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Nine ways to go to the USA

In the column for the portal, entrepreneur, co-founder of service P and author of the Telegram channel "Over the hill»Shared his view from the inside on how to obtain documents in the United States, taking into account judicial practice, the experience of dozens of acquaintances, as well as changes in the immigration climate after the arrival of Donald Trump and his administration.

Фото: Depositphotos

Let us define the terms: successfully moving to America means getting a green card. A green card is a document that in the understanding of a post-Soviet person corresponds to a "residence permit". With a green card, you can constantly live, work, take any position other than the highest state, travel outside the US and come back.

The only right that the holder of a green card is deprived of is voting in elections. Without him, let's face it, you can live.

A green card holder can become a US citizen in a few years. But obtaining citizenship is an intimate and individual matter, while obtaining a green card is the common goal of all immigrants.

Below are nine ways to get a green card in the US with a description of the subtleties and difficulties that you might not know.

  1. Marriage with a US citizen

Marriage is one of the easiest and most popular ways to get documents in the United States. But to get a green card, it’s not enough to marry a citizen. After the wedding, you must complete and submit to the USCIS (Citizenship and Immigration Services) a package of documents, including:

form I-130 - establishes a family relationship of a US citizen with a foreigner;

I-xnumxa - contains additional information about a foreigner;

I-485 - request for a green card;

I-864 - establishes that the immigrant has financial support so that he does not sit on benefits;

I-693 - report of the medical board on the health status of an alien;

I-765 - request for permission to work.

A few months after filing the case, the spouses are invited to an interview with an immigration officer who is trying to establish the “honesty” of the marriage: looking at joint photos, asking questions about marital life and habits, relatives and circumstances of the first acquaintance.

Marriage with a citizen is of two types: for love and for calculation.


A real romantic relationship with an American that ends in a wedding is a love marriage. The case is rare and surprising, but still possible.

More chances to find such love among domestic girls: American men, unclaimed in their own market, sit on dating sites to find conditional Natasha, while Natasha sits on these same sites to find a prince from the countries of the first world with the possibility of "relocation" .

If there is no monetary component in the marriage (you do not pay a citizen for these services), the petition will most likely be recognized as real and approved.


  • Quick and easy procedure.
  • Low probability of failure to interview.
  • Conventional green card in six months or a year.


  • It is impossible to predict when and where you will meet love.
  • The risk that the marriage will collapse before receiving a permanent green card.
  • The method is often associated with domestic violence and abusa.
  • Everyone around will still think that the marriage is for documents, including your American spouse.

Fictitious marriage

If the mountain does not go to Mohammed ... Immigrants, desperate to meet American love by luck, move on to more decisive measures - "business relationships." Sham marriage is a taboo subject in many immigrant circles: many find this way of immigration to be shameful. True, most of those who think so have themselves committed an immigration fraud upon receipt of documents.

The idea is simple: a citizen gets from $ 20 thousand to $ 40 thousand for marriage, and in exchange for several years he pretends that the marriage is real and happy. The immigrant receives the documents, to be faithful, he waits another six months or a year, and then the couple is divorced under unknown circumstances. Well, who does not happen? Everyone is happy: a citizen has money for a new car, and a foreigner has citizenship.

Фото: Depositphotos

Fake marriage, as opposed to real, is a federal crime. In the case of disclosure, a citizen can be sent to prison, and a foreigner is deported to his banana republic.

Another risk with which not everyone is considered: a citizen may disappear after receiving the first tranche (for example, after making a prepayment of $ 5-10 thousand). At the same time, the “victim” is unarmed: the immigrant cannot say to the police that he was thrown in an attempt to conclude a fake marriage.


  • Quick procedure.
  • Relative simplicity of the scheme.
  • Low to medium probability of failure to interview.


  • This is a federal crime.
  • High cost - from $ 20-30 thousand.
  • The possibility of a life ban on entry into the United States.
  • The possibility of a prison term for a citizen.
  • The possibility of default by the citizen.
  • The possibility of exposure after many years.
  • This way of immigration is considered "shameful."

What's new

With the arrival of the Trump administration, marriage interviews are conducted more carefully: immigrants complain of long interrogations, including separation of spouses into different rooms.

  1. Political refuge

Political asylum is a protective status in the United States, which can be obtained by a person who has proven that he faced systematic persecution because of his race, nationality, religion, political opinion or membership of a social group, and the government of this country cannot and does not want protect him.

Refugee status is convenient in that it directly leads to a green card and citizenship, and a green card can be obtained one year after receiving refugee status. Do not confuse statuses asylee and refugee: The first is a refugee who arrived in the United States on any visa and then sought asylum, and the second is a refugee who received status in his native country, where, as a rule, there is war. Residents of the CIS usually claim asylee status.

