Foreign nationals wishing to come to the United States or to remain here legally must have a valid visa. The visas are grouped into two broad categories, and these are immigrant and nonimmigrant categories. Those that fall under the immigrant category allow someone to receive a green card, which allows them to permanently live and work in the United States.
A nonimmigrant visa is one that only allows the holder to enter the United States to visit or work for a fixed period, after which they must leave the country unless they find other ways to extend their legal status.
If you need to apply for a visa or you are sponsoring someone for a visa, you should always have legal help. Seek a consultation with an Austin visa attorney from J. Sparks Law, PLLC, as soon as possible.
Discuss your goals with an Austin visa and green card attorney during a consultation. Contact J. Sparks Law, PLLC us at (512) 952-2176. We are ready to answer your questions! Se habla Español.
An immigrant visa or “Green Card,” as it is popularly known, can be obtained in various ways, including the following:
A US citizen can petition the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to have their relative be given a green card. However, not all relatives qualify to get a green card based on their relationship with a US citizen. Rather, a green card for relatives of US citizens is only available for “immediate relatives,” who are defined to be a spouse, unmarried children who are under the age of 21, or parents of the US citizen.
Unlike other immigrant visa categories, the number of green cards issued under this category each year is unlimited, which in turn means this is the fastest one can get a green card approved because there are no long waiting periods.
Other relatives of US citizens and qualifying relatives of lawful permanent residents can be given green cards also under the “family preference” category. Someone’s relationship to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident determines which specific preference category they can immigrate under. These categories are as follows:
The process of obtaining a green card through either of these categories (immediate relative or family preference) is the same, but the biggest difference is how long it would take to get the green card. Because an immigrant visa is immediately available for immediate family members, obtaining a green card under this category is far much quicker than in any other category.
To start the process of obtaining a green card for noncitizens in either of these categories, the US citizen or green card holder must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, to the USCIS. The person filing the petition is referred to as the “petitioner,” and the person they are filing for is known as the “beneficiary.”
If the petitioner is a US citizen and the beneficiary is an immediate relative as defined above, then the beneficiary living in the US under a different legal status can concurrently file a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. If the beneficiary is living outside the US, then they must file an application for an immigrant visa through the consulate in their native country.
In this case, USCIS will forward their approved Form I-130 to the National Visa Center, which reviews the documentation and forwards it to the US embassy or consulate in the country where the beneficiary lives. The embassy or consulate will then schedule an interview date for the beneficiary to be interviewed. If the interview is successful and the beneficiary passes the medical exam, they will be approved and receive their immigrant visa.
If the petitioner is a green card holder and the beneficiary is in the family preference category, then the I-130 petition must be adjudicated first, meaning the I-130 must be approved first before the beneficiary can file their green card application Form I-485.
There are five categories of immigrant visas under which one can obtain a green card and migrate to the United States based on employment, and these are as follows:
Through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, foreigners from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States can apply for green card status. The number of visas available under this program is limited to 50,000, and applicants are selected randomly based on the number of visas available per region or country. However, selection does not automatically lead to being given a green card, as there are eligibility requirements that must be satisfied before one is given a green card. These are the same eligibility requirements anyone applying for a green card in any other category must also satisfy.
If you are in the Austin area and need help with applying for a visa, J. Sparks Law, PLLC, is ready to help. Please contact our office to schedule your initial consultation. We can assess your or your family member’s eligibility for a visa and green card.