How to Get an Immigrant Visa for the U.S.

What Is an Immigrant Visa?

An immigrant visa is a document given to foreign residents that gives them permission to come to a U.S. port-of-Entry to apply for entry and a Permanent Resident Card.

Although one might be able to obtain an immigrant visa that does not necessarily mean that they are automatically allowed into the United States, but it is a step in the right direction.

A Permanent Resident Card is the documentary proof that an immigrant has the right to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely.

Permanent Resident Cards are colloquially called green cards because of their distinct color.

Why Do I Need an Immigrant Visa?

Without an immigrant visa one will not be able to live or work in the United States.

A foreign resident who lives in the United States without permanent residency is considered out of status and ineligible for a number of benefits. Being out of status also makes it very difficult to get a good job.

Which Visa am I eligible for?

There are a few different kinds of immigrant visas. Each of these pathways have their benefits and draw backs. Before applying for a green card one should first look carefully into the different pathways to see which the best option for them is.

Every individual has a different case and will have a different pathway depending on their situation.

Below are the general categories for immigrant visas. Keep in mind that each category has a set of immigrant visas to it.

  • The Green Card Lottery – An option for potential immigrants who do not fit into the other categories. 50,000 visas are granted to people around the world through this program. They are randomly selected from a pool of eligible registrants. Registration occurs in October of every year.
  • Family-Based Visa – Relatives of permanent residents and citizens in the United States may be able to apply for this variety of visa. Relatives who are closer in relation to citizens of the United States (such as children or spouses) are given higher priority than other relatives. Cousins are not considered eligible for this visa type.
  • Employment-Based Visa – Many visas are granted to immigrants to fill a job in the United States. The process for obtaining this visa type takes a great deal of co-operation from an employer who must sponsor the immigrant. Wait times are generally rather limited for work-based immigrants.
  • Refugee Status – An immigrant may be able to obtain a Permanent Resident Card if they are able to show that if they were to return to the country of their origin it would result in undue persecution of that person.

Apply for a Visa!

Regardless of what kind of visa one wants, the first step to getting it is applying for the visa.

  • Green Card Lottery applicants register in the lottery in October
  • Family-based and employment-based immigrants petition the USCIS with a sponsor
  • Asylees or refugees apply for Adjustment of Status to Permanent Resident