5 Different Pathways to Get US Residency

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Many dreams of moving to the US to live, study, or start a business. And, thanks to the multiple green card options available, the US is today home to over 13.6 million lawful permanent residents.

But obtaining a visa or green card can be challenging, mainly due to the lengthy bureaucratic process involved, significant backlog of applications, and long processing times.

Luckily, with the help of a specialised immigration lawyer, you can choose the best pathway to become a permanent resident of the US and avoid common pitfalls.

Family Preference Green Card

If you are closely related to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident, the easiest and fastest way to obtain a green card is through a family preference visa.

Family-based visas are designated to help the immediate relatives of US citizens or green card holders obtain a permanent residency permit by filing USCIS Forms I-130 and Form I-485. This visa preference is suitable for US citizens’ children, parents, and spouses but not for extended family members, such as cousins.

The petition for this visa should be filed by your relative, a US citizen or LPR, and the application can be submitted even if you are not currently in the US.

Although this is the most straightforward alternative for family members of American citizens, it is essential to understand that, in 2022, there will be an estimated backlog of 7 million applications. What’s more, waiting times can vary significantly: if the spouses, parents, and minor children of US citizens can obtain their visa within 11-58 months, adult children and siblings can wait 24 years or longer.

EB-5 Visa

If you are a business investor or entrepreneur and have significant enough capital, consider petitioning for an EB 5 visa for permanent residency.

The EB-5 Visa, also called the Job Creation Visa or Employment-Based Fifth Preference Visa, is a program created for investors to obtain a green card by founding or contributing to a US business.

When making a business investment to obtain a US green card, there are a few requirements you’ll need to meet:

  • You will need to invest at least $1,050,000 (or $800,000 in Targeted Employment Areas)
  • Your investment should create and maintain at least 10 full-time job positions for qualified employees (not including your relatives)
  • Your investment must be at-risk
  • You can either make a direct investment or contribute to a Regional Center project.

Due to the process involved with petitioning for this visa, prospective applicants should partner with an experienced lawyer to minimise immigration and investment risks.

Other Business-Based Preferences

If you are not looking to start a business in the US but have desirable skills that can grant you a US green card, consider other Employment-Based Preferences. When doing so, it is crucial to understand that, in most cases, your employer or sponsor must file a petition for you.

Depending on the preference you have applied for, to obtain an EB visa, you’ll need to meet one or more of the following requirements:

  • Be a priority worker
  • Be a world-class professional
  • Hold an advanced degree
  • Have exceptional abilities
  • Hold a Bachelor’s Degree in a specialised field
  • Have skills that fulfil the needs of the current US market
  • Be a “special Immigrant” (People who have worked with the U.S. Armed Forces or the Chief of Mission authority).

While you might need to work with an immigration attorney to avoid pitfalls and mistakes in your application, choosing an EB preference visa is one of the best ways to obtain a green card quickly and make your move abroad stress-free.

Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV)

If you want to buy a house in the US and move permanently to America, you first need to obtain your green card. But what if none of the options above suits you? Luckily, one alternative worth considering is the Diversity Visa (DV).

This lottery-like program gives a chance to 50,000 immigrants each year to win a US green card, given that they are nationals of countries with a low number of immigrants in the US. For example, currently, this visa isn’t available for citizens of Canada, Mexico, China, and Columbia.

Although the DV Visa processing times are short (around 14 months), around 11 million people apply for it each year, making it harder for applicants to secure a green card!

Get a Student Visa

If you are planning to study in the US, a pathway to residency worth considering is the one through a student visa. For this option, consider enrolling in a US college and obtaining a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Thanks to your degree, you can apply for a one-year post-graduate work visa (also known as Optional Practical Training). While employed, you can then ask your employer to file an EB visa petition for you to obtain a residency permit.

Partner With an Experienced Immigration Lawyer

Although the visa options above might seem like a great start, partnering with an experienced lawyer is a critical step to overcome common challenges and access less-obvious pathways, such as the U Visa, the EB4 green card for religious workers, and the T Visa.

Ref: 3128.27205

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