Immigration Lawyers

US Immigration


Is it your dream to live in the land of opportunity? The United States of America is a country that attracts millions of immigrants every year. With its diverse culture, thriving economy and numerous opportunities, it is no wonder that people from all over the world aspire to make America their home. But how exactly can you make this dream a reality? In this article we will explore US Immigration – the different visas that will allow you to live and work in the land of the free, including family-based immigrant visas, employment-based immigrant visas, the diversity visa program, refugee and asylum visas, and other immigrant visas.

US Immigration Immigration to the USA in numbers

Key findings about US immigrants reveal intriguing aspects of their impact on the nation. According to the research conducted by the Pew Research Center, the United States stands ahead of all other world nations in terms of the number of immigrants residing within its borders. A remarkable 40 million of the individuals who currently call the US their home were, in fact, born in another country. This influx amounts to roughly one-fifth of the global migrant population. The majority of immigrants (77%) are in the nation lawfully, while nearly a quarter are not.

Despite these high numbers, and perhaps contrary to what one would imagine, a significant majority of Americans view immigrants as a source of strength rather than a burden. In fact, a remarkable 88% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents believe that immigrants contribute to the country’s vitality through their skills and talents. On the other hand, among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, the perception is more divided, with 41% stating that immigrants strengthen the nation, while 44% consider them burdensome. Opinions differ also when it comes to future levels of immigration. Among the American population, a quarter of respondents advocate for a decrease in legal immigration (24%), while another third prefers maintaining the current level (38%). In contrast, nearly one-third (32%) of individuals express support for an increase in immigration. This indicates a varied perspective on the ideal scale of immigration within the United States.

Where are the origins of immigrants to the USA?

The US immigrant community is incredibly diverse, comprising individuals from virtually every corner of the world. The broad representation of numerous nations among immigrants in the United States serves as a testament to the multicultural fabric of the country. The majority of immigrants living in the United States are from Mexico. There were around 11.2 million Mexican immigrants living in the United States in 2018, making up 25% of all immigrant population. The next largest groups are from China (6%), India (6%), the Philippines (4%) and El Salvador (3%). Immigrants from Asia collectively made up 28% of all immigrants. Other regions with smaller percentages include the Caribbean (10%), Central America (8%), South America (7%), the Middle East and North Africa (4%) and sub-Saharan Africa (5%). Europe and Canada (13%).

What are the differences between Immigrant vs. Nonimmigrant Visas to the USA?

Understanding US Immigration is complex. There isn’t just one magical visa that covers all situations, but rather a range of options tailored to different circumstances. The main difference between the different visa types is between Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Visas, which are two visa categories issued by the US to individuals seeking entry into the country. The main difference between these two types of visas is their intended purpose:

  • Nonimmigrant Visas: these visas are issued to individuals who wish to enter the United States temporarily for specific purposes, such as tourism, business, education, medical treatment, temporary work, or cultural exchange programs. Nonimmigrant visas are designed for temporary stays, and the visa holder is expected to depart the country before the visa expires.
  • Immigrant Visas: these visas are granted to individuals who intend to permanently reside in the United States. Immigrant Visas are typically based on family relationships, employment offers, or humanitarian reasons, such as refugee or asylum status. The primary goal of Immigrant Visas is to enable individuals to establish long-term residency in the United States and eventually pursue US citizenship. Immigrant Visa holders are generally granted lawful permanent residency, often referred to as a Green Card. This status allows them to reside and work permanently in the United States. After a certain period of time, they can apply for US citizenship if they meet the necessary requirements.

Immigrant Visa applicants are required to demonstrate an intention to live permanently in the US. They undergo a thorough vetting process, including background checks and interviews, to determine their eligibility for permanent residency.

In this article we will focus on Immigrant Visas to the USA, but on our website we have several articles regarding Nonimmigrant Visas.US Immigration

What is the application process for US Immigration Visas?  

To apply for a green card, there are a few key steps you need to complete:

  • Completing the application form and gathering evidence: this involves submitting police reports from your previous places of residence and answering questions regarding any past convictions.
  • Medical examination: during the medical exam, you will be asked questions about your mental health, use of drugs and alcohol, as well as your history of communicable diseases.
  • Interview: the application process also involves attending an interview at a USCIS office or at a US embassy or consulate (see details below).

The specific requirements may vary depending on the type of visa you are applying for, so make sure to do your research and follow the instructions carefully. Unfortunately the application process isn’t free, and you’ll need to pay application fees, visa fees, and potentially other related expenses.

The process of applying for a Green Card depends on your current location:

  • If you are currently living in the United States (Adjustment of Status)

If you are already in the United States, you can file your application and stay in the country while it is being processed.

