So you’re probably reading this because you’re planning to move the United States to pursue your American dream. Although it sounds quite nice, you can’t just take the plane to your favourite American state and stay there as long as you want.
In order to obtain permanent residence you must obtain a green card. There are three ways to do this: the diversity lottery, an immediate relative petition, or through employment. I am sure you are already aware of the diversity lottery. You have to try and apply for this by surfing to the official website of the green card lottery and fill out the application online. This is not something an attorney can help you with, but I can tell you that the application process isn’t really that difficult. It’s just that your chances of acceptance are very small. Still, it doesn’t hurt to try and it’s always worth the effort to apply.
The second option is to get a green card through a family member. You must have a qualifying relative apply for you. You must have a relationship with any of the following to get a green card through a family member:
- A US citizen spouse, parent, step-parent, child over 21, or a sibling over 21 years of age; or
- A green card holder spouse, step-parent, parent, or child over 21 years of age. A sibling with a green card cannot apply for you.
The following people cannot apply for you, even if they are US citizens or green card holders: cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces or nephews, or grandparents and grandchildren.
If you do not have any qualifying relatives, you cannot obtain a green card through a family member.
The third option is to try and obtain employment within the US. There are five employment options that lead to a green card. I’ll detail them in a separate delivery.
We call the five options employment-based green card options, or “EB preference categories.” For most of the green-card employment options, you must find a US employer who would be willing to sponsor you for a green card. In addition, you must meet a very high standard in any of these categories in order to be considered. I’ll go over each category:
EB-1: You may be eligible for an employment-based, first-preference visa if you have an extraordinary ability, are an outstanding professor or researcher, or are a multinational executive or manager. Each occupational category has certain requirements that must be met. You must be either an individual with “extraordinary ability,” an “outstanding professor or researcher,” or a multinational executive or manager. In any of those three categories you must meet strict criteria. You may see more on this category and the criteria that must be met here: https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/permanent-workers/employment-based-immigration-first-preference-eb-1
EB-2: You may be eligible for an employment-based, second preference visa if you are a member of the professions holding an advanced degree or its equivalent, or a foreign national who has exceptional ability. For the advanced degree requirement, the job you apply for must require an advanced degree and you must possess such a degree or its equivalent (a baccalaureate degree plus 5 years progressive work experience in the field).
For exceptional ability, you must be able to show exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business. Exceptional ability “means a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business.”
For more information on the EB-2 green card criteria, look here: https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/permanent-workers/employment-based-immigration-second-preference-eb-2
EB-3: You may be eligible for this immigrant visa preference category if you are a skilled worker, professional, or other worker.
“Skilled workers” are persons whose job requires a minimum of 2 years training or work experience, not of a temporary or seasonal nature. (I know you asked about this category specifically in your question. If you are planning on obtaining a Master’s degree, you would be more than qualified for this area, and perhaps more suited for the EB-1 or EB-2 categories. Please note that , according to the Department of State website, this “skilled worker” category is extremely backed-up and difficult to obtain. You’d be more qualified for the other two categories above, which are not as backed-up but require more specialized degrees and/or training).
“Professionals” are persons whose job requires at least a U.S. baccalaureate degree or a foreign equivalent and are a member of the professions.
The “other workers” subcategory is for persons performing unskilled labor requiring less than 2 years training or experience, not of a temporary or seasonal nature.
You can read more about this category here: https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/permanent-workers/employment-based-immigration-third-preference-eb-3
The next category is the EB-4 for special immigrants.
- Religious Workers
- Special Immigrant Juveniles
- G-4 International Organization or NATO-6 Employees and Their Family Members
- International Employees of the U.S. Government Abroad
- Armed Forces Members
- Panama Canal Zone Employees
- Certain Physicians
- Afghan and Iraqi Translators
- Afghan and Iraqi Nationals Who Have Provided Faith Service in Support of U.S. Operations
The last option is what we call the EB-5. This category does not require you be sponsored by an employer. You also don’t typically need to have a degree or special training. The trick here, however, is that you need to have a large amount of money to invest. In return for a 1.8 million dollar-minimum investment in a new commercial enterprise here in the US, you are given a green card. For more rural areas, the investment amount is lower ($900,000 minimum). This is probably the easiest way to obtain a green card if you have a lot of money, it’s fairly easy and provides a lot of certainty.
The above details all of your options for obtaining a green card. I also wanted to give you brief idea of a couple of other options that don’t lead to permanent residency but do allow you to live and work here in the US.
The first, and most popular option, is the H-1B. These are temporary visas that require a US employer to sponsor you for employment in a specialty occupation. The requirements detail that the job you are applying for requires some kind of specialized training and/or work experience. The US employer must show the Department of Labor that no other US citizen or green card holder is available to do the job (this is called a PERM labor certification). While this visa is temporary, you can obtain two three-year H-1Bs. Upon completion many individuals have their employer sponsor them for one of the EB categories usually EB-1, EB-2 or EB-3). This is a good option for you especially if you have an advanced degree in a specialized field. The more unusual your skill-set, the more likely you are to stand out.
Another popular option is the E2 investment visa. In return for a “substantial investment in a new business enterprise,” you can obtain a two-year E2 visa (sometimes they give you a three-year visa, with the ability to renew). There is really no precise dollar amount requirement, but the rule of thumb here is that anything below $100K is not enough. I’ve helped people open restaurants, bars, spas, tech start-ups and other small businesses with much success. This is certainly an option for you once you graduate and save some money to invest.
Lastly, there is the L visa category. In a nutshell, the L visa is available to people who work for the subsidiary of a US-company located abroad. If you obtain employment with a company in Europe, for instance, and the main branch is located in the US, the main branch can apply for you to relocate and do business for the company here. It helps to be a manager or executive, but employees can be L visa holders as well. Just something for you to think about. Again, this visa is temporary and does not lead to a green card, but it is a viable option.
There also exist student visas. You basically need to apply to a school here and go through the F1 visa process. Ttypically the school helps guide you through the process. Usually the most deciding factor is your ability to afford tuition and your financial ability to live here (dorm costs, books, etc).
I hope you are now a little more familiar with the USA immigration system, if you have any questions you can post them below. But in the end the easiest ways are still money and marriage.