Family and Work-Based Visas

Important Information About Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Visas

If you are looking to establish temporary or permanent residency in the United States, you may be confused by the many different visas available. This page provides basic information about the different immigrant and non-immigrant visas you can apply for, as well as asylum and refugee programs. To learn more about which approach is best for you, contact a Texas immigration attorney for family and work-based visas at one of the numbers listed below.

For additional information about immigration matters, see our pages on:

Immigration overview

Basic laws governing immigration

• The government's role in immigration

Deportation and removal proceedings

What Is an Immigrant Visa?

An immigrant visa provides permanent legal status in the United States, through what has been known as a green card. Permanent legal status is generally available through family or employment-based visas.

To obtain a family-based visa, you must be sponsored by a U.S. citizen or by someone with permanent legal status in the United States. A person with permanent legal status only may sponsor a spouse or child, but no other family members. Before a family-based visa will be granted, you must demonstrate an ability to support the person seeking a visa. There is also a priority for entry: unmarried adult children, then spouses and their unmarried minor or adult children, then married children, and then siblings.

The immigration laws give preference to workers in the following order: priority workers, professionals with advanced degrees or persons with exceptional skills, and skilled, professional or other workers, and special immigrants. Most employment-based visas require that you get a labor certification before the visa will be approved.

You may also get a visa through investment in a new commercial enterprise in the United States. As many as 10,000 visas are available annually under this rule.

What Is a Non-Immigrant Visa

A non-immigrant visa will allow you to travel to and stay in the United States for a limited period of time, often related to a specific purpose. Non-immigrant visas include

• Student visas, including student exchange visas

• Temporary work visas

• Visas for workers transferring within a company

• Religious worker visas

• Visas for business and pleasure (tourist)

• Fiance/fiancee visas

Applying for Asylum or Refugee Status

If you have been a victim of or fear persecution in your home country, you may qualify for temporary or permanent residency in the United States as a refugee or through asylum. After one year, you must seek permanent resident status.

Even if you don't qualify for legal permanent resident status, for refugee status, or for asylum, you may still gain entry into the United States through the diversity lottery, which grants legal permanent resident status to 50,000 foreign nationals each year from countries with low immigration rates to the U.S. You must meet specific requirements for eligibility, though, such as a high school degree or its equivalent, or certain work experience requirements.

Contact Our Attorneys for Immigrant or Non-Immigrant Visas

To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our immigration lawyers, contact our office or call us at one of the numbers listed below.