To request asylum, you must come to the United States and submit a form to USCIS I-589as well as the history of harassment and any documents, references and testimonies that confirm it. All materials must be translated into English by a competent translator.

Previously, asylum applications were considered for years (many immigrants have been waiting for their interview on 3 – 5 years), but since January 2018, a new regulation has been adopted that speeds up the procedure - now the call for an interview in the Asylum Office comes within a month.

The Department of State Security modestly states that "many applications for political asylum in the United States are unfounded." I would go further and say: more 90% asylum claims are built on fictional persecution stories. The moral side of the question does not interest me - at least not in this column - so let's go straight to the practical one.

Real case for asylum

A real political asylum case is a rarity similar to a white truffle: I understand that they exist somewhere, but I have never tried it myself. The exception is the members of the LGBT community: they definitely exist, and they really spread rot in the CIS. Almost any gay, transgender or lesbian from a traditional, highly spiritual, low-developed country can get asylum in the United States if they seriously study the issue and take action.

Many compatriots - Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians - are trying to get asylum on the basis of political opinion. It seems to them that in order to obtain status, it is enough to be in disagreement with the authorities, from time to time to go to rallies and repost to the VKontakte page with thirty-seven subscribers, including mother-in-law and grandmother.

This is not the case: well-known opposition politicians and journalists, high-level businessmen with political ambitions and active members of civil society who flash on the news may have real political grounds.

With a real case, the chances of success are high even without a lawyer. If the interview was denied, you can protect your case in the immigration court (in this case, you need a lawyer), and if you refused, there are a few more appeals available (appeal to the BIA, to the Federal Court and to the Supreme Court). The statistics of decisions of all judges on political asylum cases is open - you can look at it by link.


  • High likelihood of approval with a real case.
  • Full free procedure (not counting the stage of the trial with a lawyer).
  • Quick processing time (one month before the interview, less than a year - before the trial).


  • In case of final refusal - return to your home country, where you are going to be killed or imprisoned.
  • Inability to travel outside the United States before a decision is made (exception - advance parole, form I-131).
  • Long wait for work permit and SSN.
  • All around will still think that your case is fake.

Fictional shelter case

“Inventing” asylum cases is a big industry in which millions of dollars are earned every year. If there are no real grounds for obtaining status, you can hire a lawyer who will provide services on a turnkey basis - made-up biography, history of persecution, false documents, certificates and even passports, name change - say thank you for not changing sex - and even intentionally causing injury to oneself.

This is only part of the fun adventures that you can go through, creating a dummy case for political asylum.

Фото: Depositphotos

There are several problems with bogus refugees. First, to make a folding story out of nonsense without internal contradictions and weak points is a difficult task that an immigrant cannot cope on his own, and lawyers will need tens of thousands of dollars in a few years.

Secondly, immigration fraud is a federal crime for which you can make a premature trip to your homeland, and afterwards get a life ban to enter the United States. Thirdly, the default procedure is fraught with a lot of stress, fear and uncertainty, and in fact you have to live in parallel, work (often without a work permit) and get used to a new country.


  • Allows you to get a green card in the case when no other way of immigration is suitable.
  • Average likelihood of approval.
  • Quick review times.
  • The procedure can be free if you prepare and serve the case yourself.


  • This is a federal crime.
  • The possibility of exposure after many years.
  • The possibility of a life ban on entry into the United States.
  • A strong lawyer is needed at the trial stage.
  • The high cost of lawyers - from $ 5000 for each stage.
  • Inability to travel outside the United States before a decision is made.
  • Long wait for work permit and SSN.
  • This way of immigration is considered “shameful” among moralists.

What's new

Since January 29, political asylum claims considered in the “direct” order - that is, the earlier I submitted the application, the earlier I went to the interview. The average waiting time for an interview is now one month, the average waiting time for a court in case of refusal is about six months (earlier and an interview, and the court had to wait several years).

With the arrival of the Trump administration, many immigrants undergoing interviews for refugee complain about the strict attitude of officers and frequent refusals. However, while the statistics is insignificant, to talk about a real increase in the percentage of refusals in asylum with the advent of the new administration.

In June 2018, the US Attorney General decidedthat victims of domestic violence and organized crime, including drug cartels and gangsters, are no longer eligible for asylum in the United States. Prior to this, the named groups were protected by the American Refugees Act.

From 2018, a refugee has to prove that the government in his home country not only "does not want" or "cannot" protect him, but also "helps in every way" or "encourages" his persecution. Obviously, it has become more difficult to obtain status with such a formulation than before.

