“Migration is an expression of the human aspiration for dignity, safety and a better future.” Ban Ki-moon
Everyone wants a better life, and America is the land of opportunity. There are many ways to enter the U.S, but you need to know what your options are so that you can choose the best one for your situation.
The first step in immigrating is finding out if you’re eligible, which means understanding who qualifies and what types of visas exist – there’s more than just an “immigrant visa”. Once you figure this out, it’s time to make plans!
Migration is a process, not a problem. William L. Swing
President Trump’s immigration policies were sparking debate across the country. Whether or not they are good for America is up in the air, but one thing that remains clear: Biden will be making yet more reforms to U.S Immigration Policies.
Biden sought to reverse many of these policies on day one. One move was reversing Trump’s travel ban restricting 14 countries from entering and halting construction for his Mexican border wall project. Here is a link to Biden’s campaign page, however, I could only find promises and nothing really substantial.
This article will cover:
- How to Enter the U.S.
- How much does it cost to legally immigrate to the United States?
- Who can immigrate?
- How long does it take.
- Types of Visas.
How much does it cost to legally immigrate to the United States?
The cost to immigrate to the US may range from $4000-$12,000. When you apply with United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), you need to pay several fees which vary based on your residency application type.
The fee for applying will depend largely upon what specific visa class you are seeking: immigrant visas are more costly than non-immigrant visas.
The form depends on the type of residency application you’re making, whether it be a non-immigrant or immigrant petition. For example, submitting an H1B visa will cost $460 in 2021 but if you are filing as an immigrant with USCIS then it will cost you more at about $700 per person.
Asylum seekers face no petition fees in these cases but for most other petitions such as visa extensions or work permits, there will be fixed filing fees.
You may also want to read USCIS updates and their guidelines. USCIS revises its rates usually around October.
Hiring an attorney is not mandatory for the applicants but having one can help with navigating through a complex and ever-changing immigration process.
The standard legal fee for an immigration lawyer ranges from $3000 to $4000 (for H1B visas), which may go as high as 10,000 if you are dealing with deportation or family-based petitions that cost anywhere between 800 to 1500 dollars in fees depending on your situation.
Please click on the link below related to USCIS’s current fee structure available here.
The U.S.A requires all applicants to undergo a medical exam and receive certain vaccinations before entering the country; you will need to get vaccinated against some of the most common disease threats like mumps, measles, and polio if this is your first time visiting America.
Naturalizing in the United States could be described as one of the most substantial investments you will ever make. You cannot get your money back, even if it’s rejected by immigration officials, but the return on investment should be exponential.
The current fee for naturalization is $725 and includes the application costs at $640 and biometric services cost at an additional $85.
Other costs include taking preparation classes for your citizenship test. The fees will differ based on where you’re getting these types of courses or classes from. Generally speaking, they can range between $500 – $2,000 per person.
Another thing to keep in mind is if you have any criminal background. You may be required by law to submit additional documents and forms, and possibly incurring yet more legal / translation fees.
A list of those who can immigrate to the US
“Bearing different memories, honouring different heritages, they have strengthened our economy, enriched our culture, renewed our promise of freedom and opportunity for all….” George W. Bush
Family-based immigration is a process by which you can bring your loved ones who are not close family members to the United States.
The qualifications for these visas depend on how closely related or connected you and the foreign national will be, such as being an adult child of one’s parent if they’re 21 years old or older.
Qualified relatives in America may petition government authorities to allow certain eligible immigrants into this country from abroad.
Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs, or “green card” holders) can petition for their spouses and unmarried children.
For the spouse, parent, or minor child of a US citizen there is always room on the visa list but for all other family categories, there are yearly limits set by U.S law.
In order for a family-based visa to be granted, the petitioning US citizen or green card holder must have an income that is greater than 150% of the poverty line.
They also need to commit financially and emotionally to their foreign relative whom they are wishing to bring into America.
