As immigration topics continue to polarize political parties and an endless stream of fake news, we would like to break down some factual information to share three ways that non-U.S. citizens can come to the United States legally. Some methods encompass more complexity than others, but we will explore these areas and offer some of our professional insight as well.
These methods are: visas, lawful permanent residency, and citizenship.
Visas. There are a variety of visas available to non-citizens to bring them to America. If you’ve seen any of our digital content, you know we focus heavily on visas like the H1-B visa, but that is not the only visa that exists. First, there are non-immigrant and immigrant visas. Non-immigrant visas cover people from various professions such as au pairs (visa category “J”); foreign nationals with “extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business or athletics” (category “O”); performing athletes, artists or entertainers (category “P”); and tourism, vacation or pleasure visitors (category “B-2”). The time each visa holder is allowed to stay in the U.S. varies by visa type.
Immigrant visas include the H1-B visa, along with family visas such as a U.S. citizen sponsoring a foreign family member to come and live in the United States. Depending on your unique visa needs, you would be wise to consult an immigration attorney. The U.S. also allows for 55,000 diversity visas each year to randomly selected individuals who are from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.
Lawful permanent residency. You may have heard the term “green card,” which is where this area of living and working in the United States applies. Green cards come from a few different paths, such as visa recipients in the following categories: EB visas (there are a few, but we frequently talk about EB-5 visas), asylum or refugee visa holders, diversity visa holders, and relatives of U.S. citizens. Please note lawful permanent residents are not U.S. citizens, unless they continue onto our next area of immigration: citizenship.
Citizenship. Anyone born in the United States is already a U.S. citizen, but it is something that a person can obtain later in life as well. After birth, a person can become a U.S. citizen through “derived” or “acquired” citizenship from American citizen parents. This method is only for children under 18 years of age and usually occurs when a non-U.S. citizen is adopted at an early age. The other way to become a U.S. citizen after birth is through naturalization. To become a citizen, an applicant must have the status of a permanent resident for at least five years before applying, or three years if they are married to a U.S. citizen. In the naturalization process, applicants must also prove proficiency of English, knowledge of American history and politics, and pledge allegiance to the United States of America.