How to Immigrate to the USA?
Everyone that thinks about moving to the USA often stops at the idea that it is just too hard to do it, too bureaucratic, too long, and too expensive. I will not lie to you, immigrating to America is no easy task, but I am here to prove that it is indeed possible, and that if I did it, lawfully, so can you. It was always my dream to live here, and if this is your dream too, it is worth it. As they say, there are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going.
I am writing this post as a supplement of the project "Reconstruindo No Mundo" (Rebuilding in the World), which I have created with 9 other Brazilians who live abroad, to share our experience and tips on things we wish we'd known before we moved. You can view every episode in my Instagram Stories (in Portuguese)
Disclaimer: I am not an immigration advisor, attorney, nor am I an expert in this subject. I am simply sharing results of a research I made in order to write this blog post, to provide tools that you can use to start your own research in this subject. This article includes links to official websites, and please be aware that regulations might change, therefore for the most up to date information, always refer to official authorities.
Purpose of Immigration
There are many, many types of visas available to those who wish to move to America, temporarily and permanently, so, the first thing I'd say you need to define is the purpose of your immigration: for example, study or work.
View the complete directory of visas available at the US Dept of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs website - click here
For those looking to study temporarily in the United States, the F1 visa, for example, is valid for the duration of the course, and it usually allows you to work in your area of study for 1 year after graduation (OPT).
Note: Those on most study visas are not allowed to work while studying. In specific cases where certain conditions and criteria are met, you might be able to work in campus during your course (again, depending on things such as visa, course and educational institution).
Most of the time, if you're moving to the US for work, the employer must be the visa sponsor, and, as usual, there are several options, such as:
- Internal transfer (L1): When the company you work for in your home country has a branch, affiliate or subsidiary in the US and you'll be performing a managerial or executive role, or in a position requiring specialized knowledge. Must have been employed by the same employer abroad continuously for 1 year within the three preceding years. It's the fastest way to get a green card through work.
- Trainee (H3): Valid for up to 18 months and cannot be extended.
- Skilled worker (H1B): most known work visa, and for this type of visa there's a lottery before your case can be accepted by USCIS, and this happens because the number of applicants is bigger than the number of visas that immigration services make available to aliens every year. The initial submission usually happens in March/April, and if the case is selected in the lottery and approved, the employee can only start to work in the beginning of the fiscal year, which is on October 1st.
You can self sponsor your own work visa, for instance, if you're applying for an investor visa (find out about it here), or an extraordinary abilities visa, for those who've reached a high level of recognition in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, or any extraordinary recognized achievements in the motion picture and television fields, demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim.
Read more here.
Well, everyone that wants to move to the US permanently dreams about the green card.
And there are several ways to get the residency authorization based on eligibility categories. For Brazilians, for example, the green card is available through employment or family relations. Other nations might be able to apply for the green card through different categories. The green card is valid for 10 years and can be renewed only once, in case you do not wish to start the citizenship process.
Learn more about Green Cards here.
The USCIS offers lots of helpful information for immigrants, including a welcome guide in several languages that can be downloaded for free, so that you can learn more about the country and easily adapt to its culture and regulations. Click here to view.
My biggest advice for everyone looking to live in the United States is: PLAN and RESEARCH.
Pretty much every type of visa and its classifications have different criteria, and so, besides meeting with an immigration attorney (I'd say more than one if you can afford it), I highly recommend that you do your own homework and get informed in the subject as well!
Learn about all the possibilities that match your qualifications. The legislation can change quite fast, so the best places to educate yourself on all types of visas to the US are the official websites of:
1- The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services - USCIS
2- The US Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs.
There you'll find all of the definitions, details and requirements for each visa category, as well as how and where to apply. These are the most reliable sources of information on immigration to the USA and the only ones I will recommend.
America is an amazing place to live and I am always talking about how much I love this country and how proud I am of my journey. If this is your dream, do not give up just by the thought of it being something hard to achieve. While it may seem overwhelming to understand some of the processes regarding immigration, learning about this subject will only work in your own favor, and will certainly make things clearer as far as timelines and what to expect.
Read about the project Reconstruindo No Mundo (Rebuilding in the World) and more about my story in the first article of this series: Click Here.