If you are a foreign national looking to live in the U.S., it may be helpful to learn more about the process to get a work permit and visa. While the U.S. government provides various opportunities to obtain visas, it can be challenging to determine which option is most appropriate for your situation.
In this article, we outline your options for living and working in the U.S. as well as the steps you can take to start the process.
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There are three ways to obtain a visa when you are planning to relocate to and work in the United States. You can get it through sponsorship, apply for a temporary work visa, or apply for a green card. For more information, please visit the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services website. Here are the steps to follow for the three methods.
1. Apply for a job. First, apply for a job in your home country. Start by creating an American-style resume and cover letter. It can demonstrate to your future employer your ability to adapt to the new environment.
Ensure you only include relevant experience, list figures about your professional achievements, and specify your English language level. You can find companies on the internet and create an account on job-search websites or contact recruiting agencies if you already have several years experience.
2. Interview online. Employers usually schedule online or phone interviews for candidates who live outside the U.S. When it is time for your online interview, make sure to dress in a professional-looking style as you would for an in-person meeting. Also, attend the interview in a quiet and clean space. It is best to prepare a few statements and rehearse before the interview.
A temporary visa is one you need to renew regularly. Most work visas are employer-driven so your employer must apply for a nonimmigrant visa. Here are the steps to follow once you have accepted a job offer:
1. File a petition if necessary. Your employer needs to file a petition on your behalf with USCIS if you are not eligible yet. You don’t need a petition in certain categories. If you are involved in investment or international trade, you don’t need an employer petition to be eligible. Please refer to the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) website for more information.
2. Wait for your employer’s petition approval. USCIS needs to approve your employer’s petition before you can apply for a visa. If you don’t wait for their approval, your application will be denied. The time you need to wait depends on the category of worker you are in. With certain categories being limited to issuing a specific number of visas per year, the approval process can take a few years but can vary by visa category.
3. Apply for a temporary visa. Once the petition is approved, gather the necessary documents like your passport, travel, and work history and complete an online application. Make sure to write down your application I.D. number so you can access it later.
The application is in English and requires information about your work history, education, and criminal background. Follow the prompts of the application and respond to each question completely and accurately. The Application will prompt you to submit an application fee and schedule a visa appointment with the nearest U.S. embassy/consulate.
4. Interview with the U.S. embassy or consulate. The purpose of the visa interview is to verify that you qualify for the visa. They collect your visa application fee, review your original documents, take your fingerprints and confirm or deny your application.
5. Get your visa. Once approved, you can come back a few weeks later to pick up your passport with a visa stamp. There might be additional fees, so make sure you ask about all fees.
A green card is a document authorizing a foreign national to live and work in the U.S. permanently. Potential immigrants have the opportunity to obtain permanent residency through an annual green card lottery program called the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. You can apply for the green card lottery online. The program randomly selects applicants and distributes approximately 50,000 green cards every year.
1. Ask your employer to fill in an I-140 form. Your employer needs to file an immigration petition. Petitions may require the U.S. Department of Labor certification. The employer may seek legal advice from an immigration attorney.
2. Ask about your priority date. When they file an immigration petition, employers receive a notice from USCIS with your priority date. That date determines your application date. It is essential to know it because your application will be rejected if you apply earlier than that date. Look on the government website for the filing chart to see when you can submit your application according to your priority date.
3. Get a medical exam. You can find an approved doctor on the USCIS website and make an appointment for a medical examination. The objective of that visit is to verify you meet the health-related standards.
4. Fill out your application. You can download form I-485 on the USCIS website and fill it out. Give honest answers and consider seeking the advice of an immigration attorney if you need help.
5. Submit your application. To do so, make a copy of the requested official documents and submit them according to the directions on the USCIS website. Note that there are application fees.
6. Interview and biometrics. USCIS requests that you give your fingerprints, signature, and photos. They might also invite you to interview with the embassy. They communicate the date and time for these appointments once they receive your application. The interview aims to verify the answers you provided on your application.
7. Receive the decision. Common reasons for denied applications include missing documents, unclear information or documents submitted later than the deadline.
Once you have your visa or green card, you’ll need a social security number to work in the United States.
Take your time. Make sure to start the process in advance, as the visa acquisition can be fairly lengthy
Verify eligibility. Review eligibility requirements before applying for a visa to come and work in the U.S.
Be aware of scams. Remember, there are no fees to access forms, though there are fees to file applications and petitions.
Verify the visa process before applying. You can consult Visa Bulletins to check updates on the visa process and learn about immigration laws’ evolution.
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