The USA is a top destination for expats from around the world who are attracted to the abundance of possibilities the country offers and the sheer vastness of the USA – which allows you to select your ideal climate and living conditions. Whether you prefer the seasons of Seattle or the sunshine of California, there is a state that is sure to suit your taste – after all, you have 52 to choose from! To help you on your way, here is some information about the different visa categories and residence permits the USA offers.
The great “Green Card”
The Green Card is regarded as the holy grail of immigrant visa categories and is officially called the Diversity Visa Program. If you are applying for employment-based immigration, this visa has five preference categories, EB-1 through to EB-5. Your prospective employer will have to submit proof that there are insufficient qualified workers who are able or willing to fill the position and that if they hire you that it will not have a negative impact on the USA’s workers both in terms of wages and working conditions.
A foreign citizen looking to immigrate to the US generally must be sponsored by a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident. A lawful permanent resident is a foreign national who has been granted the privilege of permanently living and working in the United States.
There are two groups of family-based immigrant visa categories – the Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas and the Family Preference Immigrant Visas. The Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas are based on close family relationships and are offered to a spouse of a US citizen and unmarried child under 21 years of age of a US citizen and a parent of a US citizen. The Family Preference Immigrant Visas are for more distant family relationships with a US citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident.
Speciality Occupations (H-1B)
This visa is for people who have speciality occupations in defence research or development projects or are internationally acclaimed fashion models who want to work in the USA. Excluding the fashion models, a general requirement is a Bachelor’s degree or an internationally accredited qualification that is based on four years of study. The number of visas issued in this category are limited to 65 000 a year, and expats can usually only stay in the USA for three years unless their visa is extended or they have been able to successfully apply for a Green Card.
Intracompany Transfers (L-1A)
This is a popular visa as the USA is home to the head offices of many global companies. To apply for this visa you must be able to prove that you have worked continuously for your employer in a management position for one year within the three years prior to your transfer. The visa allows you to be transferred to the USA for one year to set up an office or for three years in an already established office.
Expats with special abilities or achievements (0-1)
If you are a rising star or excel in your field, then this visa is probably the one for you. This is aimed at people who have achieved international acclaim or recognition in their particular field and are coming to the USA to work in their area of specialisation. This visa is particularly applicable to expats in the arts, sports, education, science, business and media fields. The visa is initially valid for three years but can be extended up to a year at a time.
If you are a South African moving or living in the US and would like to know more about how you can maximise your finances through financial emigration, accessing your South African retirement annuity and our tailor-made tax solutions for South Africans around the world, contact FinGlobal today.
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