When it comes to immigration, and more specifically, illegal immigration, many Americans wonder – why don’t they come here legally? Why don’t they just apply for a visa and wait in line? Sounds easy right? In fact, it is for Americans, as this is generally what we have to do in order to travel to another country.
But the reality is, there is no “line” or open door policy simply allowing any foreign national who desires the right to live and work in the U.S. The foreign national wanting to immigrate to the U.S. and live and work here permanently generally has three options: family unification, employment, or asylum/humanitarian relief.
In basic terms, the paths are:
By a family member petition.
A U.S. Citizen may petition and request lawful permanent resident (“green card”) status for a spouse, parents, children and siblings. The timing of this process can vary greatly based upon the nature of the relationship and involves a great deal of paperwork and supporting documentation. For example, the U.S. Citizen Petitioner must prove they make an income above 125% of the poverty and the foreign national must establish they do not have any criminal or health-related issues that prevent approval. Application fees can also be quite substantial and attorney fees will vary depending on the type of case.
By obtaining a Work Visa.
Few options here, but here are the most popular ones.
If you are a high-skilled worker and lucky enough to be sponsored by a US company, you could apply for a H-1A work visa. Your case must demonstrate your skill is so special and important to that company they had no other option but to hire you, and the company must demonstrate they had tried to fill the position in the US unsuccessfully. The sponsor (company) must cover all the cost of this very expensive process. And by the way, they are only 85,000 visas available each year and they are about 236,000 applications every year… Like playing the lottery.
If the work visa is granted, it doesn’t mean the immigrant could change his/her status to a Legal President Resident, the company must re-apply for the status, very complicated.
Now imagine if the immigrant is here but doesn’t like the job, good luck finding a company willing to go thought the exhaustive process again.
The other way is to apply for a temporary work visa through the H-2A (seasonal agricultural) or H2B (seasonal non-agricultural) visa programs which provide temporary status to low-skilled workers seeking to enter the country lawfully. The process must be completed by the hiring US company.
While H-2A visas are not numerically capped, the requirements are almost impossible to meet. H-2B visas are capped at 66,000 annually. Both only provide temporary status to work for a U.S. employer for one year.
Immigrants fleeing persecution or who have a well-founded fear of future persecution on account of their race, religion, membership in a particular social group, political opinion or national origin may seek asylum in the United States or qualify for refugee status from outside the U.S. To do so, they must meet a high evidentiary burden. Even if they do qualify for refugee status, there is an annual cap on the number of refugee admissions to the United States.
But here, there is another way! The investment visa.
The EB-5 served to facilitate the admission of investors as legal Permanent Residents, and since its creation, the EB-5 remains the only category with this end. Each year, a maximum of 10,000 are granted.
What does it takes to be an investor in the U.S. to obtain legal immigration status?
At least $1 million in a new commercial enterprise that employs at least 10 full-time U.S. workers no later than two years after the petitioner receives an approved permit. The investment requirement is cut in half for aliens investing in regional rural locations or areas with unemployment rates greater than 150 percent of the national average.
Why don’t they come here legally? It’s a great question, and it is important to know the facts and how difficult it is for individuals to do so. In fact, unfortunately for many individuals there is simply no path to immigration to the U.S. lawfully. Similarly, for many individuals who have already entered the U.S. without inspection or overstayed their visas, legalizing their status is extremely difficult if not impossible.
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