They come from all over the world with one dream in mind – to become an American citizen. What does it mean to say, “I am an American citizen?” It is more than just voting, receiving a U.S. passport or sponsoring family members to come to the USA. To be an American citizen means that you belong to a unique nation with a heritage of great deeds, a set of ideals, vast resources, and the opportunity to advance in one of the most powerful nations in the world.
The ways to becoming an American citizen are grouped into 2 main sections:
- Apply for a Green Card through the Lottery.
- Apply for a Green Card via sponsorship (for example: American citizenship through marriage).
The first section – applying for a Green Card through a lottery – can only be done in one way: submitting an application to the Diversity Visa Lottery program which offers 50,000 permanent residency cards annually. For more information on obtaining American Citizenship through the DV Lottery program, please see our Diversity Visa Lottery submission requirements page.
The second section – applying for a Green Card via sponsorship – can be done in several ways:
- Immediate relative and family sponsorship: for individuals who are either married to an American citizen or are closely related to an American citizenship holder.The types of visas available:
- IR-1: Spouse of an American Citizen
- IR-2: Unmarried Child Under 21 Years of Age of a U.S. Citizen
- IR-3: Orphan Adopted Abroad by a U.S. Citizen
- IR-4: Orphan to be Adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. Citizen
- IR-5: Parent of an American Citizen Who is at Least 21 Years Old
- Employer sponsorship: 140,000 employer sponsorship visas are available each fiscal year. Before filing for an employer sponsorship visa, the prospective employer must receive a Labor Certification Approval from the US Department of Labor. Only then will the employer be able to file a petition on behalf of the immigrant.
- Employment First Preference (E1): Priority Workers (includes: Persons with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics; Outstanding professors and researchers with at least three years experience in teaching or research, who are recognized internationally; Multinational managers or executives who have been employed for at least one of the three preceding years by the overseas affiliate, parent, subsidiary, or branch of the U.S. employer)
- Employment Second Preference (E2): Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability
- Employment Third Preference (E3): Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers (Other Workers)
- Employment Fourth Preference (E4): Certain Special Immigrants. There are many subgroups within the E4 group, for example: Iraqi and Afghan interpreters/translators who have worked directly with the United States armed forces or under Chief of Mission authority as a translator/interpreter for a period of at least 12 months and meet the requirements
- Employment Fifth Preference (E5): Immigrant Investors
Good to know:
- Unlike the American Diversity Visa Lottery program in which qualified immigrants are selected randomly by a computer, all other methods of becoming an American citizen are on a “first come – first served” basis. This means that once the US government fills its quota of immigrants for the current fiscal year, no other petitions will be reviewed, even if the fiscal year has not ended.
- As in the Green Card Lottery, you will be able to bring your spouse and all unmarried children under the age of 21 through your employer sponsorship petition.