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Immigration Law Blog

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Types of Legal Entry into the United States

Foreign nationals may legally enter the United States by obtaining a visa. There are two types of visas, the immigrant visa and the non-immigrant visa. Immigrant visas allow aliens to enter and reside in the U.S. for the long term. Non-immigrant visas are issued for limited periods of time and for specific purposes, such as tourism, business, study, temporary work or medical treatment.

Foreign citizens can legally enter the U.S. in a number of ways, including: as a student, as a family-based immigrant, as an employment-based immigrant, or as a refugee. The U.S. government also has a Diversity Visa program, a random lottery which awards approximately 50,000 visas annually to foreign nationals who meet the strict eligibility requirements and are immigrating from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.

There are two types of non-immigrant student visas available, the “F-1” visa which is designed for foreign nationals pursuing academic studies or language training programs in the U.S., and the “M-1” visa for those pursuing non-academic or vocational studies. Prospective students must first apply to study at a school that has been approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Once admitted to the program of study, the school will provide the prospective student with the necessary forms to apply for a student visa.

To enter the country as a family-based immigrant, an application on behalf of the foreign citizen must be made by a close relative who is a United States citizen or a permanent U.S. resident. Additionally, that family member must have an income that is at least 25% above the poverty level. Spouses and fiancés of U.S. citizens have a few options to gain legal entry, which require the sponsoring citizen to file the application on behalf of the foreign citizen. Spouses can file a Petition for Alien Relative, or request a non-immigrant visa for a spouse. Aliens who are engaged to marry a U.S. citizen can obtain a fiancé visa.

To legally enter the United States as an employment-based immigrant seeking citizenship or permanent U.S. residency, the foreign-born immigrant’s employer must file the petition on his or her behalf. Typically, the employer must verify to the Department of Labor that there are no capable U.S. employees available to perform the job, or that the immigrant has attained a degree of excellence in his or her field. Employers who seek to hire a foreign worker on a temporary basis can request a non-immigrant visa on behalf of the foreign citizen, and the workers must leave the country upon the expiration of the visa.

Foreign citizens who reside outside of the U.S. may also be able to enter the country as a refugee. To qualify, the refugee must demonstrate that there is a well-founded fear of persecution. Such persecution may be based on religion, race, national origin, membership in a particular social group or political beliefs.


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