Foreign citizens wishing to immigrate and live permanently in the U.S. must comply with U.S. visa immigration laws, and specific procedures to apply for visas.
At DHS, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is responsible for immigration matters, including naturalization. Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Begin at DHS/USCIS to Seek an Approved Petition
When applying for immigration status to permanently move to the U.S. you begin with a petition to USCIS. Applicants navigate the process with a range of help from USCIS including online and print-friendly guides which overview the process and eligibility requirements, free in person information sessions for legal permanent residents interested in naturalization and an online appointment system called INFOPASS which helps you avoid standing in lines when you want to speak to an Immigration Information Officer.
Should you have problems with your case at USCIS you also have access to case assistance through the CIS Ombudsman. The CIS Ombudsman may get involved if you have been unable to obtain a resolution to your pending application or USCIS petition despite repeated inquiries with USCIS.
- A Guide to Naturalization (PDF) (USCIS)
- How to apply for Citizenship through Naturalization (USCIS)
- Make an Appointment at INFOPASS (USCIS)
- Attend a Naturalization Information Session (USCIS)
- Resources for New Immigrants - (USCIS)
Complete Your Visa with the U.S. State Department
After the visa petition is approved at DHS/USCIS, it moves to the National Visa Center (NVC) at the U.S. Department of State for visa pre-processing. This organization collects fees, reviews documents and schedules interviews. Personnel at the NVC will contact the applicant with instructions on completing their formal visa application.
- Visa Information for Immigrants (U.S. Department of State)
- National Visa Center (U.S. Department of State)
- Immigration Visa Application and Document Processing (U.S. Department of State)
- NVC Contact Information (U.S. Department of State)
There are some special situations where the law provides for foreign citizens to move to the United States. This includes the the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), which is an inter-agency effort, the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State to increase the number of Iraqi refugees admitted to the United States.
In addition, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a temporary immigration benefit that allows qualified individuals from designated countries (or parts of those countries) who are in the United States to stay here for a limited time period. A TPS country designation may be based on on-going armed conflict, environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions in the country.
InfoPass is a free service that lets you schedule an appointment with a USCIS Immigration Officer by using the Internet at any time of day or night. If you have an immigration issue that is best handled by a trained USCIS Immigration Officer, InfoPass will let you schedule your appointment instead of requesting it in person at your local USCIS office.
InfoPass makes your life easier:
- It’s free: Scheduling your own appointment costs you nothing
- It’s convenient: Make your appointment via the Internet (from your laptop at home, or the computer at your local public library)
- It’s easy: Choose one of 12 languages you want to work in