USA Immigration Requirements

U.S. immigration law lists many ways to legally immigrate to the United States. One requires paying a large amount of money. Another requires winning an immigration lottery. A majority of immigrants to the United States, however, take one of two paths: they are sponsored by a U.S. citizen or they are sponsored by an employer because they have a critical skill. Here are some details on these two ways of immigrating to the US.

  1. Family Relationship

    • The easiest way to immigrate to the United States is to be sponsored by a spouse who is a U.S. citizen. Spousal sponsorship means immigration is almost certain. Approval usually takes about a year. If at least one of your parents is a U.S. citizen, you may already be a U.S. citizen. Details are available in the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. Immigration through sponsorship by a U.S, citizen siblings or a permanent resident parent will usually a wait of at least a decade. Sponsorship by U.S. citizen children is the most difficult route.

    Immigration Through Employment

    • You may be able to immigrate to the U.S. on the basis of a job offer from a U.S. employer. You will have the best chance if you are qualified for a job that requires advanced degrees, or for a job for which qualified U.S. workers are in short supply. Doctors, lawyers and academics may meet the first criteria. Nurses are an example of the second category. You may have to enter the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa and apply for permanent residence (a green card) several years later.

    Proof of Good Character

    • Before obtaining permanent residence in the U.S., you will have to provide U.S. immigration authorities with police reports from every place where you have lived at least one year since you turned 16. If you have no police record, you will need a statement from the police attesting to that.

    Medical Clearance

    • In order to obtain permanent residence in the U.S., you will have to complete a physical examination at a medical clinic approved by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. The USCIS will provide you with a form for your doctor to fill out. If you are HIV-positive or have a serious communicable disease, your application will be denied.

    Financial Support

    • In order to immigrate to the U.S., you will have to prove that you have access to sufficient money to prevent you from becoming destitute in the U.S. If you do not have enough of your own funds, you can rely on an Affidavit of Support issued by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, filed by a sponsoring family member or in some cases by a third party. If you are relying on immigration through employment, you may need no further proof.

    Requirements for US Citizenship

    • Once you receive your permanent residence card (a "green card"), you will have to wait several years before you can apply for U.S. citizenship. If your immigration was based on a U.S. citizen spouse, you will have to wait three years. In most other cases, you will have to wait five years. You will have to learn the English language and facts about U.S. history and the political system to pass a simple citizenship test in English. You will have to remain in the U.S. for most of the time between receiving your green card and applying for citizenship.

    Other Ways to Immigrate

    • The Diversity Immigration Program allocates 50,000 permanent residence visas per year to immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. Visas are allocated through a lottery. The investor visa program offers another 10,000 permanent residence visas per year to people who invest a minimum of $500,000 into the U.S. economy.

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