How Can I Legally Immigrate to the U.S.?

Immigrating to the U.S. can be a difficult and confusing process. There are many categories and types of visa depending on your situation. Though more than one million people legally immigrate to the U.S. each year, the process is not easy. In recent years, it has become much more complex and the number of approvals has significantly decreased. However, there are still multiple ways to legally immigrate to the United States. Working with an experienced immigration attorney in Arlington, VA can significantly increase your chance of being approved for the type of visa that you seek (more information here). Learn more about the most common ways to immigrate to the U.S. below.

Family-Based Immigration

The largest number of immigrants are those that seek family-based immigration. This type of immigration requires a citizen of the United States or legal resident to sponsor foreign spouses, fiances, as well as children that are not married. Furthermore, a U.S. citizen or permanent resident can also sponsor their parents or siblings (must be over 21 if not a citizen).

Work-Related and Investment Visas

Work Visas are another popular option for those seeking to immigrate to the U.S. An Employer can legally sponsor a worker for a foreign country so long as they have a special skill-set that the employer can not easily find in the U.S. There are many types of work visas (including the H1B Visa) that vary in the length of stay allowed. Some are short-term and others can be indefinite (until their employment is terminated or they quit). In most cases, once the worker has stayed for the allowed length of time, they must return to their country.


An investment visa, on the other hand, allows for foreign nationals to participate in the Immigrant Investor Progam. This program requires a $500,000 investment in a U.S. business (if in a target investment area) or $1 million if the investment is not. Once the investment is made, you will be qualified for a permanent green card.

Educational Visa

Students can come to the U.S. to study academics and/or language-based educational opportunities. Either pursuit will require an accredited school to sponsor the student. Furthermore, it can be complicated to (though not impossible).to transition from an educational visa to permanent residency. Furthermore, those that wish to pursue non-academic and/or vocational education may be eligible for certain types of educational visas.

Asylum Seekers

Though highly publicized and debated in recent years, those that arrive at U.S. ports of entry and can prove that they are being persecuted in their home country due to their nationality, religion, race, and/or political/group affiliation are eligible to seek asylum. If these protections are sought from outside of the U.S. (and the ports of entry) then the seekers are considered refugees. It is important to note that those residing in the United States illegally can still seek asylum.

Immigration Lottery

I may sound like something out of a movie. However, the Diversity Visa Lottery does exist. Each year, millions of people (from qualifying countries) apply for this visa lottery program. Only 50,000 people chosen randomly. Recipients are typically from countries that are currently underrepresented within the U.S. immigration population. Those chosen must still complete a background check and provide the required documentation.

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