As a non-immigrant, you are issued a temporary visa for a specific purpose, which allows you to engage only in certain activities (business, study, temporary employment, pleasure). To change the duration or activities allowable activities under your non-immigrant visa, you must apply for change of status. Generally, you may apply to change to a new non-immigrant status if you lawfully traveled to the United States on a temporary visa and were lawfully admitted, your temporary visa status remains valid, and you have not committed any crimes that make you ineligible to change your status. The application may be filed at USCIS Service Center with jurisdiction where you are staying or where you work, depending on your visa classification.
Aliens admitted as spouse or child of someone in one of the following non-immigrant categories do not need to apply for change of status to study in the United States: Diplomats; Treaty traders and investors; Representatives of international organizations; Temporary workers; Representative of foreign media; Exchange visitors; and Intra-company transferees.
Aliens admitted as spouse or child of an F-1 academic student or M-1 vocational student do not need to apply to change status to attend elementary, middle, or high school in the United States. However, those wishing to attend post-secondary school full-time, must apply for change of status.
This applies to foreign workers engaged in international trade or investment between U.S. and the worker's country. E-1 visas apply to foreign workers coming to U.S. to engage in substantial trade between U.S. and the worker’s country, while E-2 visas apply to foreign workers coming to U.S. to direct/develop the operations of an enterprise in which the worker has invested, or is in the process of investing, a substantial amount of money. Family members of the E visa holder are also eligible to receive the visas.
The H-1B visa program allows U.S. employers to hire foreign professionals to fill positions for which they could not find qualified U.S. citizens or residents. Although the H-1B is a temporary visa, H1-B holders may pursue permanent residency while still in U.S. Because of the high demand for professional workers in the U.S. and the annual limit allowed on H-1B visas, timing of filing of the H-1B petition is critical. However, certain types of employment may be exempt from the annual limit. Family members H-1B visa holders are eligible to be granted H-4 visa to live in the U.S.
The J-1 visa is available to persons who have been accepted to participate in exchange visitor programs by a Department of State-designated sponsoring organization, and obtained Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status from the organization. J-1 exchange visitors are generally subject to a two-year foreign residence requirement that requires them to return to their home country (or country of last residence) for two years at the end of their J-1 exchange program. A waiver of this requirement is available in some cases.
The K-1 fiancé(e) visa is the most effective way for U.S. citizens to bring
their fiancés to the United States. The K-1 visa allows the fiancé(e) of a U.S.
citizen to travel to the U.S. to marry his or her fiancé(e) and then apply for
permanent residency based on the marriage.
Once the fiancé(e) is issued a K-1 visa, he or she has six months to enter the U.S., and the marriage must take place within 90 days of the entry into U.S. Unmarried children under 21yrs of age of K-1 visa applicants are eligible for K-2 visa to accompany their parents to the U.S.
The K-3 visa allows the foreign-born spouse of a United States citizen who has a Form I-130, Petition for Alien, filed on his or her behalf to travel to the United States prior to approval of the Form I-130. Unmarried children under 21yrs of age of K-3 visa applicants are eligible for K-4 visa to accompany their parents to the U.S.
The L-1 classification is designed for intra-company transferees - employees who work for companies operating both in the United States and abroad. To qualify, the employee must have worked abroad for a continuous period of one year, out of the three preceding years, for a company that is related to the U.S. company, and must coming to U.S. to work in managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity. Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of L-1 visa holders are eligible for L-2 visas.
The O-1 classification is reserved for persons with "extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim." To qualify, persons must be coming to the United States to work in their areas of extraordinary ability. Persons who are assisting an O-1 with an artistic or athletic performance are eligible to travel to the United States on O-2 visas. Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 may accompany O-1 visa holders on O-3 visas. O-3 visa holders may not work in the United States.
The P visa classification is for athletes, entertainers, and artists who seek to temporarily visit the United States for a specific event, competition, or performance. P-2 classification is for artists or entertainers who will perform, individually or as part of a group, under a reciprocal exchange program between an organization in the U.S. and an organization in another country. P-3 classification is for artists or entertainers who perform, individually or as a group, and seek to come to the U.S. to develop, interpret, represent, coach, or teach a unique or traditional ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical or artistic performance or presentation. Support personnel and family members of P Visa holders are also eligible to receive visas.
The R-1 classification is for religious workers seeking to enter the U.S. This visa is issued for five years. A person who has already received an R-1 visa must stay outside of the United States for at least one year before applying to reenter the U.S. again in R-1 status. To qualify for an R-1 visa, the applicant must be a minister; or a person working in a professional capacity in a religious occupation/vocation; or a person working in a religious occupation or vocation who has been a member of that religious denomination for at least two years immediately preceding the date of the visa application. Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 are allowed to accompany R-1 religious workers on R-2 status.
V-1 and V-2 visas allow spouses and children (respectively) of lawful permanent residents to enter, and live in, the United States while they are waiting for their immigrant visas to be processed. A spouse or child of a lawful permanent resident may apply for a V visa if: the lawful permanent resident spouse or parent filed a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on or before December 21, 2000; the priority date is at least three years old; the priority date is not current; no immigrant visa interview has been had or scheduled; and the immigrant petition is not already at an embassy or consulate abroad.
The United States has an employment preference system that allows certain immigrants to apply for permanent residency. Generally, you must have a U.S. employer sponsor you for permanent residency. However, you do not need an employer to sponsor you if you qualify for a national interest waiver. Current law allows for the issuance of 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas per year. Ten thousand of these visas are reserved for immigrant investors, who fall in the EB-5 category. The remaining visas are divided among four categories of employment preferences. Each category is defined by the type of worker who qualifies for immigration to the United States. The number of visas available in each category is limited both by annual limits and per country limits.