This means any unauthorized immigrant can’t request entry unless they already had close ties in this country before coming over, as well as meeting eligibility requirements like being able to get jobs legally here without becoming public charges (welfare), not having committed certain crimes while living here illegally prior, etcetera.
Employment-based immigration requires a U.S. employer to request specific foreign workers.
Immigration is tough, but for those who want to come to the United States permanently and work in a profession that qualifies them for permanent immigration (such as programmer skills or education), they must have an employer request permission from U.S authorities with specific qualifications.
The process of coming into America through employment-based visas can be difficult due to requirements such as skill level, experience, language abilities, etc. but luckily there are employers out there looking for talented foreigners.
Who can not immigrate to the US
Unauthorized immigrants who entered the United States without being legally admitted and inspected are often unable to obtain green cards while still inside of America.
Even if there is a visa available, they cannot adjust their status or get a green card without leaving the country because of how they came in; “illegally.”
A lucky few can apply through employment-based visa programs but competition is fierce so only a fraction will be successful.
Leaving the country to obtain a visa can have very negative consequences.
Any person who has been out of status for more than six months will be barred from any legal immigration status for three years, or even ten if they’ve gone without it for over one year!
US Immigration on humanitarian grounds
“I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong.” Thomas Jefferson
Each year, the U.S. sets a limit on how many refugees will be allowed to enter for safety reasons.
To qualify for refugee status, people must go through extensive screening by multiple international and U.S organizations before they’re approved as being in danger of persecution based on things like their race or religion among other factors.
Asylum seekers are people who already live in the U.S., but fear going back to their home country because they might get killed or be tortured. This means not just being poor.
Also, many immigrants can’t apply for asylum if it’s been over one year since entering America. There is no other form of humanitarian protection to prevent them from getting deported by immigration authorities when caught without documents (this is rare).
How long does it take?
With Family Immigration Visas
One of the first steps is for one member of the family to file an immigrant visa petition on behalf of their relatives.
Then there’s arranging an interview at the US Embassy with potential red tape in some cases.
The immigration process is a long and complicated one, it should take around six weeks but realistically can take anywhere from months to years.
Covid-19, government lockdowns, and even government shutdowns can make the process far more arduous than originally anticipated.
It all begins when you fill out Form I-129F and provide supporting documents as requested by USCIS. Once the petition is processed, then you will need to complete a visa application online and interview at the embassy.
After approval, you and your spouse then have 90 days to marry!
888 Types of Visas
“The land flourished because it was fed from so many sources–because it was nourished by so many cultures and traditions and peoples.” Ronald Reagan
US Immigration: The 3 Student Visas
- International students can obtain an F-1 Visa to study language training programs or academic studies in the US.
- The M-1 visa covers vocational school for international visitors and exchange scholars.
- Academics, exchange visitors, and research scholars are covered by the J-1 visas.
Tourist or Business Visa
If you’re planning on visiting the US for a business meeting or vacation and your stay exceeds 90 days, then the B1 or B2 visa is probably the most suitable.
There are numerous visas that allow foreign workers to temporarily reside and work in the US.
The L-1 visa is available for a US company to transfer an employee employed by a subsidiary in another country.
Other popular types include the H-2 visa which allows you to work seasonally in the agricultural sector.
The type O visa is for foreign nationals with exceptional skills in arts, sports, business, education, or sciences.
To list all the visas available is beyond the remit of this article, it also depends on your own nationality. For example, Canadians have more visas available to them than other countries.
Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. – Zig Ziglar
Be prepared for a long battle! Immigrating is not easy, but those who succeed have changed their generational story forever.
Get ready for the long haul, “lawyer up” as they say in the U.S. Save your money and don’t doubt spending it, try to see it as an investment rather than an expense.
Take a long-term approach. It could be you who breaks the cycle of poverty for the next generation.
Being a product of immigration I can only encourage you to move forward. Had my great-grandad stayed in Poland, or my great Grandma stayed in France, my existence in the UK could never have happened!