To enter the United States legally, one needs to obtain a visa. The granting of visas is done by the federal government and is the main concept behind immigration policy. There are two main types of visas; immigrant (green cards) and nonimmigrant. Immigrant visas are granted to those who would like to stay and work in the U.S. indefinitely. They are limited in number, in total and per country. Most aliens that apply for U.S. citizenship enter the United States with an immigrant visa. Non-immigrant visas are generally intended for tourists or students. They often do not allow an alien to work and always expire after a certain period of time. The specific visa which one receives depends on two circumstances; the reason for travel and the alien’s status according the U.S. immigration rules.
A green card and an immigrant visa are the same thing. They are both names for the document which gives official immigrant status. Green cards signify that you have lawful permanent residence in the United States. They can be issued for multiple reasons: immigration through investment, immigration through employment, immigration through a family member, immigration through “The Registry Provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act,” and immigration through the diversity lottery.
There are various regulations restricting certain people from obtaining visas. There are health-related, criminal-related, and security related grounds for determining who is inadmissible for immigration to the U.S. A person who finds they fit any of the specifications listed in the categories under Grounds for ineligibility below is neither eligible for entry into the U.S. nor for any type of visa. If you find that you are not ineligible for any reason, look under Grounds for eligibility to see if you may be capable of getting a visa.
Anyone who is determined to have a communicable disease of significance to public health.
Anyone who seeks admission as an immigrant, or who seeks adjustment of status to the status of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence, and who has failed to present documentation of having received vaccination against vaccine-preventable diseases (There is an exception from the immunization requirement for adopted children 10 years of age or younger).
Anyone who is determined to have a physical or mental disorder and behavior associated with the disorder that may pose, or has posed, a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the alien or others, or to have had a physical or mental disorder and a history of behavior associated with the disorder, which behavior has posed a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the alien or others and which behavior is likely to recur or to lead to other harmful behavior, or who is determined to be a drug abuser or addict, is inadmissible.
Anyone is inadmissible who is convicted of or intends to commit certain crimes such as:
Moral turpitude (unless the crime was committed when the alien was under 18 years of age and 5 years before the date of application for a visa, the alien was not sentenced to more than 6 months incarceration, the maximum penalty for the crime was not more than a maximum of 1 year incarceration, and the crime was other than a purely political offense or an attempt or conspiracy to commit such a crime), A violation of, or a conspiracy or attempt to violate any law or regulation of a State, the United States, or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance, Multiple criminal convictions. Any alien convicted of two or more offenses (other than purely political offenses), regardless of whether the conviction was in a single trial or the offenses arose from a single scheme of misconduct, and regardless of whether the offenses involved moral turpitude, for which the aggregate sentences to confinement were 5 years or more, Controlled substance trafficking or being related to and knowingly taking money from a trafficker, Prostitution and commercialized vice, Being involved with serious criminal activity and asserting immunity from persecution (i.e. not submitting to the jurisdiction of a U.S. court), Terrorism, individually or in a group, Or ever being involved with totalitarian groups (i.e. being a Nazi).
Anyone who is likely to become, at any time, a public charge for reasons such as:
Assets, resources, financial status
Education and skills
In general, anyone who seeks to enter the United States for the purpose of performing skilled or unskilled labor is inadmissible (with few exceptions). These exceptions are:
There are not enough workers who are able, willing, or qualified in the United States at the time of application, The employment of the alien will not adversely effect the pre-existing working conditions, The person wishing to immigrate is of a certain field or profession. People in this category are teachers, scientists, artists, or professional athletes.
Anyone is inadmissible if they are:
Present in the U.S. without admission or parole (with certain exceptions),
Fail to attend a removal proceeding,
Misrepresent themselves (using fraud to procure a false visa or other documentation),
Enter as a stowaway,
Abuse a student visa,
Or subject of civil penalty.
The U.S. government recognizes many different grounds for which can apply for a green card. The most common reasons the Immigration Department has for granting them are those of family and employment. Listed below are the categories which the United States government considers legitimate reasons to grant immigrant visas. Visas are often granted if someone is
an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen.
a relative other than immediate of a U.S. citizen
a preferred employee or worker
a special immigrant
seeking refuge or political asylum
a special agricultural worker
a long-term resident
a special case for humanitarian reasons
There are two routes to take when applying for a green card; if you are already in the U.S., then you need to file an application for adjustment of status. This will give you legal permanent residency and can be done with the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If you live abroad, make an appointment to visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Getting a green card can be quite difficult, no matter where you are. It helps to have a sponsor already in the U.S. (such as a family member or employer) and an immigration attorney to guide you through the process.