Spouses, children, parents, or siblings of citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. are entitled to receive permanent resident green cards allowing them reside and work in the U.S. The process of obtaining this green card is fairly simple depending on the degree of relationship between the alien and the petitioner (U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative), the age of the alien, and whether the petitioner is a U.S. citizen or just a permanent resident.
Certain lawful permanent residents are admitted as conditional residents. Persons married for less than two years to their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse on the day they were granted permanent residency are conditional residents. Certain immigrant investors are also conditional residents. Conditional residents have the same rights as permanent residents, including the right to work in the U.S.s and the right to petition on behalf of certain family members. However, conditional residents must file either Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence or Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions within two years of the date they were granted their green card.
Petitions to remove conditions must be filed within 90 days before the two year anniversary of when the green card was issued. Failure to file within the required 90-day window automatically results in loss of immigration status, which may lead to removal from the United States, although the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may accept a late-filed petition in certain cases. Generally, conditional residents that are married will file a joint petition with his/her spouse to remove the condition, although a self-petition will also be allowed under certain circumstances.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows abused (physical or psychological abuse) spouses and children of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents to self-petition for permanent resident status. Filing a self-petition means that battered immigrants can apply for permanent residency by themselves without the abuser’s help and without the abuser knowing. To qualify, you must show: that you lived with a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent (If you are the parent of a United States citizen, you may also be eligible for VAWA benefits.); that you were battered or subjected to extreme cruelty during the marriage (if you are a husband or wife who is self-petitioning, you can meet this requirement by showing that your child was battered or subjected to extreme cruelty during the marriage); and that you entered the marriage in good faith.
Permanent residents may apply to become citizens through naturalization. Naturalization is the last step in the immigration process and usually the last time the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will review a person’s file to determine whether the person is eligible for citizenship and whether the person is eligible to remain in the United States. To become a naturalized citizen, you must have five years (three years if you became permanent resident through marriage and are still married to the same spouse) of continuous residence in U.S. since the date you became a permanent resident. Additionally, you must have "good moral character," pass the English literacy and civics test, and by take the Oath of Allegiance to U.S. Constitution.
If your citizenship application is denied by a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) examiner, you may ask for a hearing before a new immigration officer. The new immigration officer will review your citizenship application and conduct another examination, which may include a new test of your English ability and a new civics test. The new immigration officer may affirm the original decision to deny your application, or re-determine the original decision, in whole or in part. You must file a request for an administrative review within 30 days of the date you are notified of the denial of your citizenship application. If your citizenship application remains denied after the administrative review, you may ask a federal district court to review your application. To seek judicial review of your application by a federal district court, you must file a petition for review in the federal district court where you live.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) usually detains aliens who are subject to deportation or removal from the U.S. Not all detainees are allowed to be released on bond. Depending on the alien’s immigration status and/or criminal history, he/she may be subject to mandatory detention. Like state and federal bonds, immigration bonds are designed to guarantee the appearance of the detainee at all hearings before the Immigration Court. Immigration bonds are immediately forfeited (given up) if the detainee does not appear for a required hearing.
Generally persons who are not "arriving aliens," criminals, or terrorists are allowed to apply for a bond. Usually when an alien is taken into custody by ICE, his/her bond will be set by ICE. Sometimes ICE may release the alien on his/her own “recognizance” and he/she will not have to pay a bond. If ICE holds the alien without setting a bond, the alien can apply for bond determination hearing with an Immigration Judge. Also, if ICE sets a bond in an amount that is too high, the alien can apply for a bond re-determination hearing with an Immigration Judge.
Removal is the word United States immigration laws use for what is more commonly known as "deportation." Any person who is not a United States citizen can be ordered removed from the United States. There are many legal reasons why persons may be removed from the United States. These are referred to as "grounds of removability." One ground of removability provides that persons may be removed from the United States if they were excludable (inadmissible) when they entered the United States.
However, even if persons are removable, they may be able to remain in the
United States if an immigration judge "cancels" their deportation. This form of
relief is called "cancellation of removal" and gives otherwise removable persons
lawful permanent resident status. Generally, to qualify for cancellation of
removal, a person must be eligible to file a waiver for the ground on which the
government is seeking to remove him or her from the United States.
A person must be in removal proceedings to apply for cancellation of removal. Removal proceedings begin when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issues a Notice to Appear ("NTA") to the removable person. There are four types of cancellation of removal: cancellation for lawful permanent residents; cancellation for non-permanent residents; cancellation under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA); and cancellation for NACARA beneficiaries.
A permanent resident convicted of certain crimes is removable unless an immigration judge grants him/her cancellation. To be eligible for such cancellation, the permanent resident must: have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence for not less than five years; have resided in U.S. continuously for seven years after having been admitted in any status; and not have been convicted of any aggravated felony.
A non-permanent resident whose visa has expired or violated his/her visa status is removable but may have his/her status adjusted to permanent residency if an immigration judge grants cancellation of removal. To qualify for cancellation, the nonresident must show: ten years of continuous physical presence in U.S.; good moral character; n conviction for certain criminal offenses; and that removal from U.S. would result in "exceptional and extremely unusual hardship" to his/her spouse, parent, or child, who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
Cancellation of removal under Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows abused (physical or psychological abuse) spouses and children of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents to self-petition for permanent resident status. VAWA will apply if you are any one of the following relationships: abused spouse or child of U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident; spouse or child of U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who lost his status within the past two years because of domestic violence; former spouse of U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and the divorce took place in the past two years and was related to domestic violence; spouse of U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who was a bigamist if you married the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident in good faith and with an intent to legally marry; spouse of U.S. citizen who died within the past two years; non-abused parent of a child abused by U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, even if the child and abuser are not related; abused "intended spouse" (fiancé) of U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident; or abused parent who has been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by your adult United States citizen child.