Immigrating to the US is a somewhat complicated process that involves several steps and can be achieved in different ways. The three major ways of immigrating to the US and living in the US permanently is by applying for an immigrant visa or applying for permanent residency or applying for citizenship.
Applying for an Immigrant Visa
Immigrant visas differ from non-immigrant visas because of the intention to live in the US permanently. Non-immigrant visas can serve for work and investment purposes. One can apply for an immigrant visa based on family ties or for work-related purposes.
If the application is based on family ties, then the visa application should be sponsored by a direct family member who is a citizen or permanent resident. The sponsor begins the application process, and afterwards, the applicant is invited to the visa processing office in their home country for follow-up procedures which include a medical examination and a visa interview.
An employer that offers an applicant a full-time permanent job can also sponsor the visa application by making the initial application. For certain specialities, a professional could be allowed to begin the application themselves.
An immigrant visa is usually valid for specific periods during which one must use them. It is noteworthy to mention that the cost of applying for an immigrant visa can be quite heavy and is lost completely if the visa is denied.
Applying for a Green Card
A green card which is a permanent residency allows a person to live in the US for life. A green card application can be made after a person has entered the US on a non-immigrant visa and wishes to change their status. One can thus apply for permanent residency in the US after they studied and got a permanent job or married a US citizen.
Specific requirements guide applying for a green card, and one can begin the application themselves after they become eligible. After the initial application, one is usually invited for follow-up procedures which may include an interview.
When applications for green cards are rejected, the applicant may be allowed to file an appeal, and the reason for the rejection will be stated.
Applying for Citizenship
Although a green card and immigrant visa allow a person to live in the US for life, their rights are restricted if they are not citizens. Non-citizens of the US do not have a right to vote or to social security.
One can apply for US citizenship after taking up permanent residency for a certain length of time: tis period is usually shortened if they marry a US citizen. The process of becoming a US citizen this way is known as naturalization.
After a person meets the requirements for naturalization which include continuous stay for a specific period, they can apply and get invited for follow-up procedures which include an examination that is based on English language and civics.
If all the required conditions are met, one then swears the Oath of Allegiance and becomes a naturalized citizen of the US with the attached benefits.