Understanding U.S. Immigration Process

The US immigration process has many steps and there are many types of status that US immigration authorities can grant. If you want to apply for US immigration status, you may have the choice of applying for a visa, a green card, or US citizenship. Each has its benefits, responsibilities, and eligibility requirements. Whether you apply for a US visa, green card, or citizenship, however, you will need to apply with the USCIS, the US immigration authority that oversees immigration in the US.

A US visa allows the holder to enter into the United States and remain legally in the United States. There are several types of US visas:

1. B-1 (Business Visa)
2. B-2 (Tourist Visa)
3. F-1 (Student Visa)
4. J-1 (Exchange Visitor Visa)
5. H-1B (Work Visa)
6. H-2B (Work Visa)
7. K-1 (Fiancee or Fiance Visa)
8. NAFTA (Work Visa)
9. U.S. (Work Visa)

Most visas have multiple restrictions as well as expiration dates. If you have a B-2 visa, for example, you will not be eligible to work in the US. It is important to obey all the limitations and restrictions of your US visa or you may be deported from the country.

A green card grants you permanent residency in the US and this offers you many more advantages and privileges than a visa. Green card holders can freely enter and leave the US, as long as they maintain residency or a home within the US. As well, a green card grants the holder the right to live, reside, work, and study legally in the US.

US citizenship goes even further than the green card in offering rights and privileges. US citizens have the right to vote in local and national government elections, have the right to seek protection of US consulates and embassies when abroad, and have the right to live, work, and study in the US. US citizens are eligible for a range of services granted only to US citizens. As well, US citizens cannot usually lose their status. Even if a naturalized US citizen resides in another country for years, he or she retains US citizenship. A US citizen, however, also takes on some responsibilities not required of visa or green card holders. A US citizens has to declare allegiance to the US, for example and in some cases may need to surrender their previous citizenship.

If you are negotiating the US immigration process, it is important to note that different types of immigration status have different eligibility requirements. If you qualify for a visa, this does not guarantee that you qualify for a green card or citizenship. It is important to read eligibility requirements very carefully and to apply for the correct status for you.