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It is a dream for many to come to the US, either for a visit or to work and live in the US. Depending on the intention of your visit, there are different ways and means through which you can come to the US. Visas and green cards are tools that facilitate your move to the US temporarily or permanently. A non immigrant visa is for a temporary stay whereas through a green card, you can legally live and work in the US permanently.

There are different paths that will lead you to a green card. A common and easy way is through the annually conducted Diversity Visa (DV) lottery program. One has to remember the many privileges that green card holders can enjoy and one can legally enter, work and live permanently in the US. Considering these, it is really worth having a go through the DV lottery program. As mentioned above, in addition to the green card lottery program, there are other ways through which you can get a green card.

Diversity lottery :

A substantial number (50,000) green cards are made available every year through the DV lottery program. What needs mention here is that there are a few simple, but strict eligibility requirements that you have to fulfill to qualify for the program. The list of qualifying countries is indeed limited and not all countries qualify. When more than 50,000 persons from your country immigrated to the US under the family and employment based visa categories during the past five years, your country will not fall in the “qualifying” list for this year’s DV lottery program.

So, to qualify for this program, you should be from a ‘qualifying’ country. “Qualifying” country is where you were born and NOT where you currently live. The second eligibility criteria is that you should have at least a high school education or its equivalent.

The Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) is the authority that takes care of the DV processing. The winners will be selected randomly by a computer. The results are announced only by the by the KCC only and ignore any notifications from other fake organizations. From 2010, applicants are to check the results online in the official website.

The DV lottery Process :

You can submit your application only during the registration period that will be notified well in advance by the official department. Once the entry submission is over, the website will stop accepting further entries for the fiscal year. A computer will select randomly from the valid entries region wise.

Every valid entry will receive a case number. If you are selected, you will be notified in detail on how to proceed further. Also note that you will be informed not to proceed further if you do not satisfy the eligibility requirements required to participate in the program. The case number is the only way to check if you are selected or not. So make sure you keep the confirmation number safe.

If you are selected, it does not imply that you will get the immigrant visa immediately. It only qualifies you to apply for an immigration visa. You are required to pay the appropriate immigrant visa fees and the diversity visa processing fees.

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The starting step to legally immigrate to the United States is to get an immigrant visa. Most foreign nationals get visas by being sponsored by close family members or employers. Others get visas as asylees or refugees, fleeing persecution in their home countries. There are four most common ways to get an immigrant visa.

Family-based: A US citizen or a legal permanent resident (green card holder) can sponsor a family member for immigration. Waiting periods for getting such visas differ depending on the closeness of the relationship with the sponsor, and processing times can be lengthy, because a limited number of visas are available each year

Employment-Based: Qualified US employers can sponsor a potential foreign employee for immigration. In certain cases, extraordinarily-qualified foreign nationals can immigrate without being sponsored by an employer. It is required that employer sponsors demonstrate that there are no sufficient number of qualified workers available in the US to fulfill their need. The processing time can last 7 to 8 years because of the restriction on the number of visas.

Asylum and Refugee Status: Visas are also available to people who are unable or not willing to return to their home country because of persecution or a well founded fear of persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. To put it in simple terms, asylee status is granted in the United States and refugee status is granted abroad.

Diversity Lottery: Foreign nationals who wish to migrate to the US but do not have a family member or employer to sponsor them, can apply for the Diversity Lottery Program. Only 50,000 winners are issued visas every year through this program. Not all countries are eligible to enter this program. The aim of this program is to promote immigration from underrepresented countries, so each year the State Department issues a list of countries whose citizens may not apply.

An foreign national should have a legal immigrant visa to be eligible for legal permanent resident status and US citizenship, but the visa alone is not sufficient. To get a green card, the foreign national has to apply to adjust his status to legal permanent resident. The Department of Homeland Security

will verify that there are no medical, financial, criminal or prior immigration violation grounds to reject the application.

Many people seek the help of an attorney to navigate the sophisticated process. Legal permanent residents qualify for American citizenship after five years. If they are married to a US citizen and living with that citizen spouse, they will qualify for American citizenship after three years. To qualify for citizenship, they must demonstrate good moral character and have a basic knowledge of English, U.S. history and government. The citizenship form, N-400 costs $680 that includes a $85 biometric fee.

