Every year people legally immigrate to America using one of a number of available options. Each option has specific requirements and, depending on the verification procedures of the native countries, will have different processing times. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has been charged with enforcing the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) which allows for the annual granting of 675,000 permanent immigrant visas from around the world. In addition to the INS visa limit, the President of the US and the Congress establish a separate annual limit for refugees.
The granting of immigration status is primarily based on reuniting family members and protecting refugees who desire to become US citizens or Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs), and acquiring individuals with critical skills needed in America who will enter the country with permanent or temporary visas.
IMMEDIATE FAMILY AND FAMILY PREFERRED MEMBERS
Immediate family relatives are defined as a spouse of a US citizen; minor children, under the age of 21, of a US citizen; and the parents of a US citizen. Preferred family members are defined as adult children, over the age of 21, of a US citizen and a spouse or child, regardless of age, of a LPR.
US citizens and LPRs sponsoring relatives seeking immigration visas must be at least 21 years of age and demonstrate that either the sponsors or the immigrants have the financial means to support themselves when they enter the USA.
There are several dozen forms of temporary employment visas and five categories of permanent employment visas. Employers are the sponsors for the majority of temporary employment visas, specifying both job skills and the length of time that the employment is needed. Permanent visas are granted to individuals with critical skills; exceptional skills or degrees; skills for industries with worker shortages; special needs for religious purposes, for US foreign service, and former US employees; and for investors of $500,00 or more in job creating work that will employ 10 or more full time US employees.
Individuals coming to America for employment can demonstrate their financial independence based on the salaries offered from their sponsors.
REFUGEE AND ASYLUM STATUS
Individuals who left their native countries to avoid persecution can apply for refugee status through a US Embassy outside of their homeland. Individuals already in America, who fear persecution if they return to their native countries, can apply for Asylum status through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.