Family-Based Immigration Visas and Adjustments of Status
Lawful permanent resident status (green cards) can be obtained through family-based relationship categories. These categories include: immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen; preference relatives of a U. S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or accompanying relatives of a preference category person.
Immediate relatives are spouses of U. S. citizens (including widows and widowers who were married for at least two years to the U.S. citizen spouse and who apply for adjustment within two years of the spouse’s death). Immediate relatives also include unmarried children of U.S. citizens under the age of 21, as well as parents of U.S. citizens who have attained 21 years of age.
Preference categories for relatives include:
- Family First Preference—Unmarried children, 21 or older, of U.S. citizens.
- Family Second Preference–2A—Spouses and unmarried children (under age 21) of lawful permanent residents, and 2B – Unmarried children (at least 21 years old) of lawful permanent residents.
- Family Third Preference—Married children of U. S. citizens.
- Family Fourth Preference—Sisters and brothers of U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years old.
Employment-Based Immigration Visas and Adjustments
A permanent labor certification issued by the Department of Labor (DOL) allows an employer to hire a foreign worker to work permanently in the United States. Through this process a person can obtain lawful permanent resident status by being employed. The employer application is initiated by the person’s employer, in most cases through the PERM or labor certification process with the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. Some employment categories are exempt from the labor certification process. There are five categories for employment-based permanent residency.
EB-1—Priority workers include persons of extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics; persons of exceptional ability or with an advanced degree in the Sciences, Arts or Business; outstanding professors or researchers, and international executives and managers.
EB-2—This category includes professionals with advanced degrees or persons with an exceptional ability in the Sciences, Arts, or Business; qualified physicians practicing medicine in under-served areas of the United States.
EB-3—Skilled or professional workers are included here. Foreign nationals with bachelor’s degrees who do not qualify for the higher preference categories, skilled workers with a minimum of two years training and experience, and unskilled workers.
EB-4—This category includes special immigrants who are foreign national religious workers, as well as current and former employees of the U.S. government in overseas capacities.
EB-5—Individual investors may also apply for permanent residency through an investment of $1,000,000 in new commercial enterprises that create full-time employment for at least 10 workers. Investors of $500,000 in particular targeted-employment areas also qualify.
Special Immigrant Visas
Certain groups of foreign residents are eligible to file special visa petitions and adjust their status outside of the normal family-based or employment-based process.
Armed Forces Special Immigrants—These include U.S. Armed Forces enlistees or veterans who served honorably on active duty after October 15, 1978, who originally enlisted outside the United States under a treaty or agreement in effect on October 1, 1991. These include persons who have served a total of 12 years and were separated only under honorable conditions or who have served six years on active duty and have re-enlisted for an additional six years for a total 12-year commitment.
Special Immigrant Juveniles—Juveniles in the United States are eligible for classification as special immigrants if they meet the following criteria. They are under the age of 21; are unmarried; have been declared dependant upon a juvenile court located in the United States; have been deemed eligible for long-term foster care; who continue to be dependant on a juvenile court.
Special Immigrant Status for Certain Iraqi Nationals—This category is for those Iraqi nationals who were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. Government in Iraq on or after March 20, 2003 for a period of at least one year. They must have provided faithful and valuable service and are experiencing or have experienced serious threat as a consequence of that employment.
Special Immigrant Translators—Nationals of Iraq or Afghanistan, who worked for the U.S. Armed Forces as translators for a period of 12 months, may be eligible to receive an immigrant visa.
Foreign nationals who wish to enter the United States on a temporary basis for work, pleasure, or study may seek a variety of non-immigrant visas. These include:
A. Foreign government officials. The A-1 visa is available for ambassadors, public ministers, career diplomats and immediate family members. The A-2 visa is for other accredited official or employees of foreign governments and immediate family members. Personal attendants, servants, employees of holders of A-1 and A-2 visas, and their immediate family members are eligible for the A-3 visa.
B-1. Visitors for business. This visa allows business visitors to temporarily visit the United States.
B-2. Visitors for pleasure. The B-2 visitor visa is issued for short periods of time for pleasure trips, to visit friends and relatives, for medical treatment, or to attend social or service-related activities. The B-2 visa is also available for immediate family members (spouses, children and parents) of B-1 visa holders.