US immigration law is a sort of administrative law. Immigration legal procedures like deportations do not go through the US Judicial system. They take place within the US Department of Justice. As deportation is considered an administrative correction and not a criminal punishment, undocumented immigrants (illegals) facing deportation do not have the right to legal counsel provided by the government. As most cannot afford legal representation, they have to face the system by themselves.

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If you are an American citizen, you can bring your foreign spouse (husband or wife) to live in the United States through two ways. One is through the Immigrant visa for a Spouse of a U.S. Citizen (IR1 or CR1) – Here an immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130 is required. Non immigrant visa for spouse (K-3) is another way. In such a case, Form 1-130, Petition for Alien Relative and Form I-129 F,Petition for Alien Fiance(e) are needed.

The application for the K-3 ,non immigrant visa for spouse who married a U.S. citizen should be made and the visa issued in the country where the marriage was held. After the visa processing and the visa is issued, the spouse can travel to the United States to wait for the processing of the immigrant visa case.

As a lawful permanent resident (LPR), you can also bring your spouse and children to the United States. One ways is through the Immigrant visa (F2A) which is the family second preference immigrant visa for your spouse and children. And also through the Non immigrant (V) visa – for your spouse and children to travel to the United States to wait for processing of the immigrant visa.

The Petitioner would file the “Petition for Alien Relative” (Form I-130 and Biographical Data Sheet) with the USCIS. The application is processed by the USCIS and forwarded to the National Visa Center, which then forwards the application to the US Consulate in the country of residence of the alien spouse, or as indicated by the Petitioner on application form I-130. The consulate will contact the alien spouse to schedule an interview. The US consulate or embassy may request additional documentation from the alien spouse to be presented at the time of the interview. Upon approval, the consular officer will issue an entry visa for the spouse. Once the spouse has entered the USA, the spouse should file an Application for Adjustment of Status with the USCIS.

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You can become a permanent resident of the US through a job or offer of employment. In certain situations, a certification from the U.S. Department of Labor is required showing that there are not enough U.S. workers who can or able, willing, qualified and available in that particular geographic area where the immigrant who needs the green card is to be employed. Also it should show that no American workers are displaced by such new workers. In specific cases, highly skilled workers with extraordinary ability in certain professions, and investors or entrepreneurs are given permission to immigrate to the US through various immigrant categories. Whichever the category is, it is a multi stepped process involves.

Employer sponsorship :

You can become a permanent resident (green card holder) on a offer of permanent employment by a US employer. In most case, it needs an employer to get labor certification and the US employer has to file form I-140, Immigrant petition for Alien worker.

After getting approved of Labor Certification, all the domestic employees and unskilled workers have to wait for a significant period before they can apply for a Green Card because only a limited number of visas are available under this category each year. After this petition gets approved, the USCIS will send a notice of approval to the applicant and then send the approval notice to the National Visa Center. This petition will remain in the visa center till an immigration visa number becomes available.

After the applicant gets an immigrant visa number, he/she have to get permission to live and work permanently in the U.S through conditional permanent residence. When a visa number becomes available and if the applicant is in the U.S., he/she can apply to adjust your status to a lawful permanent resident by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status with the USCIS.

What if the applicant is outside the US ? In such cases, when an immigrant visa number becomes available, he/she will complete the process and get a visa number at U.S. Consulate in his/her country. The American consulate or embassy will give all the information the applicant needs to complete the processing. Additionally, the applicant will be required to submit certain supporting documents and additional fees. Before the applicant gets the visa, he/she (regardless of age) must undergo a medical examination. This examination will be done by a doctor designated by the consular officer, if you are outside the U.S. If you are in the US and filing for adjustment of status, it will be designated by the USCIS. In addition to the visa fees, you should bear all the costs involved in the examination.

If there are more eligible applicants in a category than the prescribed number, the category will be considered oversubscribed. In such cases, visas will be issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed till the prescribed numerical limit is reached for the particular category. The applicant’s priority date is the filing date of a petition. Immigrant visas will not be issued until an applicant’s priority date is reached. In case of heavily oversubscribed categories, there will be a waiting period of several years before a priority date is reached.

