For the immigration nerds in our audience (okay, just me):
Trying to immigrate to the United States is a motherfucker. There are several ways to go about it, but most take a really long time and tend to be very expensive.
1. Getting authorization to work in the US.
a. Working visas. H-1B
- you must have at least a BA and be working in a job that requires a BA. Must prove YOU'RE so wonderful, we can't get an American with your qualifications. J-1
, trainee visa, lots of restrictions, may have a requirement to return to your home country for 2 years. F-1
is for students only, though you can get permission to work for "training purposes". Very limited amount of time, however. L-1
is for people working in a foreign branch of a multi-national company (UK sends an employee to their US branch). E-3
visas are like TN's for Australians only. New category, so some kinks are still being worked out. TN
visas are for NAFTA treaty members (Mexico, Canada). They have to be within certain job categories, but can be renewed indefinitely. B1/B2
visas are tourist/business visas. You're either visiting for fun, or a business meeting - not getting paid at all.
b. You can also receive work authorization through the green card process (aka Lawful Permanent Resident card process). More on this later.
Once you are approved, most of them require you to go through the US embassy/consulate in your country, and get a Visa Stamp. Some, you only need the stamp if you're traveling out of the US, so if you get a new H-1B visa approved while you're already here, you can just start working. On a J-1, however, you have to return to your home country, get the visa stamp, and return before you can begin to work. It's annoying, really. This part can take from 3 days to several weeks/months, depending on where you're from. They tell you it's just processing delays... but it's because you're from Jordan. Really.The Green Card Process itself:
Now, once you're here and you want to stay forever because gee, it's so nice here (and comparatively speaking, I'm sure it is)... now you can apply for that LPR you've all heard so much about.
You CAN apply from an H-1B, F-1.
You CANNOT apply from a J-1, TN, E-3, or B1/B2, as those are approved predicated on the idea that you're only here temporarily. That's a key phrase, people... I've seen J1's denied because the applicant didn't make their Temporary Status clear - didn't show enough ties with the home country. It's a tetchy thing.
Now... if you apply for that LPR through your spouse, it often goes more quickly, but you have to prove you are married for looooove, not to get them into the cooouuntry. However, if you happen to be from somewhere like Syria... it's gonna be awhile. Talked to someone today about a couple who's been trying for over 2 years. Yikes. My brother and his lovely German wife only had to wait less than a year.Applying for the LPR sponsored by your workplace... is complicated.
And this is where I see most people get screwed. You have to prove that a: your skills are unique to you; b: the job requires the skills that you have; and c: the workplace can't find anyone else like you (up to actually advertising for YOUR JOB and interviewing people!!). We go through this to a minor extent with H-1B's and E-3's, but not to actually posting in the NYTimes. This can take years and years, depending on what you do.
The doctors? Eh, a year or so. The janitor? 10 years so far.
There are other ways to go - asylee status if your country hates you, what you stand for, is in the middle of war and/or genocide (especially on your people), etc. Asylee status can be tough to prove, but not always. Once you have it, it's yours... but it is dependant on whether your country is in the same state as when you left. Sometimes, they can take that asylee status away. But it does confer automatic employment authorization, which is nice (but get the card anyway to be nice to your employer, most employers don't know that!).
Once you apply for the LPR, you will become eligible to apply for an EAD (employment authorization document). A few words on this.
JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE ELIGIBLE, DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE AUTOMATICALLY AUTHORIZED. Ahem, sorry.
Receipt notices do not confer any kind of employment authorization on you whatsoever. NONE.YES, IT REALLY DOES TAKE THEM 90 DAYS TO PROCESS YOUR EAD RENEWAL.
Don't believe them (the people at your interview or the USCIS) when they tell you "you'll have your green card before then", or "it won't take 3 months"... because that's when you get screwed. Just apply for it. It's not worth saving $185 and then find yourself on unpaid leave because you have no authorization to work anymore.