Understanding the US Immigration Law Process – The Process, The Green Cards and The Way Forward

immigration united states + LAW


Before starting your immigration journey, you need to understand the process it involves, which can be complicated and even daunting to many who apply to move to the US. To move permanently to the United States you must meet specific requirements, pay government fees, and possess approved applications by the U.S. government. It can be expensive and complicated, therefore, it is important to know what to expect.


To immigrate to the U.S. means to move permanently by getting the much-publicized green card (officially known lawful permanent residence or immigrant visa). A green card provides the holder with unlimited employment and can be renewed indefinitely; it also gives a pathway to U.S. citizenship.

However obtaining a green card is not by any means a ‘given’.  They are not available to everyone and the process of obtaining one can be complex and frustrating – as well as expensive.

It has been suggested that US President Joe Biden could consider an overhaul of the legal immigration system so that there would be an easier route to US citizenship for so-called ‘H-1B workers’ in the US.  Whether that eventuates is another matter, but the process of immigration is one that has occupied immigration lawyers and others with great intensity for many years.

By contrast to the ubiquitous green card, a non-immigrant visa is renewable and can be used for several visits to the US and is seen by some as a viable substitute for the green card, although it does not by any means carry all the green card benefits.

Several people begin on temporary visas like J-1 or F-1 student visas before going on to get green cards. If currently, you do not qualify for an immigration visa, think if a temporary visa may help you reach your goals. You can use some of the excellent websites for more information, such as information on US immigration online and see if you are eligible for a family-based green card or marriage-based. 

To immigrate to the U.S, you should be eligible for any of these types of U.S. visas: employment-based green cards, family-based green cards, humanitarian green cards, diversity lottery green cards, longtime-resident green cards, and other green cards.

Family-based green cards:

Most green cards that are held are those that have been given to family members of current green card holders and U.S. citizens.

One of the principles that drive US immigration policy is family unification and the family-based category permits US citizens and ‘lawful permanent residents’ (LPRs) to bring specific family members into the country, either as immediate relatives or citizens already there or as part of the Immigration Service’s ‘family preference system’.

The family members who qualify would include spouses’ widowers/widows parents, children, and siblings but rules differ depending on whether the sponsor is a green card holder or a U.S. citizen, and as well as how close the immigrant is related to the sponsor.

Employment-based green cards:

The employment-based green cards are the most common for immigrants coming to the United States and they come in five classes, based upon the skills of the green card holder. 

The first four classes, called EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, and EB-4 focus on the techniques you present as an employee. In other cases, you will need a U.S. employer to back your application; in others, you will have to show specialized training or extraordinary abilities.

The E-5 green card is quite different: it is given to investors who spend between 500,000 dollars and 1 million dollars generating jobs in American communities. The details differ depending on your home country, so you should seek financial and legal advice if you want to explore the route.

A work permit (Employment Authorization Documents) shouldn’t be confused with an employment-based green card; a work permit is a different document allowing marriage-based green card applicants to have the right to work in the U.S. 

Humanitarian green cards:

At times green cards are given to asylees and refugees, as well as human trafficking victims, crime, and abuse. Getting a visa as an associate of any of these groups can be complicated, so talk to an advocate if you believe you might be eligible.

Diversity lottery green cards:

The U.S. operates a green card lottery that awards random immigrants visas to people yearly. Applicants from countries with low immigration rates to the U.S. are qualified to apply.

Longtime-resident green cards:

Green cards can be given to persons, who have lived in the U.S. physically, either unlawfully or lawfully, from January 1, 1972. They must have moved to the U.S. before the date and not departed the U.S. after arrival.

Other green cards:

The United States government issues several other types of green cards, including those for special immigrants like religious workers, media professionals, Iraq and Afghanistan nationals who have helped the United States government, and employees of international organizations.

In some cases, green cards are accessible to American Indians born in Canada and Cuban citizens.

Family relationships, connections to employers or the desire for humanitarian protection are the leading channels for immigrants looking for permanent or temporary United States residence.

In a few cases, people can come if they are selected in the green card lottery or possess sought-after skills.

Whatever the immigration process, the immigration system may well be set for an overhaul, but understanding the US immigration law system and grappling with it remains a constant for those many thousands who seek a new life in the United States.


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