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People immigrating to the United States are divided into two general categories:

(1) those who can obtain legal permanent resident status without numerical limits, and

(2) those who are restricted by annual limits on the number of people who can enter as permanent residents.

The latter category is divided into:

(A) family-sponsored immigrants,

(B) employment-based immigrants, and

(C) diversity immigrants.

  1. Immigrants Without Numerical Limits

    A. Immediate Relatives of United States Citizens: The spouse of a U.S. citizen; the unmarried child under age 21 of a U.S. citizen; and a parent of a U.S. citizen who is over the age of 21.

    B. Immigrants who lived in the U.S. previously as lawful permanent residents, and are returning to live in the U.S. after a temporary visit of more than one year abroad, and who have not abandoned their U.S. residence.
  2. Immigrants With Numerical Limits

    Immigration into the U.S. beginning in 1995, has been limited to 675,000 people per year, not including people in Category 1 above. The figure is divided into following three sub-categories:A. FAMILY SPONSORED IMMIGRANTS

    1. Immediate relatives of an adult U.S. citizen including spouse, minor unmarried children and parent.
    2. First Preference: Unmarried adult children (over the age of 21) of U.S. citizens.
    3. Second Preference: Spouses, minor children and unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents.
    4. Third Preference: Married adult children of U.S. citizens.
    5. Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens.


    A total of 140,000 immigrant visas yearly are available for this category which is comprised of five preference groups.

    1. First Preference: Priority workers including aliens with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and certain multinational executives and managers.
    2. Second Preference: Professionals holding advance degrees, and people of exceptional ability in the sciences, arts and business.
    3. Third Preference: Professionals, skilled and unskilled workers.
    4. Fourth Preference: Special immigrants.
    5. Fifth Preference: Investors.


    Each year 55,000 immigrant visas are available for the nationals of countries which have been underrepresented in U.S. immigration for the previous five years. A mathematical formula is used to determine which areas will receive what quantity of visas. No country receives more than 7% of the 55,000 visas each year in the visa lottery. There are minimum education and training requirements for diversity immigrants.


A. Foreign Government Officials

  1.   A-1: Ambassador, public minister, career diplomat or consular officer, or immediate family.
  2.   A-2: Other foreign government official or employee, or immediate family.
  3.   A-3: Attendant, servant, or personal employee of A-1 or A-2, or immediate family.

B. Visitor

  1.   B-1: Temporary visitor for business.
  2.   B-2: Temporary visitor for pleasure.
  3.   B-1/B-2: Temporary visitor for business and pleasure.

C. Aliens in Transit

  1.   C-1: Alien in Transit.
  2.   C-2: Alien in Transit to United Nations Headquarters District.
  3.   C-3: Foreign government official, immediate family, attendant, servant or personal employee in transit.

D. Crewmember (Sea or Air)

E. Treaty Trader/Treaty Investor

  1.   E-1: Treaty Trader, spouse or child: An alien coming to the U.S. solely to carry on substantial trade, including trade in services or technology, principally between the U.S. and the foreign state of which the alien is a national.
  2.   E-2: Treaty Investor, spouse or child: An alien coming to the U.S. solely to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which the alien is actively in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital.

F. Student

  1.   F-1: Academic Student.
  2.   F-2: Spouse or child of F-1.

G. International Organization Alien

  1.   G-1: Principal Resident Representative of recognized foreign government to international organization, staff or immediate family.
  2.   G-2: Other representative of recognized foreign member government to international organization, or immediate family.
  3.   G-3: Representative of non-organized nonmember foreign government to international organization, or immediate family.
  4.   G-4: International organization officer or employee, or immediate family.
  5.   G-5: Attendant, servant, or personal employee of G-1 through G-4, or immediate family.

H. Temporary Workers

  1.   H-1A: Registered Nurse
  2.   H-1B: Alien in Specialty or Professional Occupation.
  3.   H-2A: Temporary worker performing agricultural services unavailable in the U.S.
  4.   H-2B: Temporary worker performing other services unavailable in the U.S.
  5.   H-3 Trainee: An alien who is coming temporarily to the U.S. as a trainee.
  6.   H-4: Spouse or child of alien classified H-1A, H-1B, H-2A, H-2B or H-3.

I. Information Media Representative, Spouse or Child

J. Exchange Visitor

  1.   J-1: Exchange Visitor
  2.   J-2: Spouse or child of J-1

K. Fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen

  1.   K-1: Fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen.
  2.   K-2: Child of fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen.

L. Multinational Company Transferee

  1. L-1: Intra-company Transferee (Executive, managerial and specialized knowledge personnel continuing employment with international firm or corporation).
  2.   L-2: Spouse or child of L-1.

M. Vocational Student

  1.   M-1: Vocational or other non-academic student.
  2.   M-2: Spouse or child of of M-1.

N. Parent of a Certain Special Immigrants

  1.   N-8: Parent of an alien classified SK-3 (certain unmarried sons or daughters of international organization employees).
  2.   N-9: Child of an N-8 or of an SK-1 (certain retired international organization employees)
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