The U.S. immigration
system has two primary
components that we willdiscuss
later in their own chapters:
Nonimmigrant Visas...
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The First Steps to Coming To America

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Infographic with steps on coming to America, for more information visit our website at www.comingtoamerica.org

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The First Steps to Coming To America

  1. 1. The U.S. immigration system has two primary components that we willdiscuss later in their own chapters: Nonimmigrant Visas – These are your options to visit & stay in the U.S. temporarily; and Immigrant / Green Cards – These are pathways to Permanent Residence, the green card that eventually leads to citizenship. Kavitha K. is a citizen of India and currently lives in Mumbai. She has a degree in biochemistry and recently finished a promising research program. Based on her achievements, she has been offered a spot in a research program at a well-known U.S. university. Kavitha accepts the position and the university’s International Student Office informs her that she will need to obtain an H-1B visa before she travels to the U.S. Kavitha learns that to obtain her temporary work visa, she must complete several documents, provide other personal documents such as her passport, and then make an appointment at the nearest U.S. Embassy. The school sends their side of the paperwork, and Kavitha schedules an appointment online. She then interviews for the visa. The Consular Officer will approve her visa later, after they complete the necessary background checks and paperwork. Kavitha will then receive a printed visa in her passport. After the Department of State approves her H-1B student visa application, Kavitha will travel to the U.S. and upon exiting the plane, she will be inspected by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer before being admitted to the U.S. in H-1B nonimmigrant status. Now that Kavitha is in the U.S., “all” that she has to do is maintain her nonimmigrant status. This means she can (and should!) do everything that her visa permits. In her case, she can work for the university that sponsors her, travel, and even study. She cannot do anything that is not permitted – e.g., she cannot work for another employer without first getting permission from USCIS; she cannot stay beyond the time noted on her visa; and, she cannot stay if she leaves her research program for any reason. In order to become a U.S. citizen, Kavitha will need to be sponsored for Permanent Residence. Her nonimmigrant visa sponsor (the university employer) can sponsor her through a labor certification process, which may take anywhere from a few months to several years. If Kavitha fell madly in love with a fellow scientist, and he was a U.S. citizen, she could apply based on their marriage also. At the end of that process, she would become a Permanent Resident and receive a green card. This is discussed more in the section on immigrant visas. At this point, Kavitha is not a citizen; she must live in the U.S. and maintain good moral character until she is eligible to apply for citizenship, through a process called naturalization. After meeting any outstanding requirements – an interview, any necessary waiting periods (Kavitha will have to wait 5 years) – Kavitha can apply to naturalize and become a U.S. citizen. At the naturalization interview, she will take the U.S. citizenship tests (an English test and a civics test). She will then take an oath, and receive her naturalization certificate. She can then apply for her U.S. passport as well. VisaInterview2 Travel& Inspection3Sponsor1 How do you go from“foreign national”to“U.S. citizen”? It takes just a couple of steps Most foreign nationals will begin their visit to the U.S. as a nonimmigrant, and work their way towards a green card (Permanent Residence). A typical journey through U.S. immigration looks something like this: START HERE! As you can see, the immigration process involves many steps spread out over a bit of time. TIP: Generally, you must have a purpose for coming to the U.S., such as tourism, education, or work. There is one nonimmigrant visa that matches to each purpose. Common visas include the B visa for tourists; the H-1B visa for professional employment; the F-1 visa for those students studying at an American university; L visas for business executives and managers; and J-1 visas for exchange students and medical professionals. These are some of the many visas in the“alphabet soup”of nonimmigrant visas; visas range from the A classes to the V classes. We will touch on each of the common visa types in the Nonimmigrant Visa section. GreenCard 5Naturalization &Citizenship 3Maintaining ofStatus 6 11 2 3 4 5 6 STEPONESPONSOR STEPTWOVISAINTERVIEW STEPTHREETRAVEL&INSPECTION STEPFOURMAINTENANCEOFSTATUS STEPFIVEGREENCARD STEPFOURNATURALIZATION&CITIZENSHIP @coming2_america www.comingtoamerica.org

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