A. Roadmap to U.S. Immigration

This book will cover a lot of territory —almost all of U.S. immigration law, including your basic rights, strategies, and the procedures for getting you where you need to go. Any time you cover this much ground, it helps to have a road map —particularly so you’ll know which subjects or chapters you can skip entirely.

Take a look at the imaginary map below, then read the following subsections to orient yourself to the main topics on the map.

As you can see, the first stop along the way is the InadmissibiUry Gate. This gate represents a legal problem that can stop your path to a visa or green card before you’ve even started. If you have, for example, committed certain crimes, been infected with certain contagious diseases, appear likely to need welfare or government assistance, violated U.S. immigration laws, or match another
description on the U.S. government’s list of concerns, you are considered “inadmissible.” That means you won’t be allowed any type of U.S. visa or green card, except under special circumstances or with legal forgiveness called a waiver.

This gate gets closed on a lot of people who lived in the U.S. illegally for more than six months, which can create either a three-year or ten-year bar to immigrating. Even if you think you haven’t done anything wrong, please read Chapter 3 for more on the problem of ^admissibility.

If you get past the ^admissibility gate, the next stop along your theoretical journey is the Eligibility Bridge. This is where you must answer the question, “What type of visa or green card are you eligible for? ” Answering this question will involve some research on your part. You might already know the answer—for example, if you’ve just married a U.S. citizen, it’s pretty obvious that you want to
apply for a green card on this basis and should read the appropriate chapter of this book (“Chapter 7). Or, if your main goal is to attend college in the United States, then you probably know that you need a student visa, and can proceed straight to the chapter covering that topic (Chapter 221.

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How to immigrate to the United States

If you’ve already cried to research how to immigrate to the United States, you may have come away more confused than enlightened. We’ve heard immigrants ask frustrated questions like, “Are they trying to punish me for doing things legally?” or “I can’t tell whether they want to let me in or keep me out!”

The trouble is, the U.S. immigration system is a little like a mythical creature with two heads. One head is smiling and granting people the right to live or work in the United States, temporarily or permanently—especially people who:
• will pump money into the U.S. economy (such as tourists, students, and investors)
• can fill gaps in the U.S. workforce (mostly skilled workers)
• are joining up with close family members who are already U.S. citizens or permanent residents, or
• need protection from persecution or other humanitarian crises.
This creature’s other head wears a frown. It is afraid of the United States ‘ being overrun by huge numbers of immigrants, and so it tries to keep out anyone who:
• doesn’t fit the narrow eligibility categories set forth in the U.S. immigration laws
• has a criminal record
• is a threat to U.S. ideology or national security
• has spent a long time in the U.S. illegally or committed other immigration violations
• is attempting fraud in order to immigrate, or
• will not earn enough money to stay off government assistance.

Not surprisingly, these two heads don’t always work together very well. You may find that, even when you know you have a right to visit, live, or work in the

United States and you’re trying your best to fill out the applications and complete your case properly, you feel as if you ‘re being treated like a criminal. The frowning head doesn’t care. It views you as just another number and as no great loss if your application fails—or is, literally, lost in the files of thousands of other applications.

Have you heard people say that a U.S. citizen could simply invite a
friend from overseas to live here? Those days are gone. Now, even7 immigrant has to find a legal category that he or she fits within, deal with demanding application forms and procedures, and pass security and other checks.

Almost everyone should at least attend a consultation with an
experienced immigration attorney before submitting an application. Unless your case presents no complications whatsoever, it’s best to have an attorney confirm that you haven’t overlooked anything. However, by preparing yourself with the information in this book, you can save money and make sure you ‘re using
a good attorney for the right services.
EXAMPLE: An American woman was engaged to a man from Mexico and figured, since she herself had been to law school, that she didn ‘t need an attorney’s help. She read that a foreign-born person who was in the U.S. on a tourist visa could get married and then apply for a green card within the United States. Unfortunately, what she didn’t realize was that this possibility

only works for people who decide to get married after entering the United States. Applying for a tourist visa with the idea of coming to the U.S. to get married and get a green card amounts to visa fraud and can ruin a person ‘s chances of immigrating. Are you already confused by this story? That ‘s all right, the U.S. immigration system doesn’t always make a lot of sense. This is why an attorney’s help is often needed—to get you through legal hoops that you’d never imagined existed.

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Your Immigration Companion

If you’re considering immigrating to the United States, or are  helping someone who is, then this book was written for you. Unlike many books about immigration law, this one was written for real people, not for lawyers.

We try to give you a realistic view of your immigration possibilities and how to succeed in reaching your goals.

But why is this book so thick —especially considering that the title promises it will be “easy’? Don’t worn7, you won’t have to read the whole book. It’s just that we cover a lot of ground, including some categories of visas and green cards that other books don’t discuss—useful if you ‘re having trouble finding a  category that
fits you. Also, the original law that we ‘re trying to describe for you is not easy at all—it contains many categories of potential visas and green cards, complex criteria for who qualifies, and paperwork-intensive application procedures. And all of that takes space to explain! So what we ‘ve done is to start the book with an
overview of your possibilities, then direct you toward one or two particular chapters that will help you understand what lies ahead if you apply for a U.S. visa or green card.

Some people will find that they don’t qualify for U.S. immigration at all, or at least not yet—as we said, it’s a complicated and narrow system.

But the good news is that huge numbers of people successfully come from other countries to the U.S. every year—approximately one million receive green cards, and 30 million receive temporary visas (such as tourist, work, and student visas).

With the right information and preparation you can be one of them. 

This book will help you:
• learn whether you match the criteria to receive either a green card
(permanent residence) or a temporary (nonimmigrant) visa
• learn what difficulties you’ll have to overcome
• strategize the fastest and safest way through the application process
• deal with bureaucrats and delays, and
• know when you should consult a lawyer.
You may feel lost and confused as you begin the process of applying for U.S. immigration. This book is intended to be your legal companion, providing practical and supportive advice and information along the  way and helping you find a warm welcome in the United States.

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