Immigration & Naturalization Law
If you're interested in immigrating to the U.S., you'll need to carefully follow the rules and procedures for legal immigration. One of the avenues that may be available to you is employment-based immigration. With some eligible employment opportunities, you may get a visa that allows you to stay and work in the country, and could even set you on the path to citizenship, if you want it.
Employment-based immigration is an option for U.S. citizenship. Foreign workers who meet one the applicable categories of employment may obtain a worker visa that allows them, their children, and their spouse, to come to the U.S. and eventually gain citizenship. The bases for employment visas include, but are not limited to:
- Workers with Extraordinary Abilities. You may qualify for a worker visa if you have a unique and in-demand skill set or area of expertise. Typically, you'll need to demonstrate recognition and achievements for these skills. Your experience could be related to scientific, financial, athletic, artistic, or cultural fields, among others.
- Outstanding Foreign Researchers or Professors. If you have at least three years of research or training experience and are well-known in your field, you may qualify.
- Managers and Executives Transferring from International Businesses. If you're a high-level manager or executive of an international business, you may qualify for an employment visa if you transfer to one of its U.S. offices.
- Workers with a Job Offer. Workers with exemplary or rare skills with a U.S. job offer may qualify for a worker visa.
- Foreign Investors. If you've substantially invested (usually around a million U.S. dollars or more, sometimes a bit less) in certain U.S. businesses, you may be able to obtain a visa.
There are a few ways to start the worker visa process. You'll usually need to fill out a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129). In some cases, your new employer will need to get a labor certification or sponsor your visa. There will be filing and application fees associated with your applications, which usually amount to a few hundred or few thousand U.S. dollars. If you already have a job waiting for you in the U.S., your employer may help cover some of these costs for you.You'll need to provide certain documents when applying for your visa. Usually this includes passports, medical records, vaccination records, financial information, birth certificates, and marriage certificates, among others. You will also need to participate in an interview at your present country's U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Your honesty will be imperative during the interview and documentation processes. Fraud or misrepresentation could get your applications denied.
If you'd like to become a naturalized citizen of the U.S., you'll need to fill out an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485) to get a green card. If you already have a job offer, that offer must still be good at the time of your filing. If you are arriving before getting a job, you'll need to file as a self-petitioner and agree to work in the field that you listed on the forms for your worker visa. Your employment paperwork must be approved in order for you to get your green card. Once you have it, you'll follow the procedures for naturalization with a green card. These procedures include requirements like:
- Living in the U.S. with continuous residence and a valid green card for at least five years
- Passing a civics test and a language test where you demonstrate proficiency in spoken and written English
- Having "good moral character" and a clean criminal record
You'll have additional forms to fill out, and possibly more interviews. Your family may also be eligible for citizenship through your work and will have paperwork to fill out. So if you have necessary skills that can land you a job, you may have a path to living and working in the U.S. that could lead to permanent residency and citizenship.