- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals USA Guide (PDF)
The Green Card is the official document issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to foreign nationals granting them permanent residency in America. This allows the holder to live and work in the United States.
Obtaining a Green Card for the USA
Generally, there are three parts to the process when applying through employment: obtaining labour certification, filing an immigrant petition, and finally, submitting the permanent residence application.
Expats can live in the US under a non-immigrant visa while their immigrant visa is being processed. Alternatively, they can wait in their home country until final approval, at which point they would emigrate. The waiting period will depend on the skill level each person is classified under. Before expats can apply for a Green Card, a US company must petition on their behalf.
A Green Card can also be obtained through family members who are either US citizens or legal permanent residents (Green Card holders).
Employment-based non-immigrant visas for the USA
Non-immigrant visas allow applicants to reside in the US while processing their Green Card. There are numerous types of visas in this category. Here are the most commonly used.
H-1 visas are for skilled international professionals who want to live and work in America on a long-term basis. As these are non-immigrant visas, they are often quicker to obtain than a Green Card. In order to qualify for this visa, expats must have a US company sponsor their application or petition on their behalf.
Available for international companies that wish to expand operations into the United States or who have an existing branch in the US that they wish to transfer an employee to. This visa is one of the most popular.
It can lead to permanent residency and is relatively easy to obtain with the right documentation and presentation. Expats would need to be transferred from a company’s offices in their home country to a branch in the US.
This requires a direct financial investment into a new or existing business. The minimum funds required for the investment vary depending on the geographic area where the applicant plans to set up their business operations. The expat's new company can then sponsor their Green Card application.
*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.
►To find out about other permit options read the Visas for the USA page
"We enlisted the services of a specialised lawyer for our work permits. The process was fairly quick at the time. We entered the country with an L-1 visa which was a big advantage. I would definitely recommend investing in hiring the services of an immigration lawyer who will be able to guide your application for the appropriate work permit or visa. There are many different kinds and each has its own process."
Read more about Emmanuelle's expat experiences in the US in her interview with Expat Arrivals.
Are you an expat living in The USA?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to The USA. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
Cigna Global can tailor an international health insurance plan to perfectly fit the needs of you and your family. With 86 million customers in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.
William Russell is a boutique insurance company, that values itself on its great customer service and is underwritten by Allianz. They provide health, life, and income protection insurance for expats around the world. With a global network of 40,000 hospitals and doctors, their health insurance plans are designed so that they follow you to whatever country you move to next.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.