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5 Ways to Immigrate to America Legally

America is the ultimate dream destination for many people around the world, not only for vacations. People from other countries want their share of the American Dream. They want to live in a beautiful country and enjoy the financial success that eludes them elsewhere.

The U.S. offers several ways for people to achieve these goals. For instance, the U.S. government gives out 50,000 visas randomly every year. This process, called the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV), gives 50,000 potential immigrants the chance to move to America with an immigrant visa.

However, if you do not like the admittedly low odds of winning the so-called green card lottery, you can take other steps to secure your place in the Land of Opportunity.

Marry a U.S. Citizen

Movies tend to poke fun at the ‘marry a U.S. citizen to get a green card’ setup, but it is a viable way to immigrate to America. But the marriage must be real and for the right reasons. If you are in a relationship with a U.S. citizen and planning to get married, you may qualify for an Immediate Relatives visa. It takes around 12 months to process it.

There is also the option of a Family Preference visa. To qualify for one of these visas, you must have a family relationship with a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. Relationships must fall into a specific category, and the number of Family Preference visas is limited. You may wait up to a decade or longer for your visa to be processed.

Get a Student Visa

Even if you don’t know anyone in the U.S., you can still get a legal visa. For example, if you are studying for a degree, you can apply for a student visa and complete your degree at an American college. When you get your bachelor’s or master’s, you are entitled to a one-year work permit—Optional Practical Training. If you decide to stay in the U.S. when 12 months have passed, you can ask your employer to apply for an H1B work visa on your behalf.


Remember that you will qualify for an H1B work visa only if your employer can prove there are no American workers who can or want to do your job. If this process is successful, you can eventually apply for a green card. You will not be accepted overnight, however. Most people who apply this way wait years to get their permanent place in the country.

Work for a Green Card

You can also go another route after obtaining an H1B work visa by applying for an EB-2 extraordinary worker green card. This green card is based on a national interest waiver and applies to H1B applicants who perform specialty work of exceptional merit and ability. If your line of work aligns with this specification, your employer can apply for labor certification and sponsor you for a green card.

Again, this is not an easy process to follow. Most H1B cases involve the green card lottery, which has a low success rate anyway. Also, the H1B visa route is the least popular of all the ways to obtain a green card because of the sheer amount of red tape.


Still, an EB-2 application allows you to apply for a green card without having a waiting job offer. If you have a degree or critical skills and meet the national interest waiver criteria, you may find success this way.

Request a Transfer to a U.S. Office

If you get the chance to transfer to your company’s U.S. office, it will be your best chance of getting a green card. Your employer must have an established presence in America and have done business for over a year. You must also be employed as an executive or manager. You do not need a labor certification to transfer to the U.S. in an employee capacity.

Invest In Real Estate

If you have money to spend, you can apply for an EB-5 green card by investing at least $1,800,000 in real estate in America. If you invest $1,050,000 in a business that can then hire 10 people, you will also qualify for a green card as per the EB-5 direct investment program. The money must go to a commercial business and stay there for at least seven years. Some of the best organizations to invest in are hotels, retail stores, restaurants, and IT corporations. The time it takes to process the investment depends on the country you are investing from. If you invest from China or India, it will take a long time. Investments from other countries could be processed in around 36 months.

Other Options

There are other options to consider as well. If you have been employed outside of the U.S. for 12 months during the year of your green card petition and already work for a U.S. employer, you may be eligible for an EB-1C green card. The petitioner must have a business that is older than one year and a qualifying relationship with the company you worked for outside of America. Also, you must be employed as a manager or execute. You can then stay in the U.S. as an L-1 non-immigrant until a decision is made about your green card application.

Lastly, there is another way to gain legal entry into the U.S. that has nothing to do with investment or study. If you have a well-founded fear of persecution in your home country, you may qualify for one of America’s several humanitarian immigration options. You could be eligible as a refugee or asylee. You can apply for a special immigrant visa, which is available to religious workers and victims of human trafficking.

Living the Dream in the U.S.

Immigrating to America is meant to be a life-changing experience. You will find new opportunities and have new adventures. However, there is no guarantee that you will get a green card based on the immigration option you choose. Moving to the U.S. permanently is a process that requires patience and a complete understanding of each available option. So, take that first step and explore all the possibilities that could take you to the home of the brave.