Your green card application process will usually follow these steps:

  • Your sponsor will file Form I-130 (family-based green cards) or Form I-140 (employment-based green cards) with the US authorities along with a request to adjust status (Form I-485) in certain cases.
  • USCIS will review and approve your petition.
  • You will have an in-person interview at a USCIS office.
  • After the interview, if approved, your green card will be mailed to you

If you are living outside the United States (Consular Processing)

If you are outside the US, you will usually file your Green Card application from your home country, and remain there while it is being processed.

The Green Card application process for this pathway involves these steps:

  • Your sponsor will file Form I-130 or Form I-140 with the US authorities.
  • USCIS will review and approve your petition.
  • You will file the second stage of the application with the National Visa Center (NVC).
  • Your local US embassy or consulate will process your application and schedule an interview.
  • You will have an in-person interview at the US consulate.

After the interview, if approved, your passport will be returned with a visa that allows you to travel to the US and your Green Card will be mailed to your US address.

What are the main US Immigration Visa types?

What is Family-Based Immigrant Visas?

The first individuals most people would want to bring with them to a country they immigrate to is their family members. Luckily, the US immigration system has some options for that, and they come in the form of family-based Immigrant Visas; these sponsored Green Cards are permanent resident status granted to foreign nationals based on their family relationship with a US citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). These Green Cards allow individuals to live and work permanently in the United States. Family-based immigration is the most common form of immigration to the US.

What is a Green Card for Immediate Relatives of US Citizen?

Immediate relatives of US citizens have the opportunity to obtain a Green Card and become lawful permanent residents if they meet certain eligibility criteria. If you fall into one of the following categories, you are considered an “Immediate Relative” if you are:

  1. A spouse of a US citizen.
  2. An unmarried child under 21 years old of a US citizen.
  3. A parent of a US citizen (if the US citizen is 21 years old or older).

How can widows or widowers of US citizens obtain a Green Card?

If you are a widow or widower and were married to a US citizen at the time of their death, you may be eligible to apply for a Green Card. To qualify as a widow or a widower of a citizen and apply for a Green Card, you must provide evidence that you were legally married to the citizen and that your marriage was entered into in good faith, without the sole intention of obtaining immigration benefits.US Immigration

Green Card for Family Preference Immigrants

Under the category of Family Preference Immigrants, certain noncitizens who are family members of US citizens and lawful permanent residents have the opportunity to obtain a Green Card and establish long-term residency in the United States. The following family “Preference Immigrant” categories apply:

  1. First preference (F1): This category encompasses unmarried individuals who are 21 years of age or older and are children of US citizens.
  2. Second preference (F2A): Spouses and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age of lawful permanent residents fall under this category.
  3. Second preference (F2B): Unmarried individuals who are 21 years of age or older and are children of lawful permanent residents are included in this category.
  4. Third preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of US citizens, regardless of their age, are eligible to apply for a Green Card in this category.
  5. Fourth preference (F4): Siblings who are US citizens can sponsor their brothers or sisters for a Green Card under this category.

It is important to note that US immigration law outlines specific criteria and requirements for each family preference category. Understanding these guidelines is crucial for a successful Green Card application process.

Employment-Based Immigrant Visas

Many individuals choose to immigrate to the United States using employment-based green cards. These green cards are divided into five different categories, each based on the skills or advantages the applicant brings to the country.

What are the Employment-Based Visa categories for US Immigration?

US immigration law offers different avenues for Employment-Based (EB) Visa options; these options, “EB Preference Immigrant” categories, consist of five different categories. The first four categories – EB-1, EB-2, EB-3 and EB-4 – include priority workers, professionals with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities, skilled workers and professionals, and certain special immigrants. Each category has its own unique requirements and benefits, but they all share one common goal: to attract talented individuals from around the world to contribute to the US. The fifth category is reserved for investors who are willing to make a substantial investment in a new commercial enterprise that will create jobs for US workers:

  1. EB-1: Priority Workers: This visa category is reserved for individuals who have reached the pinnacle of success in three specific areas: extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational executives and managers.
  2. EB-2: Professionals with Advanced Degrees: The EB-2 Visa category welcomes professionals who possess exceptional abilities in the sciences, arts, or business.
  3. EB-3: Skilled Workers and Professionals: The EB-3 Visa is open to professionals who have at least a bachelor’s degree, skilled workers who have at least two years of work experience, and unskilled workers who can prove their competence in a labor shortage area.
  4. EB-4: Special Immigrants: The EB-4 Visa category covers a wide range of individuals who are considered “special” for various reasons. It includes religious workers, certain employees of international organizations, broadcasters, armed forces members, and even special immigrant juveniles.
  5. EB-5: Immigrant Investors: This visa category is designed for qualified immigrant investors who are willing to invest a significant amount of capital (at least half a million dollars) into a new commercial enterprise that creates jobs for US workers.

