultural exchange, including training and sharing cultural traditions from their native countries, can enter the United States with a Q-1 visa. Visa holders must be at least 18 years old and able to teach a U.S. audience about their home country’s history and culture. A U.S. sponsor must agree to pay them a rate equivalent to a U.S. employee. Can I enter the United States for a brief period of time without obtaining a visa? The Visa Waiver Program, also known as ESTA, allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. To qualify, you’ll need a passport issued by a participating country. A round-trip ticket is required, and the passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of return. You may not work, study or change your immigration status on a visa waiver. I am traveling through the United States. Can I visit family or friends while waiting for my departing flight? For visitors simply passing through the United States, the C-1 visa allows entry for 29 days or less. Intended for travelers who have a ticket or other means of reaching their final destination, the C-1 visa is often held by crewmen. To apply, you’ll need to complete visa application Form DS-156, present two recent photographs, and hold a valid passport. What visa can I use to travel to the United Nations? If you’re a United Nations (UN) official or working on official UN business, the C-2 visa allows entry to the United States in order to visit the UN’s New York headquarters. C-2 visas are valid for up to 29 days and come with certain restrictions on travel beyond UN headquarters. I am a foreign government official. How can I visit family or friends while waiting for my departing flight? If you’re a foreign government official passing through the United States, you may apply for a C-3 visa in order to visit friends or family. C-3 visas are valid for up to 29 days and may also be held by the family members or personal employees of foreign government officials. What is the visa process for crewmen? Crew persons temporarily docked in the United States may apply for a D-1 visa in order to enter the country for a maximum of 29 days. For crew persons planning to leave the United States on a different vessel, a D-2 visa is appropriate. What is the visa process for crewmen en route to Guam? Crew persons aboard U.S. - based fishing vessels temporarily visiting Guam may apply for the D-2 visa. A D-2 visa is valid for up to 29 days after admission. How can foreign media representatives enter the United States? Reporters, film crews, and freelance journalists who plan to work solely in the U.S. for a foreign media outlet or U.S. subsidiary of a foreign outlet may qualify for an I visa. While I visas are good for however long it takes to complete the work, the member of the media must intend to return to his or her home country after the work is complete.
Knowing the specific terms helps to understand each step of the migratory process.
Document in which a person gives facts and swears that the facts are true and accurate as witnessed by a notary
Eligibility of an alien to lawfully enter the United States after inspection and authorization by an immigration officer.
A foreign national who is sponsored by a relative or a business or has self-petitioned for an immigration benefit.
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It is not intended to serve as legal advice.
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