Family Based Visa

K - Visa for Fiancée or Spouse of US Citizen
This visa is available to those planning to marry a U.S. citizen, but are currently outside of the U.S. Persons granted the K-1 visa have 90 days from the date of entry to marry; no extensions are allowed. After the marriage, a K-1 visa holder must convert the K-1 to a Green Card. A provision passed by Congress in 2000 also makes spouses and minor, unmarried children of U.S. citizens eligible for the K visa.

V - Visa for Spouses/Minor Children of Green Card Holders
Created in 2000, the V visa is available to the spouse and minor children (unmarried, under 21) of green card holders whose petitions (Form I-130) were filed on or before December 21, 2000, and who have been waiting in the backlog for three years or more. Spouses and minor children typically wait three to six years for green cards. Note that that spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents who file after December 21, 2000, are not eligible for the V visa. Note that V holders are eligible for work authorization.

Immigrant visas (IV)
This visa grants permanent resident status (or a "Green Card"), which allows foreign nationals to permanently reside, work and travel in the U.S., as well as to freely travel in and out of the U.S. Generally, when a foreign national obtains a green card, his/her accompanying spouse (wife or husband) and unmarried children under age 21 also obtain green cards. Permanent residence may lead to citizenship in 3 to 5 years.

Family-Based Immigration Categories
Family reunification has traditionally been the United States Congress' foremost consideration in the promulgation of our immigration laws. The Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA") retains family reunification as a major objective.

Not all-family relationships serve as a basis for lawful permanent resident status. Under the INA there are two basic categories:

I. Immediate Relatives
Under the USCIS, immediate relatives include:
a. Spouses of U.S. citizens;
b. Minor children (under 21) of U.S. citizens;
c. Parents of U.S. citizens (petitioner must be at least 21 years old);
d. Spouses of deceased U.S. citizens who were married at least two years prior to their U.S. citizens spouse's death and who file within two years of the death anniversary of the spouse and while still unmarried;
e. An alien born after the issuance of an immediate relative visa, but before it is used to apply for admission to the U.S.;

II. Preference Immigrants
a. First Preference: unmarried sons or daughters of U.S. citizens, includes those children age 21 or older;
b. Second Preference: (1) spouses or children of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence; and (2) unmarried sons or daughters (not the children) of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence;
c. Third Preference: married sons or daughters of citizens of the United States;
d. Fourth Preference: brothers or sisters of citizens of the U.S. (citizens at least 21 years of age);
e. Derivative Beneficiaries: spouse or child of the principal alien under the family-sponsored preferences is entitled to the same status and order of consideration.

Diversity Visa Program

Through an annual "lottery" process (instructions each year are usually published by the Department of State in August, and the entry period is normally in the fall of each year), the U.S. randomly distributes 55,000 green cards to nationals of designated countries. Participants must have either 12 years (or more) of education or 2 years experience as a skilled worker. Winners' spouses and children under 21 years of age can also receive green cards through the DV Lottery program.

Employment-Based Visas

"Extraordinary" Ability or "Outstanding Professor/Researcher"
Some foreign nationals who can be classified as "extraordin ary"or "outstanding" in their particular field of work may be eligible for an expedited green card process. This may include those who fall into the following categories:

  • Extraordinary ability: to qualify in this category, one must be considered to be at the top of his/her field of expertise
  • Outstanding professors or researchers: this category requires an employer-sponsor, and at least 3 years of teaching or research experience; in some circumstances, those who have obtained this experience while studying for their highest degree can qualify in this category; if an applicant properly qualifies, this can be one of the simplest and quickest paths to permanent residence in the U.S.
  • National interest waiver: members of the professions holding an advanced degree or persons of "exceptional ability" in their field of expertise who can demonstrate that their work is "extraordinary," and whose work is in the national interest of the United States may be eligible to apply for a national waiver (NIW) or physician NIW. However, due to uncertainty in this area of the law since 1998, we generally recommend that those who may qualify for a national interest waiver apply through either the extraordinary ability or outstanding professor/researcher categories above rather than through the national interest waiver category if at all possible. Processing in this category can be uncertain and lengthier than in the extraordinary ability and outstanding professor/researcher categories.

Multinational Executives and Managers
Mid- to upper-level executives and managers who have worked full time for at least one full year outside the U.S. for a non-U.S. branch or affiliate of a U.S. firm may be eligible for the multinational executive or manager petition, which is one of the fastest possible ways to obtain a green card. This type of petition is available to large multinational firms, but can also be used for smaller firms. The U.S. office to which the multinational executive or manager is being transferred must have been in existence for at least one year in order to take advantage of this petition type.

Labor Certification
Based on unavailability of U.S. workers in the workforce, a U.S. employer may enable an alien to obtain a green card through an offer of employment. Upon approval by the Department of Labor, an immigrant petition may be filed demonstrating that the sponsor/ petitioner has the ability to pay a certain prevailing wage. Once these steps are completed, an applicant may proceed with the filing of a green card application as soon as his or her priority date becomes current.

Religious Worker
Religious ministers, priests and ordained religious persons may qualify for the green card through sponsorship by a congregation (e.g., Mosque, Church, Synagogue, etc.).