The United States is the world’s #1 immigration destination – both in terms of how many people move to America each year and in regards to the total number of immigrants who live in the USA. For example, over 900,000 people relocate to the United States every year through various US visa programs. This includes approximately 200,000 people who are granted a US immigration visa (and Green Card) for permanent residency in the United States through Employment-Based (EB) programs and the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, and around 700,000 individuals who are issued a temporary non-immigrant US work visa through various programs. Furthermore, about 47 million of the 326 million people who live in the USA (14% of the total US population) are foreign-born. In short, more than one million people from around the globe relocate to the United States each year in pursuit of employment, education, freedom and other opportunities that are available to those who live in America.
Whether someone wants to immigrate to the United States as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) and receive a Green Card, or move to America as a non-immigrant (e.g., temporary foreign worker, international student, etc.), a valid US visa must normally be stamped inside of his/her passport to authorize legal entry into the United States.
There are two major categories of US visas for relocation to the United States:
- A permanent resident US immigration visa (in conjunction with a Green Card) authorizes a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the United States to live, study and work in the USA for an unlimited length of time, receive various benefits and provides the option to apply for American citizenship once certain criteria have been met. The US immigration visa is stamped inside of the passport of a new permanent resident to permit initial entry into the United States, however, it is the Permanent Resident Card (referred to as a Green Card) that is carried long-term as an official form of identification and proof of Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status.
- A temporary non-immigrant visa is stamped inside of the passport of a foreign national and allows him/her to live in the USA for a limited period of time (for example, up to 1-5 years, depending on the US visa and other factors) and for particular purposes. Many temporary non-immigrant US visas authorize a foreign national to legally work in the USA and may have an option for eligible family members to also live in America. Other temporary non-immigrant US visas only permit an individual to stay in the United States for a specified period of time, but do not permit them to work in the USA.
For each of these two categories, there are several US visa programs with their own criteria and benefits.
To learn more about your US visa options, click here!