How Hard is it to Enter the United States?
If you are not a U.S. citizen, you will find that the United States is not the easiest of countries to enter. You cannot just hop on a flight from another country and enter without the right documentation. But how do you know which type of visa you should be applying for, or if you even need one? According to the experts at immigration lawyer firm Graham Adair, it is vital that you get your paperwork in order, or you could find yourself back on the plane to where you came from.
What Do You Need to Enter the US for Business or Pleasure?
Since 9/11, gaining entry to this country has been exceedingly difficult, and while obtaining a visa for business or leisure visits is possible, gaining immigration status is much more difficult. If you are planning a visit to the States, whether for business or pleasure, it is best to find out exactly what is required beforehand. In most countries, you can contact the American embassy to find out what is needed in terms of a visa requirements.
Residents from countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) do not require a visa for business or pleasure visits of ninety days or less. However, they do need to meet a set of criteria and have Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval before they travel to the States.
Before boarding any mode of transport bound for the United States, travelers must have a valid ESTA. An ESTA will typically be valid for two years, but it must be updated if travelers make any changes to their passport (such as a name change, change to country of citizenship, or gender change) or if they apply for a new passport. Passports must also be valid for a minimum of six months after the date of return travel. Only those with an e-passport can use the Visa Waiver Program.
How Hard is it to Gain Permanent Residency?
When it comes to gaining permanent residency in the United States, things are a bit different. Immigration law works on several principles, which makes it easier for some people to gain entry than others. For example, family members of U.S. citizens currently residing in the United States may be admitted, provided they meet eligibility criteria. For immediate relatives such as spouses, unmarried minor children, and parents, there is an unlimited number of visas available each year. For relatives such as siblings and adult children, the number of available visas is limited.
There are also temporary and permanent employment-based visas available for foreign nationals deemed to have valuable skills. Those granted temporary visas must remain working for the company that petitioned for their visa; they are unlikely to be given permission to remain should they leave the job.
The U.S. also provides visas for refugees and those seeking asylum. The number of refugees admitted each year is determined by the President after consultation with Congress. The maximum number of refugees allowed in a single year is broken down into various regions.
The United States also has a Diversity Visa Program, which allows for 55,000 visas to be allocated to nationals from countries that have low immigration rates to the U.S, with 5,000 kept for asylum seekers whose application for asylum was received before a specific date. These visas are allocated randomly. They are given to nationals from those countries that have had fewer than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. in the preceding five years.
In summary, anyone applying to enter the U.S., whether for a short trip or for residency, will need to meet the criteria set down by the federal government.