The U.S. has several mechanisms by which a foreign national may visit or remain permanently in the United States.
An individual may obtain a Non-Immigrant Visa (NIV) that grants temporary visit to the U.S. for a fixed period of time or an Immigrant Visa (IV) that allows indefinite residence.
Non-Immigrant Visas require the holder to maintain a residence in his or her country of origin and may be obtained through a U.S. consular post or Embassy, while an Immigrant Visa requires the holder to give up all other foreign domiciles and make the United States his or her permanent home. An individual may lose an Immigrant Visa or permanent residency if they remain outside the United States for longer than 6 months during each departure or if they violate certain criminal or immigration laws of the United States
The common ways to obtain permanent residency status (i.e. a Green Card) in the United States are through:
- Family Sponsorship
- Employer Sponsorship
- Refugee Status or Asylum Process
- Special Law for Specific Foreign Nationals or Extraordinary Circumstances. Special Immigration Laws include, but are not limited to:
Newly Approved Permanent Residents can get useful information about being a permanent resident in the U.S. by reading A Guide for New Immigrants – PDF File.**
Citizenship is obtained either by birth in the United States, through birth abroad to two U.S. citizen parents or through naturalization (Guide to Naturalization – PDF file)** or derivation. A permanent resident must demonstrate that (s)he
- has lived in the United States for 5 years or 3 if married to a United States Citizen
- is a person of good moral character or has been a person of good moral character within the five years prior to making an application. Exceptions do apply. Anyone who has ever been arrested should seek legal advice.
- has not had excessive absences from the U.S.
- If you are a male 18 to 26 years old, it is required that you register with the Selective Service
The following article provides additional information on Citizenship and Immigration: Citizenship and Naturalization in the U.S.
The following are PDF Files**: Copyrighted Reference Material
Impact of Criminal Convictions
Preference Categories and Priority Dates
Battered Spouse and Children
Special Immigrant Visas
Money Matters in Immigration
For more information including the forms and fees necessary to obtain Non-Immigrant or Immigrant Visa contact the local Immigration Office, U.S.C.I.S. website at www.uscis.gov, the U.S. State Department Consular Affairs Office or consult an Immigration Attorney.
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