America is still the promised land for many people throughout the world. There are rules and procedures that must be followed to enter the country, let alone stay or become a permanent resident of the U.S. If your relatives, spouse, or friends want to come to the U.S. to visit, work, or live, they need to enter the United States legally, and that usually means getting a visa.

Visa applications

According to, foreigners may gain entry through our embassies and foreign consulates if they request and are approved for a visa. Visas fall into two categories: immigrant, for those who wish to live in the U.S. permanently, and nonimmigrant, for those who do not. According to, the most common forms of these types of visas include:

  • Business/professional visas
  • Student visas
  • Fiancé/ fiancée visas
  • Visitor visas
  • Immigrant visas for permanent residency
  • Transit visas, for travel through the U.S. to get to another country

Under NAFTA, citizens of Mexico and Canada “are eligible for a nonimmigrant North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Professional visa to work in the U.S. The NAFTA Professional visa classification is TN and grants the holder temporary entry into the U.S. to work in business activities at a professional level for an initial period of up to three years.”

The entry process

Foreigners who enter the US must show that they have an approved visa before they will be granted entry.

Americans who travel abroad and re-enter the US from Canada, Mexico, or the Bahamas must show that they have a valid passport or US passport card, an enhanced driver’s license, or a Trusted Traveler Program card. Residents who are not citizens of the US but are lawful permanent residents must show their Permanent Resident Card, commonly called a Green Card.

Travelers entering the US from locations other than Canada, Mexico, or the Bahamas need to have a passport. Permanent residents and foreign nationals may also need a U.S. visa which should be applied for before trying to enter the US.

Anyone who enters America may be examined by Customs and Border Protection officers.

Obtaining an immigration visas – a request for permanent residency

If you’re already in the US, you can apply directly for a Permanent Resident card by filing for an “adjustment of status” through the I-485 form. This way, you don’t need to go back to your home country and apply from there.

If you’re not in the US, then you need to apply for an immigrant visa through the US Department of State embassy or a consulate.

In both cases:

  • You normally need a “sponsor” or someone to file the immigration on your behalf
  • After approval, if there is a visa available (which depends on the type of visa you’re seeking), you can then apply for a Green card or an immigration visa
  • Applicants need to be interviewed
  • Applicants need to have a medical examination

The government will then decide if they will approve the visa application. If approved, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) immigrant fee must be paid. Approved applicants receive a sealed package of documents they give the US official at the port of entry. If the foreigner passes inspection, they’ll be admitted as a permanent resident and will then get their Green card in the mail.

Applicants may also be eligible for an immigrant visa through the Diversity Visa Lottery Program which is targeted to countries with low US immigration rates.

Entry bases on refugee and asylum status

“Refugees are people who fled their homes for a variety of reasons, including persecution (or the fear of persecution) and war, to find protection elsewhere.” The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or other agencies may be able to help you (or someone you know) gain entry through the US Refugee Admissions Program.

Asylum is a type of refugee protection where a foreign national can also become a permanent resident, and bring his or her family to America. There have been changes to the immigration policy of the US by the current administration which a skilled Knoxville immigration lawyer can explain.

At LaFevor & Slaughter, our Knoxville immigration lawyers have been helping families and foreigners legally gain entry into America for years. We understand the visa requirements and other entry requirements and we then help show that the applicant meets those requirements. To speak with an experienced immigration attorney, call us at 865-637-6258 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We represent clients who live in Knoxville and the surrounding locations – and the people they wish to help come to the United States.