  1. Family reunification

If you have a relative who is a US citizen, you can get a green card through a family petition. A relative within the meaning of USCIS is a parent, child, spouse, brother or sister. In other words, your American grandmother can bake delicious pancakes, but will never bake you a green card. The American sponsor must submit the following forms: I-130, I-485 и I-864.

Crucial is who the immigrant is a US citizen. For example, parents, children up to 21, and the spouse of an American citizen can get a green card almost immediately - for 6 – 18 months, while children are older than 21, brothers and sisters are waiting much longer, and waiting compose 10-25 years depending on the degree of relationship.


  • Ease of procedure: submit multiple forms and wait.
  • Low immigrant requirements - it’s enough to have a relative-citizen in the USA.
  • Low cost if not hire a lawyer.
  • For some categories of relatives - quick processing time (up to a year).


  • The unpredictability of the program against the background of Trump's policy: family immigration can be severely curtailed.
  • For some categories of relatives - long consideration periods (including more than 10 years).

What's new

Green card waiting times for some categories of relatives have exceeded 20 years and continue to grow.

Donald Trump calls family immigration "chain" and offers reduce it several times, leaving the possibility of reunification only for spouses and children up to 21 year. For one thing - a populist reform from nothing to do, then for hundreds of thousands of people - a family tragedy for life.

  1. Green Card Lottery

The easiest way to get into the US is to win the lottery: every year, Americans play 50 thousands of visas. To take part in the immigration holiday, it is enough to fill out a simple form on a special Online, and the results will be announced in May next year. There are even detailed instructions for filling the questionnaire.

To increase the chances of success, fill out a questionnaire for all family members, including children, parents, spouse, grandmother and grandfather. It makes no sense to pay agencies for filling out the questionnaire: first, it is very simple - you can handle it yourself.

Secondly, in case of winning your application, the office that filled out the questionnaire can blackmail you, because without a unique application number, known only to her, you cannot get a won visa. The amount required by extortionists often reaches $ 10 thousand.


  • The easiest way to immigration - even a fool can handle it (but very lucky).
  • Instant receipt of documents and SSN.
  • Zero cost if you fill in the form yourself.
  • The opportunity to participate every year.
  • A pleasant feeling of languid waiting for results, when for some reason it seems that this year you will definitely win (in fact, not).


  • Extremely low probability of winning (1% or lower).
  • Uncontrollable process - you can play all your life, but never win, but you can win the first time.
  • The program may at any time be closed due to the policy of Trump.

What's new

Current US president Donald Trump convincedthat with the help of a lottery terrorists enter the country, and offers to cancel it. However, there are no real reasons to believe that this will happen in the near future.

Фото: Depositphotos

  1. Work visa H-1B

H-1B - A visa of double intent, which can be obtained by qualified specialists from other countries, necessary for the American economy and having a job offer in the USA.

The visa is good precisely because of the “double intent” - it is both immigration and temporary. This means that a person can either temporarily work in the country and leave it, or, under certain conditions, receive a green card in the future through an employer.

The standard process for obtaining a H-1B visa is as follows:

  • a person receives a specialized education;
  • gains years of experience in his field and becomes a sought-after specialist;
  • consults with an immigration lawyer;
  • starts searching for a job offer in the USA (LinkedIn, Facebook, specialized sites);
  • finds an employer;
  • pays for immigration lawyer (sometimes they are paid by the employer);
  • submits necessary documents to USCIS;
  • gets a work visa.

After some time, the employer can issue a green card for this employee and thus legitimize his permanent presence in the country.

The problem is that only a few categories of specialists can really get a work visa: basically, they are programmers, engineers, microbiologists, and other smart guys. A cool kindergarten teacher or an experienced truck driver (for all their importance to the economy) will not be able to get a work visa in the United States.

To apply for a work visa, use the form I-129.


  • "Dusty" way of immigration for professionals.
  • Getting a good job immediately after the move.
  • Ability to try strength every year.
  • It is considered a “respected” way of immigration.


  • Low probability of approval for most professionals.
  • Need to be an IT specialist or engineer.
  • The high cost of immigration lawyer services to assist with obtaining a work visa.
  • Tighter requirements under Trump administration.
  • Obtaining a green card after a working visa H-1B is a separate problem.

What's new

Requirements for the minimum wage in the United States for the applicant were raised, and even more could be raised.

The number of requests for additional information from the visa applicant has increased.

Less and less, they approve of petitions for the extension of H-1B visas when a person is already in the United States.

It has become harder to switch from H-1B to a green card.

