Understanding the Immigration Process

The first step in the immigration process is determining if you would like to stay in the U.S. permanently or temporarily. If you wish to stay permanently, you will need to file for an immigrant visa and ultimately legal permanent residency and or citizenship/naturalization. If you plan to stay temporarily and return to your home country, you will need to file for a non-immigrant visa.

There are numerous types of both immigrant and non-immigrant visas. The most common of each include:

  • Immigrant Visas:
    • Family-Based Visas—U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents can petition to obtain visas for family members.
    • Employment Visas—A limited number of immigrant visas are available for employers to sponsor foreign employees to fill specific jobs.


  • Non-immigrant Visas:
    • Visitor Visas—Visas for tourists, business travelers or for family members to visit the U.S. temporarily are available. (B visas)
    • Student Visas—Visas for students to study in the U.S. are available.  (F and M visas)
    • Employment Visas—Employers can petition for employees to work temporarily in the U.S. (L visas, H-1B visas, O visas, P visas)
    • Trade/Investor Visa—Foreign nationals from countries that have trade and investment treaties with the U.S. can apply for temporary visas to oversee trading and investment operations. (E-Visas)


All visas have specific rules and requirements that can be difficult to understand and apply appropriately.