How to Immigrate to the USA: A Guide


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If you have considered emigrating to the United States, you should know that visas are divided into two types: for immigrants and for non-immigrants. In this article we will only deal with the first ones, since they are the only ones that allow a continuous and stable residence in the United States.



Spouse of a United States Citizen

They are the IR1 and CR1 visas.

They are immigrant visas granted to foreign spouses of United States citizens. By following this procedure, the foreign spouse will complete the visa process completely outside the United States, to later arrive in the United States and become a permanent resident immediately.

Once the foreign spouse enters the United States through a Port of Entry (that is, a legal means of entry into United States territory), she will receive the Green Card at her United States address in less than a month.

In addition, it may happen that the foreign spouse’s passport is stamped upon entry with an I-551 stamp, indicative of her permanent resident status.

To obtain one of the two visas and emigrate to the United States, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be legally married. Stable cohabitation is not equivalent to marriage for immigration purposes. Unmarried couples cannot use visa invitations to the United States.
  • Be over 18 years of age before signing the affidavit of financial means, which is a form that will be required later in the procedure.

The spouse residing in the United States is the petitioner and the other spouse residing abroad is the beneficiary. Here we are looking at the process to obtain the IR1 or CR1 visas in which the petitioner carries out most of the procedures in the United States.

When the petitioner files the application for IR1 or CR1 visas at a consulate, it is called Direct Consular Filing Application.

Differences between IR1 and CR1 visa

  • The IR1 visa (IR is the acronym in English for “Immediate Relative”, that is, direct relative) enables its holder to emigrate to the United States and receive permanent residence for a period of 10 years (renewable).
  • The CR1 visa (CR is the acronym in English for “Conditional Residency”, that is, residency subject to condition) enables its holder to emigrate to the United States and receive conditional permanent residence for a period of 2 years.

The decisive factor in determining what type of visa is granted to the applicant (IR1 or CR1) is how long they have been married at the time the visa is granted. If an applicant has been married to their United States spouse for more than 2 years, they will be granted the IR1 visa.

If they have been married for less than 2 years, they will be granted a CR1 visa. The CR1 visa holder will obtain conditional permanent residence in the United States, and after 2 years may request that these conditions be removed, within 90 days before the green card expires. In exchange, you will be awarded the ordinary green card, valid for 10 years.
K-3 visa: Spouse of a United States citizen awaiting grant of an I-130 petition

A K-3 visa is granted to foreign nationals who are married to United States citizens. Technically, it is a non-immigrant visa that allows you to enter and exit more than once, with a validity that is usually two years.

During the two years that the K-3 visa is valid, its holder can choose between requesting a change of status (in English, Adjustment of Status) to become a permanent resident in the United States, or waiting to be granted the I -130. In this case, you can return to your countries to be granted an immigrant visa (by entering the United States with the immigrant visa, you will become legal permanent residents.

If the K-3 visa holder requests a change of status, she can reside in the United States while the change is processed.

Children and youth under the age of 21 holding a K-3 visa can also receive a K-4 visa, allowing them to immigrate to the United States with their foreign parent and ultimately apply for a change of status.

Who can apply for a K-3 visa?

A person can receive a K-3 visa if:

-She is married to a United States citizen.
-Your spouse from the United States files an I-130.
-It seeks to enter the United States to wait for the granting of legal permanent resident status.
-Get an I-129F, Petition for Fiancé or Fiancée, and have it sent to the US consulate where you want to apply for the K-3 or K-4 visa.

NOTE: the consulate must be that of the country in which the marriage was celebrated, if in that country the United States has a consulate with competences in the issuance of immigrant visas. If the marriage was celebrated in the United States, the consulate chosen must have jurisdiction over the current residence of the foreign spouse. The applicant can receive a K-4 visa if she is under 21 years of age and is the unmarried child of a foreigner who meets the requirements for the K-3 visa.

Promised to marry and live in the United States

It is the K-1 visa, also known as the fiancé or fiancee visa, it is a non-immigrant visa that is granted to the person who has made a promise of marriage to a United States citizen.

The K-1 visa allows its holder to enter the United States and stay up to a maximum of 90 days. During that time they can marry and apply for a change of status, thus becoming a legal permanent resident.

After applying for a change of status, they can reside in the United States beyond the 90-day validity of the K-1 visa while their application for a change of status is processed.

Although the K-1 visa is legally classified as a non-immigrant visa, it often carries important immigration rights, which is why it is sometimes processed by the immigrant visa section of the embassies and consulates of the States United all over the world.

Certain relatives of United States citizens

The F2A Visa

The F2A visa is an immigrant visa for spouses or minor children of Green Card holders. This visa is created with the objective of allowing permanent residents to the United States to bring certain family members permanently.

Since F2A visas are limited in number, there is a high demand and the waiting times are quite long. However, after achieving this, the relatives of the Green Card holder, that is, permanent residence, will become permanent residents of the United States and will have the right to live and work.

Who can get the F2A visa?

