Thinking about coming to The United States of America from another land? Thinking about immigration? If so, you will need a lot of patience and a very strong mental attitude, not to mention a cast iron stomach. Changes in immigration laws over the past few decades have made the process difficult and complicated. If you try to become a United States citizen you will likely drown in the paperwork of a gigantic bureaucracy.
First hand knowledge of the system comes from being married to a woman who was born in Costa Rica. She came to America hoping to advance her career as a fashion designer. After five years of schooling in Costa Rica she reached the limits of what she could achieve there. Simply put, there isn't a very big fashion industry in Costa Rica. So, the woman who would become my wife summoned all her courage and got on a plane for America. She had an aunt and a cousin living in Florida but really didn't want to become their dependent. She wanted to make her own way. Granted a visa, she took a job working as a nanny for a fairly wealthy family. You know, the kind where the parents are so busy with their careers that they have no time to raise their children but insist on having more because they can afford them financially.
You'll need a lawyer well versed in immigration law if you plan on trying to relocate yourself to the United States. Unless you are able to study, understand and negotiate all the laws and don't need the advice of a professional, you'll need to find one right away. Then you will be confronted with very limited options. There is an immigration lottery where your name can be drawn to "win" residency. You can try to prove you have skills required by business or industry that cannot be provided by an American citizen. Otherwise your options will be having immediate family in the country or getting married to an American citizen.
Marriage is not a ticket to a free Green Card. It is very far from being that, despite what stories are told. You must first apply for work permission and a social security number. Until this happens you are not allowed to work. Ever wonder why so many people come to the United States and then turn to crime to support themselves? You apply for work permission and then have to wait three months or longer before a decision is made to grant work permission. During this time period you are not allowed to have a job and you must remain in the country. You will likely be approved if you are married or are living with immediate family who are citizens, but if you are not, it is more likely that you will be turned down.
The next step is applying for residency. If you are married, a decision is supposed to be given within a year of receiving your work permission. My wife has now been waiting close to eighteen months. There is no one you can call for information. You must simply wait. Residency is not the fabled Green Card. The only difference between having residency and work permission is that once you have residency you are allowed to leave the country. Have family and friends you miss back home? Tough luck. You cannot leave the USA until you receive residency, and even then you will be restricted as far as where you can go and how long you can stay. Once you have residency you will receive a number that is more or less the same as taking a number at the butcher shop. The line is very long and you will wait anywhere from six months to years and years before you can interview for a Green Card.
The interview is what you will need the strong mind and stomach for. You will be asked deeply personal questions and every element of your life will be examined. This is done in an attempt to prove that your marriage is a sham. From what I've been told by those who have gone through it, you will not pass if you have a cardboard marriage that you entered into for the express purpose of becoming a citizen. They leave no rock unturned. In addition, you will be tested on United States history and government as well as having your background completely combed through. Contributed money to the communist party in your home country in high school because they were raising money to feed starving orphans? You'll be denied citizenship. Trust me.
There are those out there who believe that by marrying an American citizen they will get a free pass to a magical land. It doesn't much work like that. My wife struggles daily with being denied freedom of movement, freedom of association and freedom of speech. As American citizens, we are able to go to a rally or speak out against things our government is doing. She is not. A person attempting to become a United States citizen must agree with everything the government is doing or at least keep their mouth shut and pretend. You can be denied citizenship for acting like an American citizen.
Ever wonder why so many people outside the United States think The Land of Opportunity is a silly place?