You need to move to the U.S., but the process can be hard. Even worse, you may have to stay on the outside looking in while you wait for the U.S. government to wade through the millions of applications.

The U.S. government had nearly 3.8 million people on the visa waiting list last year. And that means it takes a long time to get through those names. Some applicants are put on hold for more than 13 years before the next step. That’s a long time to wait, and the U.S. may not allow you to stick around while your petition is in the queue.

Patient process

Even if you’ve submitted paperwork, you don’t automatically gain the right to stay while you wait. The only way you can remain is if you already have a visa or an immigration status that allows it. Illegally remaining in the country can jeopardize your bid.

Taking up residence

Things may seem dire, but there are some situations where the government will let you reside while you wait for your turn to be heard:

  • Family: The state could grant you the right to stay in the country if you’re the immediate relative of a permanent resident. This usually means you’re a spouse, parent or child of someone who qualifies.
  • Sanctuary: If the U.S. has granted you asylum or refugee status, you may not have to return to the country you left. Instead, you might have the option to remain while the government handles your forms.
  • Working: You can probably remain domestic if you conduct your permanent visa process through a sponsoring employer. The U.S. may require that there are more visa spots open than applicants in the category you’re applying under.

The course for getting a green card for the U.S. can be lengthy and difficult, and even more so when you’ve got to do it from a consulate thousands of miles away. Make sure you know your status during your appeal, so you’re not doing anything to risk your application.