In order to obtain the F2A visa, the following conditions must be met:

  • Children must be under 21 years of age.
  • children cannot be married.
  • Prove the relationship between the applicant and the family member residing in the United States.
    In addition to the requirements for family members who are going to receive the F2A visa, there are also requirements for the Permanent Resident who is going to request it for his or her relatives, for example:

-The Permanent Resident must be over 18 years of age, in order to sign documents and accept the conditions.
-The Permanent Resident must be living in the United States and have an address in its territory that is recorded in the records of the United States authorities.

The F2B Visa:

What is the F2B visa?

The F2B visa is a family preference visa granted to the spouse or unmarried minor children of holders of a Green Card. An adult child is defined as the natural or adopted child of a Permanent Resident who is over 21 years of age and who is not married. If you are married or cannot prove that your father or mother lives in the United States through the relevant documentation, then you cannot apply for the F2B visa.

The F2B visa gives you the opportunity to reunite with your family. It also allows your adult child to live, study, and work in the United States permanently and legally.

What are the requirements for the F2B visa?

The F2B visa does not present excessive requirements to obtain it. The criteria for an F2B visa applicant are as follows:

-Being the child of a Permanent Resident in the United States and prove it through birth certificates or adoption documents.
-Being over 21 years old.
Not be married

The Permanent Resident must meet the following requirements:

-Being the father or mother of the person for whom you are applying for the visa, and prove it by means of birth certificates or adoption documents.
-Be a Legal Permanent Resident in the United States.
Be living in the United States and be registered.


E1 and E2 visas:

The E-1 merchant visa and the E-2 investor visa are visas for citizens of countries with which the United States maintains trade and navigation treaties.

You must come to the United States to:

-Trade on a large scale, including trade in the field of services or technology, in highly qualified professional activities, mainly between the United States and the country that signed the treaty; or
-Develop and direct the operations of a company in which you have invested a significant amount of capital.

There are some examples of entrepreneurial activities that fall within the concept of trade provided for by the E-type visa.

-International banking

Requirements to apply for an E-1 visa:

-Be a national of a country that has signed the trade or navigation treaty with the United States.
-The commercial company for which you intend to go to the United States must be a national of a country that has signed the trade or navigation treaty, which means that the nationals of the signing country and partners of the company must have at least 50 percent of the capital Social.
-International trade must be relevant for economic purposes, that is, a considerable and continuous volume of business over time.
More than 50 percent of the international trade involved must be between the United States and the treaty country.
-Trade must be one of exchange of goods, services or technology. The title of ownership of the products must pass from one party to the other.
-You must be a relevant employee in the company, performing supervisory or executive tasks, or possess highly specialized skills essential for the efficient operation of the company. Workers with ordinary skills or without specialized training are not eligible for the E-1 visa.

Requirements to apply for an E-2 visa:

-The investor, whether a natural or legal person, must be a national of a country that is a signatory to the treaty.
-If it is a business, at least 50 percent must be owned by nationals of the State party to the treaty.
-The investment must be substantial, with capital investment or long-term assets. It must be sufficient to ensure the success of the business.
-The investment must be made in a company that is really operational, a commercial project with business prospects. An organization without effective and real operation, with simple speculative purposes or unproductive investments will not be accepted. Funds deposited into a bank account for no business purpose are not considered an investment.
-It must generate a net benefit that far exceeds what is considered sufficient to provide a support to the applicant and their family, or have a significant economic impact in the United States.
-You must have control over the capital, and the investment must take risks, in the economic sense. Loans backed by investment assets are not allowed.
-You must go to the United States to develop and run the company. If you are not the main investor, you must be at least one essential employee, performing supervisory, executive or highly specialized tasks. Workers with ordinary skills or without specialization will not be able to apply for a visa.

C5, T5, R5 and I5 Visas: Job Creators / Investors

The United States Immigration Law allows investors seeking to emigrate to the United States to obtain visas and undertake entrepreneurial projects that can benefit the United States economy through job creation and capital investment.

EB-5 visa investors receive 7.1 percent of all employment-based immigrant visas issued globally each year.

In order to apply as an immigrant investor, a foreign national must invest, without loans, at least the following amounts in a business project:

  • $ 1,000,000 (U.S.); or
  • $ 500,000 (U.S.) in an area of ​​high unemployment or rural areas, framed in what is called “a targeted employment area”.

The investment must, within two years, create full-time jobs for at least 10 United States citizens, lawful permanent residents, or other immigrants authorized to work in the United States, not including the investor himself or his spouse or sons.

The immigrant investor visa categories are:

-Job creation outside of a targeted employment area – C5
-Job creation in a rural or high unemployment area – T5
-Inverter Pilot Program – R5
-Investor Pilot Program in a targeted employment area – I5


The Green Card through the Diverse Immigration Visa Program

The Diverse Immigration Visa Program involves the obtaining of more than 50,000 immigrant visas annually, through the random selection of applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The Diverse Immigration Visa Program is administered by the United States Department of State. (U.S. Department of State).

Most of the lottery winners reside abroad and can emigrate to the United States through consular procedure and after obtaining an immigrant visa.

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