Immigration to the US: Where to start?

To legally immigrate to the US, there are certain procedures that must be followed. Lawful permanent residents must hold a green card, which shows they have the privilege to work and live in the US. If you wish to immigrate to the US with a green card, these are the steps to follow:

  1. The USCIS, or US Citizenship and Immigration Service, has to approve your immigrant visa petition. This is typically provided by either your employer or a US-born sponsor. Certain people can file their own petitions, such as investors, priority workers, and diversity immigrants.
  2. If you are applying for a green card on the basis of employment, your employer will probably need to provide a labor certification request to the Department of Labor.
  3. You must have an immigrant visa number, provided by the State Department.
  4. If you are already stateside, you can apply for permanent resident status as soon as you are provided with your visa number. If you are outside the US when your number is available, permanent residency must be applied for at the nearest US consulate.
  5. The immigration system in the US is based on job creation, refugee recognition and the reunification of families. There is also a lottery intended for people from countries with low immigration rates. Eligibility criteria are different for and within each path; for instance, anyone wanting to get a green card on the basis of employment must wait for the preference system to make a visa number available. Relatives of US citizens (parents, spouses, and children under 21 and unmarried) do not have to wait for separate visa numbers.
  6. United States law limits the number of visa numbers available yearly, which necessitates the preference system previously mentioned. This means that applicants may not get a visa number immediately after their petition is approved. Visa numbers are also limited by country, so if you are coming from a country with a high immigration number, you may have to wait longer. Visa numbers are not directly applied for; the USCIS will tell the applicant if their petition has been approved, then send the petition to the National Visa Center where it is held until a number becomes available.

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