Immigrant Visa: Permanent Residency

Background

The immigrant visa gives noncitizens the right to live and work in the United States without time limitations. Persons holding an immigrant visa are known as permanent residents.

Generally, noncitizens seeking immigrant visas must be sponsored, either by a relative or an employer, who files a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to have the noncitizen classified as a person qualified to immigrate. If the noncitizen is so classified, he or she can then apply for an immigrant visa.

Legal Counsel

The Research Foundation (RF) has retained services of Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy and Whiteman Osterman & Hanna law firms to assist with all immigration issues. To learn more about the firms you may visit their website at www.fragomen.com or www.woh.com.

The RF strongly recommends that noncitizens use Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy or Whiteman Osterman  & Hanna to work in cooperation with the operating location in this complicated process.  You can contact the firms directly at the numbers provided below:

Eligibility

The two most common ways for a person to obtain an immigrant visa are through:

Eligibility for Employment-Based Visas

The employment-based immigrant visa is designed to help achieve an objective of the Immigration Act of 1990 (IMMACT): the attraction to the United States of persons whose occupational skills are in short supply.

The USCIS issues a limited number of employment-based immigrant visas each year. For information on the petition procedure for the employer, see Immigrant Visa: Petitioning for an Employment-Based Immigrant Visa.

Persons eligible for employment-based immigrant visas are noncitizens belonging to certain "preference classifications," of which three are relevant to Research Foundation employment:

  1. priority workers, including (a) noncitizens of extraordinary ability, (b) outstanding professors and researchers, and (c) managers and executives subject to transfer to the U.S.
  2. (a) noncitizens of exceptional ability and (b) advanced degree professionals.
  3. (a) professionals with bachelor's degrees not qualifying in the second preference, (b) skilled workers, and (c) unskilled workers.

    For more information, see Immigrant Visa: Preference Classifications for an Employment-Based Immigrant Visa.

When Noncitizens May Apply

A noncitizen is eligible to apply for an immigrant visa when the person has reached his or her "priority date."

The priority date is generally the date the sponsor's completed, signed petition and supporting documentation (including the fee) are properly filed with the USCIS.

If the sponsor is petitioning for an employment-based immigrant visa and is required to submit a labor certification, the priority date is the day the application for the labor certification is filed with the state labor department. (For information about labor certifications, see Immigrant Visa: Obtaining a Labor Certification for an Employment-Based Immigrant Visa.

Note: The priority date does not indicate that the person has been approved for permanent residency nor does it change the person's status.

Application Process

Noncitizens Outside the U.S.

Noncitizens outside the U.S. can apply for an immigrant visa, including an employment-based immigrant visa, at the closest U.S. consulate in their native country. See Applying at U.S. Consulate below.

Noncitizens in the U.S. in Legal Status

Noncitizens who have maintained and are currently in legal nonimmigrant status in the U.S. and who wish to apply for an immigrant visa have two options:

Adjustment of Status

Noncitizens in the U.S. can obtain an immigrant visa, including an employment-based immigrant visa, by applying for adjustment from nonimmigrant to immigrant status.

The stages in the application process depend on the local USCIS district office that has jurisdiction over the noncitizen's place of residence. For example:

Applying at U.S. Consulate

An eligible noncitizen outside the U.S. can apply for an immigrant visa, including an employment-based immigrant visa, at a U.S. consulate in his or her native country, assuming that the petition submitted by the noncitizen's sponsor has been approved by USCIS.

In the first stage of the application process, USCIS sends the approved petition to the Department of State's Transitional Visa Processing Center, which then forwards the approved petition to the designated consulate and sends the application form and instructions to the noncitizen. Once the noncitizen informs the consular office that all of the necessary documents are available, the consular office schedules the interview.

At the interview, the consular office reviews the applicant's documents and grants or denies the visa application.

If the visa is approved, the noncitizen must enter the U.S. within four months, at which time the official at the port of entry issues an immigrant visa in the form of a stamp in the noncitizen's passport. The laminated alien registration receipt card or "green card" will be sent by USCIS to the person's home address within six months.

Employing an Immigrant Visa Holder

For the purposes of employment and taxation, immigrant visa holders — i.e., permanent residents, but not persons with conditional permanent residency status — are considered the same as U.S. citizens.

Change History

 

 

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