C. Aliens in transit. The transit visa enables travelers through the United States to visit family or friends and to engage in tourist ventures. Individuals involved with the United Nations may travel to the UN in New York with a C-2 visa. Government officials traveling through the U.S. may do so with a C-3 visa. Family members and personal employees of government officials are also eligible for the C-3 visa.
D. Crewmen. D-1 visas are available to crew members of ships, including musicians, chefs, and stewards of non-fishing vessels. D-2 visas are available to crew members of fishing vessels.
E. Treaty traders and investors. The treaty traders and investors visas are available to nationals of a country with which the United States maintains treaties of commerce and navigation. The individuals applying for the E-1 visa should be coming to the United States to engage in substantial trade or direct and develop a business in which they have or will invest substantial capital. E-2 treaty investors should be coming to the U.S. to invest substantial sums.
F. Students. The F-1 visa is available for participants in academic programs in secondary schools and colleges. Immediate family members of F-1 visa holders are eligible for the F-2 visa. Canadian and Mexican students commuting daily to the United States to attend school use F-3 visas.
G-1. International organization personnel. Designated principal representatives of foreign governments coming to the United States to work for an international organization are eligible for the G-1 visa. Other accredited representatives are eligible for G-2 visas.
H-1B. Specialty occupations. The H-1B visa allows foreign nationals the ability to work in the United States in a wide variety fields including engineering, health, medicine and architecture. The requirements of this visa include sponsorship by an employer.
H-2B. Skilled and unskilled non-agricultural workers. Employers use this visa to fill temporary needs for non-immigrant workers.
H-3. Trainees. This visa enables foreign nationals to train in almost any endeavor in the United States including technology, agriculture, communications or government.
I. Media personnel. The I visa is available to reporters, film crew members, and freelance journalists working for a foreign media company or it U.S.-based subsidiary.
J. Exchange personnel. The J-1 visa enables foreign nationals an opportunity to participate in exchange programs in the United States including students, on-the-job trainees, teachers conducting research, and teaching among others.
K. Spouses, fiancées or fiancés of U.S. citizens. Foreign nationals coming to the United States to marry U.S. citizens, as well as their children and their spouses awaiting approval of their immigrant petitions are eligible for K-1, K-2, or K-3 visas.
L. Intra-company transferees. Employees of international organizations that transfer the employees to the United States for temporary periods of time are eligible for the L-1 visa. The employees include executives and managers, personnel with specialized knowledge and family members.
M. Vocational students. This visa is for non-academic or vocational studies.
N. Parents and children of special immigrants.
O. Aliens of extraordinary ability or achievement. Persons with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, as well as persons working in the motion picture or television industries, may enter the United States for temporary periods with the O-1 visa. Support personnel for O-1 visa holders in athletics, entertainment, motion picture and television productions are eligible for O-2 visas.
P. Artists, entertainers, and athletes. Athletes, circus artists, and entertainers who plan to work in the United States may apply for the P-1 visa as well as athletes who plan to compete within the United States. Traveling bands, artists, and entertainers may apply for the P-2 visa through government-recognized reciprocal exchange programs. Teachers may enter the United States with P-3 visas.
Q. International cultural exchange program participants. The Q-1 visa provides individuals the opportunity for practical training and employment in the United States while participating in exchange visitor programs.
R. Ministers, professional workers in religious vocations or occupations, and other religious workers. Religious workers such as monks, nuns, and religious brothers and sisters may enter the United States for temporary periods to engage in activities related to traditional religious functions.
S. Persons with information on a criminal organization who cooperate with the government.
T. Victims of trafficking. Women and children who are in the United States because they are victims of trafficking and are cooperating with law-enforcement are able to apply for a T visa.
TN. NAFTA traders. Certain Canadian and Mexican citizens may enter the United States with TN status to temporarily work in NAFTA-approved professional occupations.
U. Victims of criminal activity who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse and are assisting in an investigation or prosecution may apply for a U visa.
Each non-immigrant category has a maximum-stay limitation and a list of permissible activities for holders of each visa. The permissible activities include education and employment for some types of non-immigrant visa. A person categorized as a non-immigrant in the United States may apply to change to another non-immigrant category or to extend the length of stay. A non-immigrant can also become eligible for permanent resident status.