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You can get a green card through the Diversity Visa (DV) lottery program. The DV lottery program is a great opportunity for immigrants to obtain permanent legal resident status in the United States. This program is conducted every year and provides approximately 50,000 green cards to applicants who are selected randomly. DV lottery applicants should meet simple, but strict eligibility requirements. However, not all countries are eligible. So the first eligibility criteria is that you should be from a qualifying country. The eligibility country will generally be the same as your country of birth and is not related to where you live. Other eligibility criteria is that the applicant should have at least a high school education or its equivalent.

So what decides a country’s eligibility ?  Countries from which large number of immigrants move to the US are not eligible. If more than 50,000 persons in the family and employment based visa categories immigrated to the United States in the last five years from a single country, this country will not qualify for the current year’s DV lottery.

If you are not from a qualifying country, you can apply if your spouse if from an eligible country. But here both the applicant and the spouse have to enter the US together if selected. All the children under 21 listed in the entrant’s application can accompany their parents during the visit. You can also qualify through the country of birth of either of your parents as long as neither of your parents was a resident of an ineligible country at the time of your birth.

If you are eligible, you should submit only one entry. You will be disqualified if you submit more than one entry. But a husband and wife can each submit one entry if each meet the eligibility requirements.

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As a green card holder, you can apply for government sponsored financial aid for educational purposes. You can pay less tuition fee in universities and colleges. This is also known as “in-state” tuition or “resident” tuition. Savings in most cases are three to four times lower than what foreigners pay. Additionally, as a green card holder, you are permitted to work in any company located in U.S. territory regardless of job function, hours/week, etc. except for some companies that only hire U.S. citizens. And you need not worry about employer sponsorship either. Some jobs require security clearance that only green card holders and U.S. citizens can get. Therefore, a green card provides more job opportunities.

Green card holders have the permission to start their own business and create own corporation. Social security is another benefit you will get when you retire, ie if you had worked for 10 years (40 quarters to be precise) before your retirement. Also, you can sponsor your spouse and unmarried minor children under 21 for them to get permanent resident status in the United States. In this case, the green card that you got for your family will still be valid even if you lose your job or pass away.

If you have a work permit, your spouse and minor unmarried children under 21 can stay in the U.S. as dependents. Even if you have a US work permit, your kids have to get student visas to study and work visas to work. But, once they get a green card, they are allowed to stay in the U.S. even after turning 21 and even if they get married.

Another feature is that you will have access to security clearances. You will also be eligible for government grants and be exempted from export restrictions. You have the privilege of most legal rights under U.S. law, except for voting right which is only for U.S. citizens. You will be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship at a later stage, once you fulfill the eligibility requirements needed while applying for citizenship. It is not mandatory that you take U.S. Citizenship. You can be a green card holder forever. If your current country allows dual citizenship,you can get U.S. citizenship without giving up your current nationality.

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Having a green card is a proof of being officially granted immigration benefits to live and work in the United States legally.There are quite a few ways through which you can get a green card.

A family member who is a US citizen or permanent resident can sponsor you for a green card. Else, you can also get one through the Diversity Visa lottery program that is held every year. You can also get a green card through employment. Here a qualified US employer needs to sponsor you. A person granted Refugee Status or Asylum may also apply for a green card.
A K-1 visa is a non immigrant visa issued to the fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States. Once the foreign fiancé(e) receives the Fiancé(e) Visa, they must marry their US citizen petitioner within 90 days of entry into the United States, or leave the US.  Once the couple marries , the foreign citizen can adjust status to receive their Green card
Like there are many ways to get a green card, the process and procedures vary too.
After you enter the US as a visa holder, you can adjust your status to a green card holder (permanent resident) subject to conditions for certain visa holders.

You can get a green card either while you are in the US or outside the US.  When you get a green card while physically being present in the US, the process is called adjustment of status.   Whereas when you get one while being outside the US or when you are ineligible to adjust status, it is called Consular processing.

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