US permanent residents have been welcomed to serve in the American military.
If you want to immigrate and settle down in the United States, it is mandatory to comply with US immigration laws.
There are specific processes that you need to follow if you want to start a new life in the USA.
They might be daunting, but they are straightforward and hundreds of thousands of immigrants complete them every year.
Worry not if you have no idea where to start!
With this guide, you will learn how to immigrate to the USA and can start planning for the future that you want right now.
It might not be easy, but you can get a step closer to your dreams once you know how to go about it.
Table of Contents
Immigrate to the United States: Requirements
If you want to know how to immigrate to the USA legally, you need to understand the requirements.
First and foremost, you will need to get a US Permanent Resident Card, also called a Green Card.
The easiest way to do this is via the Green Card Lottery (or Family Sponsorship).
To participate in the Green Card Lottery, you must have been born in an eligible country and have a high school diploma or two years of qualifying work experience.
You can also obtain US permanent residence through family reunification, an Employment-Based Green Card, and marriage to an American citizen or US permanent resident.
Each US immigration program to receive a Green Card has its own eligibility requirements and application procedure.
Preparing for Your Immigration to the USA
The transition to life in the USA will be easier if you are well prepared, so get the following documents to avoid any undue stress.
Here are some of the key documents you need to get ready:
- Valid passport
- Certified translation of educational credentials (degrees, diplomas and certificates)
- Certified translation of marriage certificates, birth certificates, and the like
- International driver’s license
- Proof of bank accounts
- Translation of financial documents
- Translation of insurance policies
- Vaccination certificates
- Translation of doctor’s letters and medical records
Different Types of Immigrant Visas
There are several different kinds of US immigrant visas.
Familiarize yourself with them if you want to know about your options to immigrate to the US.
Here are the US Immigrant Visa categories:
- Immediate Relative & Family Sponsored
- Diversity Immigrant Visa (Green Card Lottery)
- Other immigrants (Special Immigrants, etc.)
How Much Does It Cost to Immigrate to the USA?
The cost of immigration to the USA will vary depending on the method you take.
The Green Card Lottery is one of the cheapest methods, while the investment route (for example, the EB-5 Visa and Green Card) will cost significantly more.
As an example, here is a quick overview of the major expenses for US immigration through the Green Card (Diversity Visa) Lottery Program:
- Diversity Visa Application Fee: $330 per person (for the Diversity Immigrant Visa)
- USCIS Immigrant Fee: $220 per person (for the Green Card)
- Biometrics Fee $85 per person
- Medical examination: $250 – $350 per person
- Moving expenses for furniture and other possessions: $5,000 – $20,000
- One-way flight to the USA: $200 -$800 per person
On top of these costs, you might also have to pay for:
- Translations of documents into English
- Deposit for a house or apartment to rent or lease
- Car purchase
- Driver’s license fee
- Living expenses after arrival in the US (housing, food, clothes, Internet/phone, etc.)
These expenses will vary depending on the size of your family, your preferred lifestyle, where you will live in the USA and other factors.
For reference, Statista data says that the required household income to live comfortably in San Antonio, Texas, was $78,000 in 2019.
On the other hand, this figure is $128,000 in New York City.
In general, the Northeast and West Coast are more expensive than other parts of the country.
How to Avoid Common Problems and Pitfalls
You might be excited to launch a brand-new life in the USA, but it is important to be realistic.
Preparation will help you every step of the way so you can avoid common mistakes and unnecessary delays.
Below, are common pitfalls faced by aspiring immigrants.
- Do not send untranslated documents – If your documents are in a language that is not English, you will need to have them translated. This includes supporting evidence as well. On top of that, the translation should have a certificate to verify that it was carried out by a qualified translator.
- Send in all the paperwork – With the number of forms to fill out and submit, it is easy to see why some applicants forget one thing or another. However, an incomplete application might be delayed, rejected, or denied. Supporting evidence is also important, so make sure to prepare everything ahead of time. Be attentive when it comes to the documentation requested to avoid delays or issues.
- Sign your application – You might be surprised to see this one on this list, but it is actually a common mistake. People often get very busy with other application processes and forget this crucial detail. On that note, you need to ensure that you sign in the appropriate spaces. Always double-check your application to ensure that you did not miss anything before you send it in.
- Unintentionally providing false information – Sometimes, our memory fails us and causes us to write down wrong information on our forms. Even honest mistakes might be interpreted as willful attempts at misleading the authorities. Always check the information you provide to ensure that this does not happen.
