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Visas and Immigration : US Visas
Visas and Immigration
It is increasingly common to read news about hundreds of illegal immigrants being arrested and deported by U.S. government officials. More and more news reports show how the government is clamping down harder on businesses that hire illegal immigrants. Without a doubt, the American government has been taking a stronger stand against illegal immigration. The topic of immigration has been, for obvious reasons, a hot item in recent elections, one that has divided the ethnically diverse American population. Over the last few years, there seems to be more and more talk about legalization.
However, thousands of immigrants enter the U.S. every year. Entering the U.S. legally can be done, but it is often a long and difficult road. Each person must evaluate what type of visa to apply for, choose a good immigration lawyer, endure a mountain of documents, and pay some expensive fees. And after all this time, energy and money there are no guarantees that your efforts will be rewarded with a legal visa.
One of the first steps you must take is to determine which type of visa to request. There are many different visas, each with a specific purpose. These could be divided into categories: some that allow you to visit temporarily (tourism), some that allow you to study at an educational institution, and some that allow you to work temporarily under the supervision of an American company.
For those who hope to live permanently in the U.S., the holy grail of all visas is the Green Card, a permanent resident visa that allows you to live and work in the U.S. for as long as you want.
Temporary visas are usually not hard to obtain, although the U.S. consulate in your area will work to make sure that you will not use a temporary visa to gain access to the U.S. and then stay illegally after your visa expires. Student visas are also not very difficult to obtain, but you must be officially admitted into an American high school or university. For high school and college students there are many cultural exchange programs that can help you apply for and obtain a visa. And temporary work visas are usually feasible if a company in the U.S. has sponsored you and proven that you can provide specific services that a U.S. citizen can’t provide.
One of the lesser-known visa possibilities is the “extraordinary ability” visa. This visa is for people who can prove that they have “extraordinary ability” as an artist, musician, athlete, scientist, writer, singer, etc. Proving that you have “extraordinary ability” in your field is not easy. You must prove that you are among the very best in your profession, have generated a high-level of media attention as a result of your work, and have a well-known and ongoing leadership in your field. You must also prove how you intend to use your talents in the U.S.
For a complete listing of all the visa types offered by the U.S. government, you can visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service site (www.uscis.gov).
Obtaining the Almighty Green CardAccording to U.S. government statistics for 2005 to 2007, about one million immigrants per year have gained legal permanent resident status. Between 60 and 65 percent of all these new legal residents were sponsored by relatives already legally living in the U.S. About 15 percent gained Green Cards through a company-sponsored effort. And about 12 percent received permanent resident status due to a need for political or refugee asylum.
As you can see, the most common avenue for gaining permanent resident status in the U.S. is through an immediate relative. Your relative must submit a formal petition to the government in order to initiate the immigration process. If your relative is a U.S. citizen (not just a permanent resident), you are an eligible candidate if the relative who sponsors you is your spouse, brother or sister, child, or parent. In most cases, your relative must be older than 21 years of age. If your sponsoring relative is only a permanent resident (not a citizen) you would only be an eligible candidate if you are that person’s spouse or child. Your relative will need to prove that he or she can support you financially, at a level of 125 percent about the official poverty line. The second most common path is through employer sponsorship. In this case, the process starts with an employer’s petition and the employer acts as the immigrant’s official sponsor. The application must be approved by the U.S. Department of Labor and the USCIS. The people who obtain these visas are usually highly qualified professionals, such as researchers, college professors, doctors willing to work in areas of the U.S. that are undeserved by American physicians, and business executives who have been transferred to the U.S. by a multinational company.
Working with Immigration LawyersBecause the laws and bureaucracy can be so complex, many people hire an immigration lawyer to help them through the legal maze. However, it is very important to make sure that you hire a reputable lawyer. There are many examples of fraudulent lawyers who have taken thousands of dollars from hopeful immigrants. In the U.S., the lawyer must be in good standing with the “bar” (governing authority) of a U.S. state. Be sure and ask to see the lawyer’s current attorney license, write down the lawyer’s admission number, and then call the state authority to verify this information. Lawyers are required by law to disclose this information. Don’t pay any legal fees until this information has been verified.
In addition, for a lawyer to represent you in the immigration process, they must work for an organization or law firm that is accredited by the USCIS. Therefore you should also ask to see a copy of the lawyer’s Board of Immigration Appeals decision (BIA). The Executive Office of Immigration Review, under the Department of Justice, maintains a current list of law firms that have USCIS accreditation.
There are numerous charity organizations that provide free or low-cost legal services to hopeful immigrants. In most cases, they work to help people who are fleeing harsh political and war conditions in another country, or those who have extreme difficulties in the U.S.
Author: Glenn McMahan
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