How to live in the US legally without having a Green Card, then this guide is for you!
Many people have heard of a United States Permanent Resident Card (also called a “Green Card”), which allows an immigrant to live in the US for an unlimited amount of time and also provides many benefits.
There are many US visas, however, that also allow foreign nationals to live in the USA legally for different purposes.
If you are seeking an alternative way to live in the US legally without having a Green Card, then this guide is for you!
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How can you live in the US legally?
There are several ways that an individual can live in the US legally including:
- Being an American citizen (by birth or naturalization)
- Becoming a US Permanent Resident Green Card holder
- Receiving a non-immigrant temporary US visa
A person who was born in the United States, or who was born outside of the USA and has at least one biological parent who is an American citizen, has US citizenship.
An immigrant (US permanent resident Green Card holder) who has been living in the USA at least 5 years and who satisfies all of the other eligibility requirements can become an American citizen through naturalization.
US Permanent Resident
Another way to live in the USA legally for an unlimited length of time is to become a US Permanent Resident Green Card holder.
There are several ways to become a US Permanent Resident Green Card holder such as the:
- Diversity Visa/Green Card Lottery
- Employment-Based Green Cards
- Family Sponsorship by a US citizen or permanent resident
- Green Card via asylum or refugee status
- Special Immigrant programs
- Other US immigration programs
Non-Immigrant Temporary US Visa
Someone with non-immigrant or temporary US resident status is permitted to live in the United States legally for a limited amount of time and for a particular purpose such as:
There are many non-immigrant US visas for temporary residents of the United States, each designed for a different purpose and having its own eligibility requirements, application process and length of stay in the USA.
How long can you stay in America without a Green Card?
The amount of time that you can stay in the USA without a Green Card will depend on which type of non-immigrant temporary resident visa you have and if you can renew it.
It should be noted that citizens from over 40 countries who can participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) can stay in the United States up to 90 days without a US visa if they have been approved in advance through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
Otherwise, with a B-1/B-2 Visitor Visa, you could stay in America for up to 6 months during a 12-month time period.
An H-1B Work Visa will allow you to live and work in the USA for up to 3 years; it can be renewed for an additional 3 years; and there is an option to apply for a US Permanent Resident Green Card.
Full-time international students who will enroll in a full-time academic educational program (such as to attend a university) can receive a Student Visa to live in the USA for up to 5 years, depending on the duration of their study abroad program in the United States.
International media professionals with an office outside of the United States who will be working in the USA for the same employer can receive an I-Visa, which is usually valid for the duration of the foreign media professional’s stay in the US.
These are just four examples out of the many non-immigrant temporary US visas that are available to show that it is quite possible to stay in America for a significant amount of time without a Green Card.
How to stay in the US without a Green Card
In order for you to stay in America without a Green Card, you will need to satisfy the eligibility requirements for a non-immigrant temporary resident US visa.
Here is an overview of the key criteria to apply for three top US visas for temporary residency.
Visitor Visa – You must generally:
- Complete the Form DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application
- Upload a digital color photo of yourself according to the regulations
- Schedule an interview at the US Embassy or Consulate in your country
- Pay the US Visitor Visa Application Fee and save the payment receipt
- Bring the required documents to the consular interview
Student Visa – The process usually involves the following:
- Apply to enroll in a program at a school in the US that is approved by SEVP
- Once you are approved for enrollment, you will be registered with SEVIS
- You will need to pay the I-901 fee
- The school will provide you with the Form I-20
- Now you can apply for the F or M Student Visa at the US Embassy or Consulate
H-1B Work Visa – In order to apply, you will basically need:
- A specialty occupation that normally requires at least a Bachelor’s Degree
- A US employer to file a Labor Condition Application with the Labor Department
- The sponsoring employer to receive certification from the US Labor Department
- The sponsoring employer to file the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker with USCIS
- To apply for the H-1B Visa at the US Embassy or Consulate after the petition is approved
- To apply for admission to the USA with the US Customs and Border Protection agency
Please note that this is a brief overview of the major steps in the procedures to stay in America without a Green Card by obtaining a non-immigrant temporary US visa, such as a Visitor Visa, Student Visa or H-1B Visa, and that additional steps may be required and many other US visa options are available.
Millions of people travel to the United States each year without a Green Card by obtaining a temporary US visa for tourism, business, employment, education or other purposes.
Some foreign nationals stay in America for a short time period, such as tourists who are on vacation, while others live in the USA for many years with non-immigrant temporary US visas.
In some cases, being a temporary legal resident of the United States can open the door to becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) through adjustment of status, which is an option with the H-1B Visa.
Of course, there are also US immigration programs for people who want to stay in America long-term as US Permanent Resident Green Card holders.
These US immigration programs include the Diversity Visa (Green Card) Lottery Program, Employment-Based Green Card Programs, and the Family Sponsorship Program, among others.
How can you know which US visa program is right for you, whether for temporary or permanent residency?
Since 2001, USAFIS has been providing beneficial services to thousands of people around the world who want to relocate to the United States to live, study or work.
USAFIS offers a US Visa Assessment that will let you know which US visa program best matches your profile.
Our review and submission service also makes it easy to correctly file your application and photo(s) to the annual Diversity Visa (Green Card) Lottery for the opportunity to become a US permanent resident.
To learn more about your US visa options, click here!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
Yes, there are several non-immigrant temporary US visas that can allow you to stay in America for different lengths of time, such as the F-1 Student Visa and the H-1B Work Visa.
Yes, a temporary legal resident of the United States can have the opportunity to buy a home in the USA if he or she qualifies. A lender will generally want the foreign buyer to have legal residence in the US which will continue for at least the next few years, a Social Security Card and proof of the financial means to pay the monthly mortgage payments.
Yes, you can work in the USA if your non-immigrant temporary US visa gives you permission, you obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) and you meet any other criteria. Examples of temporary US visas that allow foreign nationals to legally work in the USA include the H-1B Visa, I-Visa, L-Visa, O-Visa and P-Visa.
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