PERMANENT RESIDENCE is give on the basis of QUALIFYING EMPLOYMENT or FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS.
Those who are persecuted in their home countries are also eligible for permanent residence in the U.S. through ASYLUM / WITHHOLDING OF REMOVAL / APPLICATION UNDER THE U.N. CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE (CAT). For more information on these issues, please email.
Only 'immediate relatives' of a U.S. citizen can get permanent residence immediately in the U.S. Regardless of the type of visa, the visa 'date' must be current to be approved at the Embassy:
There is no 'quota' limiting the number of visas the Embassies grant for 'immediate relatives.' (Immediate Relative is the parent of a child over 21 years of age, the spouse, or a child under 21 years of age.)
All other categories are limited and typically have a long line of individuals who have already applied waiting for their visa to 'become current,' meaning they have waited in line long enough that they are in the group of individuals allowed into the U.S. in their category for that year.
Every month, the State Department publishes the VISA BULLETIN that gives the list of which individuals with approved visas are being allowed to finalize their immigrant visas and enter the U.S. The individuals aren't listed specifically, but the dates on which individuals applied to the U.S. government for their visa in the first place is listed.
That application date is a 'priority date.' Any individual with a 'priority date' on or before the date listed in the VISA BULLETIN is eligible to finalize their visas and enter the U.S. based on their approved visas.
HOW TO APPLY
If one is eligible via an employer or a family member to become a permanent resident, they can apply one of two ways:
COMING FROM ABROAD .Any individual who qualifies for a visa has to first apply with USCIS, the immigration service inside the U.S. to verify their family relationship or employment in the U.S. After being approved by USCIS, then the 'National Visa Center' verifies their documents and then they are ready to apply for an 'immigrant visa' at the U.S. Embassy in their home country. Most of the Embassy application materials will be available at the State Department website for the Embassy in their specific country, found here. If the information is in the least confusing, attorney assistance should be sought. It takes years for visa dates to become 'current.' The visa application should not be denied for simple issues of documentation, etc. that can be resolved with attorney assistance.
ADJUSTING STATUS IN THE U.S. . Most countries require foreigners to leave the country to change their immigration status. The U.S. allows for foreigners to change their status while they remain in the U.S., including adjusting status from temporary to permanent residence. This is called 'adjustment of status' and can be completed through an attorney. These applications are carefully reviewed to determine if the applicant who entered on temporary visa status actually intended to apply for permanent residence after entering the U.S. For this reason, individual analysis for each application is required. If USCIS, the domestic immigration agency in the U.S., determines that an individual intended to adjust their status to permanent residence after they entered the country, their permanent resident application will be denied and their temporary visa can also be cancelled.
Immigrant visas granted based on employment are called 'Employment-Based' visas or 'EB' and fall into the following categories:
The EB-1 preference category consists of (1) persons of extraordinary ability, (2) outstanding professors and researchers and (3) executives and managers of multinational employers.
The EB-2 preference category consists of (1) persons of exceptional ability and (2) persons whose jobs require an advanced university degree or its equivalent. Most EB-2 petitions require that an employer obtain the approval of a PERM application from the U.S. Department of Labor before sponsoring the person for lawful permanent residence.
The EB-3 preference category consists of (1) professionals, (2) skilled workers and (3) unskilled workers. Most EB-3 petitions require that an employer obtain the approval of a PERM application from the U.S. Department of Labor before sponsoring the person for permanent residence.
The EB-4 preference category consists of (1) religious workers and (2) other “special immigrants" including orphans.
The EB-5 preference category consists of investors.
LABOR CERTIFICATIONS . For EB-3 and most EB-2 categories, employers must show that there are no U.S. workers who are qualified and willing to take the job offered to the foreign employee before the foreigner can qualify for permanent residence to take the job. Labor certification is a 3-step process that is handled through the Department of Labor, (1) determining the wage that must be paid to ensure U.S. workers are not undercut, (2) advertising to find qualified U.S. workers and interviewing qualified applicants, and (3) if no qualified U.S. employees were willing to take the job at the same terms offered to the foreign employee, the employer submits attestations and documents to that effect to the Department of Labor. The proccess is nuanced and deceptively simple (or deceptively complicated, we're still deciding!). Most employers utilize in-house attorney or the assistance of a reputable attorney to complete the process.
Immigrant visas granted on the basis of family relationships are called 'Family Sponsored' or 'FS' and fall into the following categories:
IMMEDIATE RELATIVES, as described above, can get permanent resident status immediately and include parents of U.S. citizen children who are over 21 years of age; spouses of U.S. citizens; and children who are under 21 of U.S. citizens.
The FS-1 preference category is for unmarried children of citizens who are over 21 years of age.
The FS-2 preference category is for IMMEDIATE RELATIVES of permanent residents and unmarried children of permanent residents who are over 21 years of age.
The FS-3 preference category is for married children of citizens.
The FS-4preference category is for brothers and sisters of citizens.
AFFIDAVITS OF SUPPORT . Because family members don't have an obvious way to support themselves once they arrive in the U.S. the same way that employees can show immediate income, U.S. family members who sponsor members of their family to come to the U.S. have to complete an 'Affidavit of Support' showing sufficient income to support their family member. If sufficient income is an issue, they can enlist a 'co-sponsor' to also provide the government an 'Affidavit of Support' and commit to provide support as required until the newly arriving family member can support themselves in the country. After 10 years of employment or after the newly arriving family member becomes a citizen, the commitment to support that family member is over.
ISSUES OF INADMISSIBILITY: CONVICTIONS . DRUGS . PREVIOUS IMMIGRATION ISSUES . ETC.
If there are criminal issues in the past of an applicant or an immigration history showing overstays, etc., then the Embassy can deny a visa on that basis. There are waivers for certain issues of inadmissibility and no waivers for others. Typically, a felony conviction will disqualify an individual for a visa. However, non-violent crimes are treated differently than violent crimes. Consultation with an attorney in these circumstances is highly recommended before application is submitted to the Embassy. Any drug use in the past or excessive alcohol use in the past can lead to a visa being denied, so be sure to disclose all related issues to an attorney before applying with the Embassy. Also, any previous claim to be a U.S. citizen is treated more seriously than violent crimes, even, and waivers are not available. There are arguments related to any incident where an individual may have claimed to be a U.S. citizen, but they are highly individualized and attorney consultation is imperative. There are other issues of inadmissibility as well, but they are common sense: if you are entering the U.S. to marry more than one wife or husband, then the Embassy will not grant the visa; if you are entering the U.S. to work as a prostitute, also, the Embassy will not grant the visa. This is not an exhaustive list.
Send us basic information about your background / family and we'll send you a list of immigrant visas that you qualify for HERE.
Also, access information about the Current Visa Priority Dates via the State Department's Visa Bulletin From our News Page HERE.