Immigration Overview

Immigrating to a new country is often a complicated process. Individuals wishing to immigrate to the United States may apply for a green card or immigrant visa, depending on their unique circumstances. People who meet certain requirements may also apply for U.S. citizenship after they have lived in the country as a permanent resident for at least three to five years.

Basic Immigration Methods

Green Card

A green card allows an individual to live in the U.S. as a permanent resident if he or she meets certain requirements. Generally, a person must be employed full-time in the United States or have a relative who is a U.S. citizen in order to qualify for green card. An immigration lawyer may be able to help prospective immigrants determine if they are eligible to apply for a green card.

Immigrant Visa

Getting an immigrant visa is often the first step for an individual living outside the U.S. if he or she wants to move to the country. There are several types of immigration visas, and each one has a unique priority level within the U.S. government. For example, a person who has family members who are U.S. citizens may acquire an immigration visa sooner than an individual applying for asylum.

On to Citizenship

After several years of permanent residency, an individual may apply to become a U.S. citizen. The standard five-year residency requirement may be shorter for a person who served in the U.S. military or who is married to a U.S. citizen. Gaining citizenship requires a person to submit an application, complete an interview with a government agent, pass a test, and take an oath of citizenship.

Important Considerations

Before beginning the immigration process, individuals should understand the requirements for green cards, visas, and citizenship. In many cases, a person must have a family member who lives in the United States or sponsorship from an employer to be considered for immigration. The wait time for certain types of visas may be long. Citizenship may provide benefits that a green card does not.