Work Visa, Work Permit, or Green Card?
There are several ways to work legally in the United States and many do not require you to become a green card holder, officially known as permanent resident, or U.S. Citizen. Below are answers to some common questions about working in the United States:
- You do not need a green card to work legally in the U.S.
- A green card establishes permanent residence. If you simply want to work in the United States but remain a citizen of your home country, then you may work in the U.S. with a work visa and a work permit.
- You do need a Work Permit to be employed, even if you already have a visa.
- Most nonimmigrant visas, visas for temporary stay, allow you to work during your stay in the U.S. However, you must obtain a work permit, officially known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), to show that you are authorized to work.
- You do need a Visa to work in the United States.
- If you want to work in the United States and are not a citizen or a green card holder (permanent resident), you will need to obtain a visa. There are several employment visas that you can apply for. In most cases, you will need to be employed by a United States institution at the time you apply and your employer will need to petition for you.
How to Immigrate
To immigrate to the United States means to become a green card holder, legally known as permanent resident. While the immigration process does differ slightly depending on your immigrant category, it usually involves the following steps.
- Determine your Immigrant Category:
- The immigrant category establishes your relationship with the United States. This can be through a U.S. citizen or green card holder (permanent resident) family member; as an employee of a U.S. institution; as a member of the U.S. armed forces; as a member of a U.S. humanitarian program; or as a member of a "Special Class" of immigrants such as abused spouses or children of U.S. citizens.
- File an Immigrant Petition:
- Immigrant Petitions are required to be filed for most immigrant categories. Form I-130 is for family of U.S. citizens or green card holders. Form I-140 is for employees of U.S. institutions. Form I-360 is for Ameriasians, widow(er)s and special immigrants.
- Check your visa availability date:
- Before you can file to Adjust your Status, a legal term for becoming a green card holder without leaving the U.S., you must ensure that there is a visa available for you. Visa availability dates differ depending on your immigrant category; some immigrant categories, such as immediate family members of U.S. citizens, have unlimited visas so applicants may file both their Immigrant Petition Form I-130 and Form I-485 simultaneously. This process is formally known as concurrent filing. Check your visa availability date with USCIS.
- File Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residency Adjust Status
- Attend your interview.
- Nearly all green card applicants (excluding young children under the age of 14 and elderly individuals over the age of 74) are required to attend an interview at a USCIS office. During the interview your applications will be reviewed as well as your proficiency with the English language.
- Await a final decision by mail.
- After your interview, you will receive a final decision by mail. If you have been accepted, you will receive your green card shortly and may live and work permanently in the United States.
How can I help my Family Immigrate to the US?
Family relatives of United States citizens and green card holders (permanent residents) are eligible to apply for a U.S. Green Card. The United States citizen or green card holder must being this process by filing Form I-130, Petition for Relative, on behalf of the foreign citizen relative. This petition may be filed before or at the same time (concurrent filing) as Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status to Permanent Residence.
What are the ways of becoming a U.S. citizen?
Before you can become a United States citizen, you must first be a lawful permanent resident for five years (in some cases less). To become a citizen you must immigrate to the United States. See the question below to learn how to immigrate.
How do I immigrate to the U.S.?
There are several ways to immigrate to the U.S. and become a green-card holder (or lawful permanent resident). The five most common ways to become a green card holder are the following:
- Family - Relatives of United States citizens or green card holders.
- Employment - Employees of a United States institution.
- Armed Forces - Veterans or members of the United States armed forces or a dependent of a member or veteran.
- Special Class of Immigrants - This includes Amerasians; widows and widowers of United States citizens; juvenile dependents of the state; and religious workers seeking fulltime employment in the United States.
- Humanitarian Programs - This includes persons seeking asylum; refugees; battered spouses or children of United States citizens or permanent residents; and victims of human trafficking.
How do I file Form I-130?
Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative, must be filed by the United States citizen or green card holder on behalf of their foreign relative. The U.S. citizen or green card holder relative will act as the applicant's sponsor.
- What to include in the Application?
- The purpose of Form I-130 is to establish the relationship between the sponsor and the applicant. Documentation such as marriage certificates and birth certificates as well as testimony from other relatives or friends should be included in the petition. Really any evidence that proves your relationship should be included. The more, the better.
- How much does it cost to file?
- The filing fee for Form I-130 is $535.
- Where do I send my application?
- The direct filing address differs depending on where the sponsor lives. Check for your filing address with USCIS.
Can I Apply for Both Form I-485 and I-130 at the Same Time?
Yes! The process of combining both the Immigrant Petition, Form I-130, and the Adjustment of Status application, Form I-485, at the same time is known as concurrent filing. You may file concurrently if a visa number is immediately available for you. The following people may file concurrently:
- Immediate family relatives of U.S. citizens living in the United States
- Most employment based applicants and their eligible family members when a visa number is immediately available
- Special Immigrant Juveniles
- Self petitioning battered spouse or child if the abusive spouse or parent is a U.S. citizen
- Certain Armed Forces Members applying for a special immigrant visa under Section101(a)(27)(K) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)Special Immigrant International Organization Employee or family member
Requirement for U.S. citizens:
File Form I-130 on behalf of your family relative if you are a United States citizen.
Citizens of the United States may File form I-130 on behalf of the following relatives:
- Husband or wife;
- Unmarried child under age 21;
- Unmarried son or daughter age 21 or older;
- Married son or daughter of any age;
- Brother(s) or sister(s) (you must be age 21 or older);
- Your mother or father (you must be age 21 or older).
Requirements for Green Card Holders (Permanent Residents):
File Form I-130 on behalf of your relative if you are a United States permanent resident
Permanent Residents of the United States may file form I-130 on behalf of the following relatives:
- Husband or wife;
- Unmarried child under age 21;
- Unmarried son or daughter age 21 or older.
What is an Immigrant Petition?
The application that establishes the foreign-citizen applicants relationship to the United States. Depending on the immigrant category of the applicant, the petition will either be filed by a United States citizen or Green Card holder sponsor, United States employer, or by the applicant him or herself. Popular immigrant petitions include Form I-130, Petition for Foreign Relative; Form I-140, Petition for Foreign Worker; and Form I-1360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), and Special Immigrant.
What is an Alien?
As referred to in immigration processes, the term "alien" applies to persons of non-U.S. citizenship or undocumented persons living in the U.S. without legal authorization such as a valid visa or green card. Currently there is a social movement within the United States to change the term "alien" to "undocumented" as many people feel this term is offensive.
What is Form I-130?
Petition for Alien Relative. If applying for U.S. permanent residence through a family relationship with a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder, your U.S. relative will need to act as your sponsor and file Form I-130 on your behalf.