Immigrating from one country to another is a big move, there’s no doubt. Not only is it challenging physically and emotionally, but the bureaucracy can also be a killer. Luckily, there are government, non-government, and private organizations in the United States that can help you through this rigorous process.
Below we’ve provided you with a few of the most important resources that will help make the immigration process as painless as possible for you and your family.
What are immigration services?
Generally, immigration services in the U.S. are divided into two categories: those provided by the government, and those provided by private companies, individuals, and associations. Both options will help you adjust your immigration status, but depending on your circumstances, one might suit you more than the other.If you're still not sure about which option to choose, keep reading to learn more so you can make the best decision for you.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the governmental organization dedicated to facilitating visa and naturalization processes for people who want to immigrate legally to the United States. In order to obtain the legal documents certifying your legal residence in the United States, you’ll have to go through the USCIS’ processes.
What services does the USCIS provide?
The USCIS provides a wide variety of services for immigrants in the U.S. including:
- Granting U.S. citizenship. Those who wish to become a naturalized U.S. citizen must apply for citizenship with the USCIS. They determine who is eligible, process applications, and carry out the swearing in ceremony where new citizens declare their allegiance to the U.S. Constitution. The USCIS also determines eligibility for citizenship and issues citizenship documents to people with American parents who want to inherit citizenship by blood.
- Allowing family members to immigrate. The USCIS handles the processes for permanent residents and U.S. citizens to bring their family members to work and live in the United States.
- Granting work visas in the U.S. The organization also grants foreigners work visas in the United States. Some are temporary while others can be used to obtain permanent residency.
- Verifying a person’s right to work in the United States (E-Verify). The USCIS manages the computer system that allows employers to verify their employees’ eligibility to work in the U.S.
- Managing humanitarian programs. TheUSCIS manages humanitarian programs that offer protection to people who have been displaced by war, famine, political and civil instability, and people whose lives are at risk or are tortured due to being persecuted in their country of origin.
- Manage adoption of foreign children. The USCIS is in charge of the first step that U.S. citizens must take in order to adopt a foreign child.
- Promoting civic integration. The USCIS provides education and training on U.S. citizens’ rights and obligations and the tools to integrate into the U.S. civic culture.
- Provide genealogical information. USCIS Genealogy Program is a paid program providing researchers with access to historical immigration and naturalization records for deceased immigrants.
How can I speak with an immigration representative?
There are plenty of ways to access USCIS services. For general information you can reach out on their Contact Us page. If you’d like to schedule an in-person meeting, you can schedule an appointment online or call 1-800-375-5283.
U visas are granted to victims of crimes who have suffered physical or mental abuse and provide help to the government to investigate or prosecute criminal activity. Congress created the U Visa by approving the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act (including the Violence Against Women Act protecting victims of domestic violence) in October 2000.
You can choose this type of visa if:
- You suffered from physical or mental abuse because you were the victim of a crime
- You have information related to criminal activity that you were a victim of
- You have, may, or are likely to provide help in the investigation or criminal proceedings of this crime
- The crime occurred in the U.S. or violated U.S. law
- You’re eligible to be admitted to the United States (if you're out of the country and ineligible to enter, you can request an exception by filling out an i-192 form)
T visas are temporary visas that allow victims of human trafficking to remain in the United States for up to four years. This visa is only granted to those who have helped the government in an investigation or prosecution of human trafficking acts. Non-immigrant T-status visas are also available for family members of the victims of human trafficking. People with this type of visa are eligible to obtain work permits and certain state and federal benefits and services.
People are eligible for this type of visa if they were victims of:
- Sex trafficking: enlisting, detaining, transporting, requesting, procuring, or sponsoring someone for the purpose of buying or selling sex acts by force, fraud, coercion, or when the victim is under 18.
- Labor trafficking: enlisting, detaining, transporting, requesting, procuring, or sponsoring someone for forced labor through fraud or coercion for the purpose of indentured labor, groups of laborers, bonded labor, or slavery.
If you were persecuted in your country of origin, you may be eligible for asylum. Asylum allows people to remain in the U.S. who have been persecuted or have a credible fear that they will be persecuted, harmed, or killed due to their:
- Membership in a particular social group
- Political opinion
Human Rights First provides pro bono legal aid to asylum seekers in New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles
Other Free Immigration Services
You can access a wide variety of immigration services provided by various non-government agencies and associations. Some of the most important are the following:
- Immigrationlawhelp.org maintains a list of organizations that provide free or low-cost help for immigrants from many countries in every state.
- The U.S. Department of Justice has a similar site with a list of organizations in each state that provide immigration-related legal advice.
- The American Immigration Lawyers Association also has a website with information on the law firms and independent attorneys that can help you.