In the first part of our series examining whether America – the land of the free – is the right country for you to choose as your new relocation destination of choice, we walked you through the commonsense questions you need to ask of the nation and yourself to determine whether a move stateside would really be appropriate.
Following hot on the heels of our report, last weekend saw a long article published in the Sunday Times specifically about the growing popularity and prestige of American universities with British students. It seems that Britons of all ages are therefore asking themselves the same questions – namely whether America is the right choice for them.
If you’ve decided that you really would like to move across the pond and seek your fortunes in the US, this, the second part of our special feature on emigrating to America should be of maximum use. We’re going to be talking about getting a visa – whether you want to apply for a business visa for a fixed period of residence, a Green Card through Marriage or you ultimately want to get to the point where you apply for citizenship, our report’s got all the information you require.
American Visas – What Are They, Do I Need One, How Can I Get One
The vast majority of us require a visa to enter America. We’re going to discuss the various types and who they are appropriate for below, but a visa is not the same as a Green Card. A visa is usually issued for a fixed term. You can apply for whichever visa type you feel is appropriate for your next visit to America from the American consulate or embassy in your country. In the UK you can go online to the American Embassy in London and apply there.
When you then reach American soil or shores, your visa will be reviewed by immigration, you may be questioned extensively about why you want to enter America and you may or may not be granted entry! It’s not up to the person issuing the visa whether you can go to America, it’s up to immigration when you arrive.
There are two types of United States visas – those for immigrants who ultimately hope to live permanently in the United States, and those for non-immigrants who have a permanent residence outside America but who want or need to be in America for a set period of time or on a temporary basis.
B1 – Business Visa – This visa is for those who wish to enter America for a fixed period for business purposes or work, from which they will receive no remuneration.
B2 – Tourist Visa – This is the most common visa to apply for if you’re going on holiday to America.
C1 – Transit Visa – You need this visa if you’re going to be on American soil as you transit through on your way to another country.
E1 – Treaty Trader Work Visa – If you’re considered to be a ‘foreign national of an eligible country’ you use this visa if you want to enter America to engage in trade of ‘a substantial nature between the U.S. and your home country.’
E2 – Treaty Investor Work Visa – Similar to the above, but you’d apply for this if you were the investor behind facilitated business in America. You may wish to manage, oversee or actively engage in the investment you’re making on US soil.
E3 – Work Visa for Australians – This is a new category of specific interest and use only for Australians wishing to work for a specific period on American soil.
F1 – Student Visa – If you want to study at an American school, university, college or language institution, this is the visa for you.
H1B – Work Visa for College Educated Professionals – If you’re deemed an individual who could make a valuable contribution to America and you work in a so-called ‘speciality occupation’ you apply for this visa.
H2B – Work Visa for Skilled and Unskilled Workers – You can use this visa category if you want to work for a limited period in America in jobs where skilled Americans are in short supply.
H3 – Trainee Work Visa – If you’ve been offered an apprenticeship or training on the job with an American firm apply for this visa.
J1 – Exchange Visitor Visa – Those from towns, schools, businesses and organisations that offer visitor exchange programmes between the US and the visitor’s country of origin can use this visa.
K1 – Finacee/Finace Visa – American citizens can use this visa for their betrothed if they are bringing them to America to marry them.
L1 – Intracompany Transfer Work Visa – If you’re a manager, senior executive or specialist worker within a company that has a base in America and you’re required in the US for work, this is for you.
Nurse Work Visa – Registered nurses can apply to work in America with this visa.
O1 – Extraordinary Ability Work Visa – If you’re skilled or talented to a high level in the arts, sciences, business etc., you can apply for entry with the O1.
P – Athletes and Entertainers Visa – Internationally recognised, foreign nationals in the fields of sport and entertainment can use this visa to visit or work in America.
R1 – Religious Work Visa – If you’re a member of a recognised/legitimate religious organisation you can use this visa type to live and work in America for a fixed period.
TN Nafta Work Visa – This is for Mexican or Canadian citizens who want to work temporarily in the US.
Green Cards – A One Way Ticket to Your New Life in America?
According to the Immigration and Nationality Act, legislation in America stipulates that residency can only be granted through the following paths: –
• A family member
• Diversity lottery
• Refuge or asylum status
• ‘Registry’ provisions of the act
For Britons the first 2 paths are the most common and are the ones we will be focusing on.
Family Sponsored Eligibility
If you’re the immediate relative of a US citizen such as their spouse, parent or minor child, you can be sponsored to gain permanent residency in America. Additionally, unmarried children over the age of 21 of American citizens can follow this path. Lawful permanent residents of America may sponsor the same family members. Married sons and daughters and brothers and sisters of those who have become US citizens can also use the family sponsorship route.
Gaining a Green Card via this method can take anywhere from 4 – 11 years depending on your relationship to the person sponsoring you.
Employment Based Eligibility
This path ties in almost directly with the visa categories listed above that deal with those wanting to move to America to work. So, you have so-called priority workers who have ‘extraordinary skills’ in certain areas of art, science, business, athletics etc., you can also apply if you are outstanding in the field of education or research perhaps, or if you’re a manager or an executive subject to international transfer to the United States.
If you hold advanced qualifications, there is a category you can apply for a Green Card under the employment based eligibility path. What’s more, there are categories open for consideration by those who are specifically skilled, who have open and active employment options in America or who are deemed ‘special immigrants.’ These are perhaps people who have worked overseas for the US government, religious workers etc.
The wait time to obtain a Green Card via employment based eligibility stakes is usually far shorter than those one has to endure if one applies via the family sponsorship option – but generally speaking, you should seek advice at the time you apply because it can differ on a case by case basis.
Becoming an American – US Citizenship
If you like taking things to extremes, and your emigration to America is one area of your life you want to really take seriously, after you have obtained permanent residence with your Green Card, perhaps you’d like to actually become an American and obtain citizenship. Note: citizenship provides you with the maximum immigration rights available in America.
Citizenship via Naturalization – If you hold a Green Card already, you’re over 18 years of age and you really want to become an American citizen, you can apply using Form N-400 to become naturalized and accepted as a citizen. Note, all the forms and information you require about obtaining citizenship are available on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
Citizenship via Parent – If your parent or parents have derived citizenship or naturalized, then it is possible you can acquire citizenship directly as a result as long as you’re a qualifying individual in your own right.
Naturalization Test – You have to undergo a test that will require you to learn and understand about American history, the English language, the American government etc., and if you pass this, this is a significant stage of the whole citizenship process.
Going to America – In Conclusion
If you want to temporarily visit, live or work in America a visa may be sufficient for your entry and your stay. There are many different sorts and you have to pick the one most applicable to your circumstances. Contact the British embassy or consulate in your home nation for assistance.
If you want to live permanently in America you need a Green Card – you can glean all the information you need to know about these permanent residency visas from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website – which is also the number one resource for those who have their Green Cards, who have permanent residency status, but who want to become American citizens.
The process can be time consuming, complex and even expensive – but there are plenty of resources available to guide you. What’s more, forums are great places to get active and relevant tips from those who have been through the process already. If it’s your dream to go and live in America – don’t let the paperwork put you off!