Getting into the United States is not as easy as you may think. The country may have been founded and built by immigrants but nowadays only 11% of US residents are foreign born. Immigration used to be fairly straight forward but since the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001 the country has significantly altered the entry process. With the exception of certain visitors, all non-resident foreigners wishing to enter the US require a visa, even those just in transit on their way to another country. The US issues a bewildering range of visas which are broadly divided into immigrant (permanent resident) and non-immigrant (temporary resident) visas. Possession of a visa isn’t a guarantee of entry into the US. Entry into the country is strictly controlled and anyone who doesn’t comply with immigration requirements (including being able to prove that they’re indeed in compliance with the terms of their visa), can be fined, jailed or deported.
There are a dizzying amount of different VISA’s available in the USA, these are listed from Category A Visas right the way through to category V. For the sake of simplifying the process we have listed the most important ones.
For a visa application, you will have to produce some or all of the following documents:
A valid passport showing at least six months validity from the date of travel.
Correctly completed application form(s).
Two passport pictures, taken within the last six months.
Proof of adequate financial support during your stay.
Proof of medical insurance.
Proof of purpose of visit and/or a hotel reservation and/or a return ticket.
For a work visa: a letter from your prospective employer.
For a study visa: a letter from the Academic Institution you are planning to study at.
Holders of immigrant visas are issued with an Alien Registration Receipt Card, popularly referred to as a green card (although it’s now pinkish-blue), consisting of a plastic identification card with your photo, thumb print and signature on the front. A green card serves as a US entry document for permanent residents returning to the US after a period abroad. Before applying for an immigrant visa you must establish that you fulfil the criteria for whatever category of visa you’re applying for. Provided you qualify, you may apply for an immigrant visa under more than one category.
The main difference between the rights of a permanent resident and those of a US citizen is that a permanent resident, although having all the responsibilities of a US citizen, is ineligible for certain welfare benefits, including some Medicaid and Social Security insurance benefits
The Types of VISA for Immigrants
Category K Visa’s – A category K-1 visa is granted to a fiancée or fiancé who’s planning to marry a US citizen within 90 days of entering the US, together with his or her unmarried children under 21 (who receive K-2 visas). There’s also a K-3 visa that can be granted to the spouse of a US citizen, allowing him or her to enter the US to wait while completing the immigration process. A K-4 visa is granted to unmarried children under-21 accompanying a K-3 visa holder.
Category V Visa’s- The V non-immigrant visa allows the holder to reside in and travel to and from the US until he becomes eligible to apply for an immigrant visa. People eligible for V visas are spouses and children under 21 of lawful permanent residents who have been waiting at least three years for their immigrant visa applications to be processed.
Category F Visa’s- A category F Visa is for relatives of US citizens and of permanent residents of the US. His Visa should be applied for if you already have family living in the states. Preference relatives are divided into the following four categories:
F-1- (First preference) Unmarried children of US citizens and their children.
F-2-(Second preference) Spouse, children and unmarried children of green card holders.
F-3- (Third preference) Married children of any age of US citizens and their spouses and children.
F-4- (Fourth Preference) Brothers and sisters of US citizens and their partners and children, the US citizen must be over 21 years of age.
Category E Visa’s- A category E Visa is for immigrants seeking to enter the USA based on employment. They are divided into five groups, these are;
E-1(Priority workers) this category is for people with extraordinary abilities in science, education, art, business, or athletics. Outstanding professors, executives and professionals fall into this category.
E-2(Members of the Professions) Professional who hold advanced degrees and have five years experience in their field of expertise can apply for this Visa. Lecturers, business executives etc..
E-3(Professionals, Skilled and unskilled workers)- This category is for people who hold professional degrees and skilled workers with at least two years experience in their chosen field or workers whose skills are in short supply.
E-4 (Special Immigrants) – Special immigrants can include religious workers, employees of certain multinational organisations and current or former employees of the US government.
E-5(Investors)- This Visa is for people who can create wealth and employ up to ten US citizens (non related) by investing money into the country. The minimum requirement is usually $500,000.
Be aware that the rules and guidelines for Visa’s change on a regular basis so it pays to do your research. Looking at the US Embassy website will be a big help.