Immigration can be a lengthy and drawn out process with many steps involved. If you’re looking to become a citizen, you should know what to expect.
The first step for immigrants who want to permanently live in the United States is to obtain an immigrant visa, typically in the categories of either family sponsorship or employer sponsorship. This means that to get a visa, you must be sponsored by either a U.S. citizen relative, U.S. lawful permanent resident, or a prospective employer.
If your spouse, child, parent, or sibling is a U.S. citizen, they can sponsor you for your visa. If your spouse or unmarried child has a green card, he or she can also sponsor you. U.S. citizens may also sponsor a fiancée or child to be adopted. To start this process they must file a form called I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
If you are moving here for a job, your prospective employer must fill out a form called the I-140 Petition for Alien Worker with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In some employment categories, only a limited number of visas are granted each year, which means you’ll be placed on a waiting list.
Once the petition is approved, you’ll receive a priority date, which is the amount of time you must wait for your visa. Next, you must choose an agent in the United States to receive communication about your case. You’ll also have to pay two filing fees: Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee, and Affidavit of Support Fee.
Once these fees are paid you begin the process of filing your visa application along with necessary supporting documentation. This includes Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (Form DS-260), along with an Affidavit of Support form from your sponsor that indicates they can support you if necessary as well as tax transcripts, proof of income, proof of residence, proof of relationships, proof of U.S. status, and proof of assets. You might also need to register for an identity verification service like PeopleFacts.com to give you a leg up when searching for jobs.
When everything has been received and your priority date is reached, you’ll be scheduled an interview with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, who will handle your case moving forward, and will receive an interview appointment letter with the date, time, and location. You’ll need to come to your interview with originals of all documents, including Appointment Letter received from the NVC; Passport(s) valid for six months beyond the intended date of entry into the United States; Police Certificate(s); Birth Certificate(s); Evidence of financial support; Family-based cases: All original documents establishing the relationship between the petitioner and the applicant; and Employment-based cases: A currently valid letter from the prospective employer confirming the essential elements of the job offer. Once you’ve completed the interview and receive your visa, you typically must enter the U.S. within six months.