  1. Green card through the employer

This way of immigration is similar to the previous one - with the only difference that a person receives a green card through work already being in the US, and not coming here on a work visa.

The variant is complex and unstable, but usually looks like this: a person is educated in the USA (preferably Master's Degree or PhD), during OPT he finds an internship, becomes a valuable employee, urges the employer to issue him a green card and thus remains in the country forever.

There are great chances, however, that the education and internship will end up - in this case, the graduate is obliged to leave the United States, because the student visa is not immigration and does not allow living and working in the United States when training is completed.


  • "Dusty" way of immigration for self-confident professionals who are willing to take the risk.


  • Low probability of a positive outcome.
  • The overall unpredictability of the process.
  • High requirements for candidates.
  1. Visa for gifted people O-1

O 1 - a visa that can be obtained by people with extraordinary abilities: singers, musicians, athletes, scientists, actors, public figures and other talents who do not work from 9 to 17. For application form is used I-129.

This visa is good because after arriving with it, in theory, you can get a green card and stay forever. Visa is bad because in practice it is difficult to get a green card - and many “gifted” people are forced to go back without catching the American dream by the tail.

O-1 visa applicant must prove that he possesses extraordinary abilities in some field, and in this area is included in 1-5% of the best specialists in the world, and also intends to work in this specialty after arriving in the US for the benefit of the American economy.

Many immigration attorneys create turnkey case for O-1: a “gifted” person is only required to walk straight, distinguish colors, open his mouth during a conversation and not drool - his lawyer draws everything else.

Client publications in the press are bought, his “authorship” is organized in books and monographs, dummy photos are made at summits and conferences. Extraordinary services from scratch cost from $ 10 thousands and are one of the “gray” ways of immigration to the USA.


  • "Dusty" way of immigration for professionals.
  • It is considered a “respected” way of immigration.
  • The ability to impress people at parties (“actually I have extraordinary abilities, here is my visa”).


  • Low probability of obtaining a visa.

Getting a green card after a visa for gifted people O-1 is a separate problem.

  1. L-1 visa transfer

L-1 - Visa for internal corporate transfer. It is suitable for people working in a management position in a large company that has offices both in the United States and in their country. Such a person can be transferred to work in the American office - he will receive a visa L-1.

But the visa is suitable for some owners of small or medium businesses. If your project is developing both in your own country and in the United States, you can get an L-1 visa and move to the United States as the director of this business. The limitation will be that even before you move, the business process in America should be streamlined, and in your native country the business should have a substantial turnover, show a profit and a serious organizational structure.

The L-1 visa also implies a “double intention”: it is both temporary and immigration at the same time. Some people who came to the United States on an intra-corporate transfer visa, as a result, were able to successfully change their status and get a green card. In many cases, this will require assistance from the employer on the American side.

Фото: Depositphotos

To apply for L-1, use the form I-129.


  • "Dusty" way of immigration for professionals.
  • It is considered a “respected” way of immigration.


  • Need a company with branches in the USA and your country.
  • The company must have substantial revenue, history and organizational structure.
  • Low probability of obtaining a visa and high requirements for the candidate.

Obtaining a green card after an L-1 visa is a separate problem.

That new

With the arrival of the administration of Donald Trump, we see a lot of failures when trying to switch from L-1 to a green card.

  1. Investments in the American economy

Program EB-5 - a way of immigration for the rich: a green card can be obtained from it in exchange for investments in the American economy. The threshold of entry is high enough, because to get a green card you will have to invest $ 1 million and create at least ten new jobs for US citizens and residents.

The exceptions are investments in depressed regions through special distribution centers - in this case, you will have to invest "only" $ 500 thousands.

Obtaining a green card through investments is not only an expensive process, but also a time consuming one, so it cannot do without a good lawyer and a CPA (accountant). If you have a million bucks in your safe, start by searching for a good immigration lawyer on the main sites - Avvo и Nolo.


  • The most "dust-free" way of immigration to the United States.
  • High probability of a positive outcome.
  • Getting green cards and business development in the United States - combining business with pleasure.
  • Predictability, transparency, respectability of the method.
  • You will be the only person in the area who has received a green card in this way.


  • Ability to lose invested capital or make a profit below expectations.
  • The ability to not execute a business plan and not get a green card as a result.

Read also on ForumDaily:

16 Green Card Lottery Myths

Full official instructions in Russian, how to fill out the form on the lottery Green Card 2020

How to get a green card after tightening immigration policy: a lawyer answered readers' questions ForumDaily

How I immigrated and realized that America is not heaven on Earth

Miscellanea immigration to the USA green card Educational program
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