VIDEO: What are the ways that immigrants can stay in the US?

What if I just want to stay in the United States but I’m not really sure how?

Hi. I’m Jim Hacking, Immigration Attorney practicing law here in St. Louis, Missouri. People call our office or come visit us, and they often want to know, how can I stay? They don’t necessarily have a big plan. They don’t know the law. They’re not sure if there’s going to be a mechanism for them to be able to stay in the United States. Some people come to see us, and they think that just because they want to stay, that should be enough; and of course, it’s not. The laws and regulations have strict requirements on who can stay in the United States and for how long.

A lot of times, we’re not able to help these people. They don’t understand the process. We do just some education. We teach them the three basic ways that people can stay in the United States on a long-term basis, and we help them think about how they can put their case or their situation into one of those three funnels.

The first funnel is a marriage-based or family-based Visa application. Unless you have a US citizen sponsor that is an individual, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to get a Visa to stay in the United States for very long. You might be able to get a Travel Visa. Now, Travel Visas can be tricky because a lot of times, the Immigration Service or the State Department think that you’re going to come to the United States on your Visa, and then try to get some kind of other status.

As we explained on other videos, unless you can show that you have every intention to return home, and you have a lot of ties to your home country, you’re not going to get that Visitor Visa, but if you do, it’s unlikely that once you have a sponsoring entity, an individual relative, that is willing to sponsor you for Visa that you’re going to be able to stay.

Now, if you marry a US citizen, then you would have an immediate Visa available and you would be able to stay from that point forward. That might be tricky too if you’re the parent of a US citizen, but other than that, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to come to the United States and find a family-based Visa that allows you to stay the whole time while that application is pending.

Just filing a Green Card application for a brother or sister does not give that brother or sister status in the United States, and because of the long wait. Now, well over ten years, you’re going to have to find another way to stay in status during that whole time or you’re going to have to leave the country because if you don’t leave the country, and you’re accruing unlawful status, then that is going to be a problem for you later when you try to get your Green Card. Just because you have a family member in the United States doesn’t mean that you’re going to be able to get a Green Card and stay here on that basis.

The second main way that people are able to come to the United States and stay is if they have an employer sponsoring them. Typically, the employer will sponsor someone for an Employment Visa, either an O-1 Visa or an H-1B Visa; and then, later on, try to obtain a Green Card for the employee.

Now, that process is also very difficult, very time-consuming, and there is a long delay on those kinds of cases but conceptually, if you don’t have an employer who is willing to pay all the money to sponsor you for an Employment Visa and for you to get a Green Card later on, it’s going to be very difficult for you to stay in the United States. Employers are willing to do that sometimes. It’s an arduous, long, and expensive process, so a lot of times, they are not willing to do that, but without either a US citizen sponsor or a US corporation that is willing to sponsor you, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to stay in the United States for a long time.

I am using that lingo, staying in the United States for a long time, because that is the lingo that people use when they come to see us. They don’t necessarily know what the status is that they want. They just have that general sense that they like America and they’d like to stay. People in those situations need to think about having that US citizen sponsor or that US corporation sponsor.

Finally, the last way, the general way that are able to stay in the United States is if they apply for asylum. Our website has tons of videos explaining asylum so I am not going to go through it at all on this video. Just to explain that. If you feel you’re going to face prosecution if you return to your home country, there might be a way for you to obtain asylum in the United States, and for you not to have to go back.

Generally, it’s those three ways. A US citizen relative who sponsors you, a US corporation who sponsors you, or an asylum application based on a credible fear of prosecution if you return home. That’s it. There’s really not a magic wand that an immigration attorney has. We don’t really get involved in trying to connect people to US citizen sponsors or to companies that will sponsor you for a Green Card. In a lot of ways, our job is to educate people; and frankly, to break the bad news to them that they’re probably going back home. A lot of people come to us and some are desperate that they really, really, really want to stay in the United States; and unfortunately, our answer is still the same.

If you have questions about this, if you’re wondering what your options are, I hope this video explain a lot of that to you. We might not necessarily be able to help you but if you think we can, definitely pick up the phone and give us a call, 314-961-8200 or you can e-mail us at We hope to hear from you soon. Thanks a lot.