A permanent resident is someone who has been granted a permanent resident card (“green card”) to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. You can become a permanent resident several different ways. Most individuals are sponsored by a family member or employer in the United States.
A foreign national is eligible for citizenship five years after obtaining permanent resident status or three years if the “green card” was obtained through marriage to a U.S. citizen. An applicant must be 18 years of age and have resided in the U.S. for at least five years (three years if married to a U.S. citizen). The applicant must be physically present for at least half of the five years (or half of the three years if married to a U.S. citizen). Other requirements include being a person of good moral character, having an elementary knowledge of the English language, and knowing the fundamentals of history and government of the U.S. There are some exceptions to these rules.
A visa is a travel document giving you permission to travel to the United States and stay for a certain period of time. Visas are obtained at U.S. Consulate’s abroad and presented at the port of entry into the U.S. As a general rule, a foreign national who wishes to live and work in the U.S. needs to obtain a visa.
An I-94 is the Arrival/Departure Record, in either paper or electronic format, issued by a Customs and Border Protection Officer authorizing a foreign national to enter the United States, stating the visa category which the person is authorized to hold, and stating the date by which the foreign national must depart the United States.
Please see our Visa Types section.
The B-1 business visitor visa permits foreign nationals to visit the U.S. for temporary business activities which promote international trade, commerce or investment , but does not permit employment.
“Business” in the B-1 context means a wide variety of legitimate commercial and professional activities, including negotiations, conferences, consultations, investigating investment opportunities and other activities of a commercial or professional nature (excluding gainful employment in the U.S.)
Citizens of the following 38 countries can travel to the U.S. in B-1 status for up to 90 days without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program.
H-1B visa status may be granted to foreign nationals who (1) are coming to the U.S. to perform in a professional position (i.e. one that normally requires a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in a specific field as a minimum requirement) and (2) possess at least a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent education and experience) in that specialty.
USCIS issues 65,000 new H-1B approvals each fiscal year (October 1 through September 30) plus an additional 20,000 for graduates with a US. masters or advanced degree.
The E-3 visa classification is similar to the H-1B category but is available to citizens of Australia coming to the U.S. to work in a specialty occupation. Up to 10,500 E-3 visas can be issued each year and application can be made directly at the U.S. consulate.
The TN category is part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and enables Canadian and Mexican citizens to enter the U.S. to engage in professional business activities on a professional basis. There is no limit on the number of workers granted TN status each year. A TN applicant must possess the minimum qualifications of one of the professions specified on NAFTA’s list of TN occupations.
L-1 status may be granted to foreign nationals who: have worked abroad for one year in an executive, managerial or specialized knowledge capacity; and are coming to the U.S. to work for the foreign employer’s parent, subsidiary, branch or affiliate.
E-1 and E-2 visas are for nationals from countries that have a treaty of commerce with the United States. The foreign national must be coming to the U.S. to perform in an executive, managerial or essential skills position. The employment must be for a U.S. company that is owned by persons of the same nationality of the employee. E-1 treaty traders must further demonstrate that the sponsoring U.S. employer conducts at least 50% of its international trade with the treaty country, and that the trade is continuous. E-2 treaty investors must further demonstrate the U.S. employer is an operating commercial enterprise created by a substantial investment of capital.
For a list of eligible countries, please see: