Diaspora Diary: American Wonder II

5 min readNov 7, 2023


How To Legally Immigrate To America.

I received inquiries from a number of readers urging me to do this second part of American Wonder. This is my free-will contribution to Japa enthusiasts who are determined to make progress with the single shot we get at life. So read it and feel free to reach out.

A popular fallacy is that it’s very difficult to move to America. The fact is that the US has been the main country of destination for international migrants since 1970. Foreign-born people residing in the US increased to about 51M in 2019 from less than 12M in 1970.

Anyone can claim to be an expert on immigration or a visa agent, yet many are smooth-talking hustlers with little or no genuine interest in helping while some are complete scammers. The truth is that if you are determined to relocate, all you need is to patiently follow the process. It may take time but you will prevail. I’m writing this article to help.

There is no shortage of options to choose from when you want to move to the US. But you need to choose one that is applicable to your individual circumstances.

Two factors are critical before you embark on migration to the more developed countries, especially in the Western world. It is a project which requires resources and you have to be eligible.

Eligibility means you must meet certain requirements to qualify for a visa. Still, it all depends on the visa type you choose among the various ways you can relocate.

If you have these two covered then you are good to go.

The major ways one can legally reside in the US can be broadly categorised into six groups. Student, Work, DV-lottery, Family, 1nvestor and Asylum.

For the purpose of this article, I will focus on the first two.

STUDENT VISA: The US govt offers three student visa types. The F, J, and M visas are determined by your course of study and the type of institution you wish to attend with F (academic students) being the most popular type. The J type is for exchange and visitor programs while the M is for non-academic and vocational

The student visa process is usually simple but not necessarily easy.

Here are the steps to take:

1. Admission: You must first apply and be accepted by a U.S. institution of higher education that is certified by the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP) for a course.

2. SEVIS Fee: You will then be registered for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.
$220 for the J visa and $350 for the F & M visa types.

3. Application: This step is your non-immigrant visa application.
For the F & M visa applicants, the SEVP-approved school issues a Form I-20 to you. In the case of an exchange visitor, your US sponsor issues a DS-2019 form (J visa). In all cases, you will need to upload a specified photo of yourself and the required documents.

4. Interview: After the three steps listed above, you can now apply to the US Consulate for an interview.

WORK VISA: To reside and work in America permanently you need a green card. Employers can sponsor a foreigner with specialized skills if they can’t find a qualified candidate in the U.S. This may sound discouraging as it’s impossible to imagine that an employer can’t find a qualified person in a country of over 300 million people. However, this shouldn’t worry you. The US government issues more than a million green cards each year. With foreign workers ranking behind family members, it can only mean that employers are almost always able to obtain the required permission to sponsor foreign workers.

America has five employment-based immigrant visa preferences broadly categorised into EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, EB-4 and EB-5 with the EB-3 (professionals, skilled and other workers) category being the most popular path for immigrants.

You can also obtain a visa to work on a temporary basis in which case you are expected to return to your home after the duration of your work. Or you can enter the United States with a legal nonimmigrant visa that doesn’t authorise you to work. In both cases, if your circumstances change, you may apply for a change of status to a classification with employment authorization or an adjustment of status to become a lawful permanent resident. The rules here are often more stringent and the process is usually longer.

The procedure for a work visa can be more complex but the steps are generally similar to those of a student visa.

  1. Job offer: You must first apply and be accepted in a job position within the US.
  2. USCIS: Your sponsor (employer) must file and get an approved Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker with USCIS. This is actually the most important document for you to get your work visa and should be filed after they have obtained a labour certification of approval. (This part isn’t your headache really, it is the responsibility of your sponsor but it is good to know these things to avoid being scammed)
  3. Application: Complete the relevant visa application forms. Depending on the type of work visa you require, you should expect to pay the requisite fees ranging from $185 to $315.
  4. Interview: Schedule your interview with the US Consulate.

In both cases, the interview is the most critical part of the process. Your comportment and confidence can convince the visa officer. So do some homework and be ready to provide honest answers to the questions. It’s also advisable to check the appointment wait times for your country to help with your plans. You can do that here.

I must say here that part of my reason for putting this out is because I’ve seen less-informed folks get milked by people pretending to be immigration/visa experts. Last year, my kinsman narrated how his son lost N3,500,000 to a guy in Abuja who promised him a Swedish visa. The poor boy went to the interview with a letter from an unincorporated company as his sponsor. I mean how heartless can people be?

Now hear this: Always consider it a huge red flag when someone says they can guarantee you a visa. There is never a guarantee that you will get a visa as this is almost always entirely up to the discretion of the consular office of the country to which you are applying. However, if you correctly follow the process when you are eligible the possibility of success is higher. If you don’t succeed, review your application with the help of a sincere consultant, give it some time and try again. You will ultimately succeed!

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NOTE: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You can consult me for further details on personalized guidance according to individual circumstances.