It is not easy to immigrate to the US and is often exhausting, expensive, and time-consuming.
Nonetheless, hundreds of thousands of people immigrate to the US every year from countries around the world.
For many people, moving to the USA allows them the opportunity to give their children a better future.
Most immigrants and their children generally do very well living in the United States and improve their quality of life.
We hope that this guide has been helpful to you and your future plans.
Since 2001, USAFIS has been offering review and submission services for the Green Card Lottery to thousands of customers worldwide.
USAFIS services help to make it easy to prepare your application and photo(s) correctly according to the strict regulations prior to submission to the Green Card Lottery on your behalf.
Other USAFIS services help to make your relocation to the United States go as smoothly as possible.
To learn more about your options for immigration to the USA, click here!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
One of the easiest methods of immigration to the USA is by marrying a US citizen. This comes with the added bonus of a shortened naturalization waiting period to become an American citizen. Of course, the US immigration officials will need to confirm that the marriage to the American citizen is valid and genuine. Another of the easiest ways to immigration to the US is through the Green Card (Diversity Visa) Lottery Program, since there are only two eligibility requirements to participate: being born in an eligible country and meeting the education or work experience criteria.
The United States is an immigrant-friendly country that welcomes newcomers from countries around the globe. There are, of course, certain criteria that people need to meet before they can move to the US. The exact standards will depend on which US immigration program they apply for. In general, the standards for the Green Card Lottery are fairly easy to meet. However, those with a history of drug abuse, criminal activity, terrorism, and certain infectious medical conditions will not be granted a Green Card, visa, or entry. This is enforced for the protection of the country.
- How long does it take to immigrate to the US?
The answer varies depending on the US immigration program you are applying for, your personal circumstances and other factors (such as if there is a backlog of applications waiting to be processed). The US immigration process can generally take about 1.5 to 2 years, but it could be longer for certain visa types or for citizens of particular countries. Immigration to the US is not for the faint of heart. You have to be committed and patient if you are determined to move to the USA, but the benefits of US permanent residency are many!
- What are the 4 types of immigrants?
There are four major types of immigrants living in the USA: naturalized American citizens, lawful permanent residents, legal temporary residents, and undocumented immigrants. Naturalized American citizens were formerly Green Card holders who have been granted US citizenship. Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) are immigrants who hold Green Cards to live, study and work in the USA for an unlimited amount of time. Legal temporary residents are foreign nationals legally permitted to live in the USA for a limited period of time, such as international students, temporary foreign workers and those with temporary protected status. Lastly, undocumented foreign nationals are those who are living in the USA illegally or without permission.
- How can I become a legal immigrant in the US?
The first step for immigration to the USA is to learn which US immigration program you are eligible to apply for. Next, file an application for a US Immigrant Visa (often, a petition, form or other procedure must be completed successfully before applying for an Immigrant Visa). After this, expect to undergo a medical examination and a consular interview. Government fees will also need to be paid. Lastly, you need to wait for the decision. If you are approved for immigration to the USA, a US Immigrant Visa will be placed on a page of your passport for entry into the United States within a certain period of time. You will also need to pay the Immigrant Fee to the USCIS to receive your plastic Green Card which will be carried long-term as official identification while living in the USA.
- Is it hard to become a US citizen?
Naturalization (the process to become an American citizen) is a time-consuming process that take some amount of effort by a Green Card holder. A US permanent resident can generally apply to become an American citizen through naturalization after living in the USA for at least 5 years, however, a Green Card holder who is married to an American citizen can apply for naturalization after living in the US for only 3 years. A lawful permanent resident (LPR) who serves in the US military can apply for American citizenship after just 1 year! Other eligibility requirements must also be satisfied to become an American citizen, such as proving English language proficiency and basic knowledge of American government and history.
In general, you are required to know English if you plan on obtaining US citizenship. It is expected for applicants to have learned the language. English fluency will make your life much easier when you immigrate to the USA. There are exceptions to this rule that are considered on a case-by-case basis, but otherwise English language proficiency is required for US citizenship.
Although some Employment-Based (EB) Green Card programs require sponsorship and/or a valid job offer from a US employer, other EB programs do not have this requirement. The largest number of immigrants to receive a US Permanent Resident Green Card each year are actually close family members of American citizens or US permanent residents. Up to 55,000 immigrants receive Green Cards each year through the Green Card (Diversity Visa) Lottery Program, which simply requires an applicant to be born in an eligible country and meet the education or work experience criteria.
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