Learn about the process of obtaining a resident visa and how you can use your non-native-born residency to become a permanent U.S. resident or even a citizen.
Whether you’ve longed to live in the United States since you were a child or have only recently begun to consider the prospect of expatriation, you may be investigating your various options for immigration to the U.S.
However, in today’s unpredictable poll ti cal climate, navigating the often complex world of federal immigration laws, rules and regulations can be more challenging than ever. What is the best path toward permanent legal residency—or even citizenship—for you?
Read on to learn more about the process of obtaining a resident visa as well as how you can eventually use your non-native-born residency to become a permanent U.S. resident or even a citizen.
GETTING A RESIDENT VISA
A resident visa can be issued for any number of reasons, from a job transfer to a relocation to be with one’s spouse or otherloved one. This type of visa can’t be issued sua sponte—that is, it requires a current U.S. citizen, business owner, or lawful permanent resident (green card holder) to sponsor you.
As a result., this visa can cover everyone from a recently-adopted, foreign-born child to a professional biochemist who is being recruited by a U.S. pharmaceutical firm. The process for obtaining a resident visa can vary somewhat based on the reason for your immigration.
Your first step will be to submit a petition for a visa to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Bureau (USCIS) for processing. Once the USCIS has received your petition, they will review it and either reject it or approve it to be sent on to the next step in the process. Generally, if this petition is rejected, you’ll be provided with the reason(s) why.
Once your petition has gone through its initial acceptance, you’ll begin the processing process with the National Visa Center (NVC). This often involves some checking into your background and your documentation to ensure no disqualifying factors, like mismatched names or identification numbers, an undisclosed criminal history or other red flags, are uncovered.
You’ll also be required to provide the NVC with a wide array of forms and documents, often ranging from immunization and medical records to information on your prior addresses, your place of employment, marriage certificates, birth certificates and even military records.
Once the NVC has fully vetted you through the documentation you’ve provided (along with their own independent investigation), you’ll be invited to your final interview.
Prior to this interview, you may be required to undergo a medical examination. During the interview, a USCIS employee or agent will ask you a number of questions about your plans and clarify any incomplete or unclear information provided in your documents.
After the interview is completed, you should be informed of the grant or denial of your immigrant visa in fairly short order.
BECOMING A PERMANENT U.S. RESIDENT
Although a resident visa will allow you to live, travel within, and work in the U.S., it doesn’t provide the same level of security and protection as a permanent residency or “green card” holder. Resident visas can be cancelled or revoked on short or even no notice, as many emigrants from certain predominantly Muslim countries recently learned.
Because of this, you may want to apply for permanent residency if you have no plans to return to your native country for the long term. Becoming a permanent U.S. resident will entitle you to a number of benefits (many of which come with responsibilities), like voting, paying into the Social Security and Medicare systems, and working in certain government positions.
Becoming a permanent resident once you already hold a resident visa means the process you’re about to undergo may seem familiar. Other than some slightly more intensive vetting, you may feel as though you’re going through your initial visa process all over again. However, even if this seems “old hat” to you, you can benefit significantly from seeking legal advice during this process to ensure your rights are protected.