What is the process for obtaining Immigration to the USA Employer-Based Green Card?

The employment-based green card process involves a series of steps, including obtaining a job offer from a US employer, acquiring a labor certification from the Department of Labor, and filing an immigrant petition with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). By obtaining an Employment-Based Green Card, individuals can pursue their career goals in the United States and contribute to the country’s economy and society. It is important to research and understand the specific requirements for each employment-based category to determine eligibility and ensure a smooth immigration process.

Humanitarian Green Cards

Humanitarian green cards are occasionally granted to individuals such as refugees, asylum seekers, victims of human trafficking, abuse, and crime. The process of obtaining a visa for those falling into these categories can be quite complex. If you believe that you may be eligible for such a visa, it is advisable to consult with a immigration lawyer to the USA.

Diversity Lottery Green Cards

The United States conducts a “green card lottery” program that randomly grants immigrant visas to approximately 50,000 individuals annually. Only individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States are eligible to participate in this program. Israel is part of the list of countries with low rates of immigration for 2024.

Longtime-resident Green Cards

People, who have physically been in the US since January 1, 1972, whether legally or illegally, may be granted green cards. They must have arrived in the country before that day and must not have left since then.

us immigration

Other Green Cards

There are numerous other categories of green cards that the US government awards, including those for “special immigrants” including members of the media, clergy, those from Afghanistan and Iraq who have helped the government of the United States, and those working for international organizations. Cuban nationals and American Indians born in Canada may also be eligible for green cards in certain circumstances.

Can a person that obtains a US Immigration Visa later become a US citizen?

Yes! In order to naturalize in the US as a Green Card holder, there are several requirements that you must meet:

  • Age: You must be at least 18 years old.
  • Continuous residency: You must be a Green Card holder for at least five years before you can apply for US citizenship, or three years if you were granted permanent residency based on your marriage to a US citizen.
  • Physical presence: You must spend at least half of the aforementioned time period physically present in the US. If not, the federal authorities can assert that your “life center” during this time was elsewhere.
  • Good moral character: In US law, the term “good moral character” is not defined in detail. To clarify what it means to have “good moral character” for naturalization purposes, the USCIS has published the following guidance:
    • Criminal history: Your criminal history, including any convictions, arrests, or offenses committed, will be examined by USCIS. While serious crimes are generally seen as “permanent bars to good moral character” and will significantly affect your capacity to display good moral character, smaller, less serious crimes will not have such a significant influence, and might lead to US authorities seeing them as “conditional bars for acts in statutory period”.
      • Registering with the Selective Service System (SSS): The SSS is a US government organization that keeps records of men who are eligible to serve in the military in the nation. In times of a national emergency, the legislation gave the President of the United States the power to enlist men in the military. Under US immigration law, men between the ages of 18 and 26 must register with the SSS by submitting an online form in order to demonstrate their moral character. Inability or refusal to register for the SSS may be viewed as a sign of poor moral character and may prevent an applicant from obtaining their citizenship.
      • Knowledge of English: in order to naturalize in the United States, you will need to demonstrate a basic understanding of the English language. The specific English language requirements for naturalization are as follows:
        • Reading: You should be able to read and comprehend simple sentences and passages in English that are found in newspapers, directions, and signs, among other materials.
        • Writing: You should be able to complete simple forms and written activities as well as write simple sentences in English.
        • Speaking: You should be able to hold a basic conversation in English, including asking for directions, responding to questions about yourself, and participating in simple discussions.
      • Knowledge of US civics: passing an exam in US civics is another need for naturalization. Questions about US history, US government, and citizen rights and obligations make up the test. The goal is to make sure you have a fundamental comprehension of the tenets and foundations of the United States. To assist you in getting ready for the civics test, the USCIS offers study materials. A list of 100 civics quiz questions is part of the approved study resources, which are accessible on the USCIS website. You must successfully answer at least 6 of the 10 questions on the test, which will be chosen at random from the list. The Constitution, the many branches of government, the Bill of Rights are some of the topics you might be asked on.

Contact a lawyer to start the process of Immigration to USA

If you are considering immigrating to the US, it is recommended to seek professional guidance and support to navigate the complexities of the US immigration system. With the help of an experienced US Immigration lawyer, you can better comprehend the immigration process. An immigration attorney can assist you with your Green Card application process, including the completion of the application forms correctly and on time, and they can also help you gather the necessary supporting documentation. They can help you identify any potential eligibility issues and ensure that you meet all of the requirements, ensuring accuracy and efficiency.

Our legal firm has a dedicated immigration staff to help you with your application for naturalization in the US and is a specialist in US immigration rules. We are delighted to be at your disposal and help you with any problem-related matters. Please feel free to get in touch with us at the phone number or email address provided below. Our offices are in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

This article was written in collaboration with attorney Adam Jonsson.

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