To live and work in California, you must first apply for a visa through an embassy in your native country. According to the U.S. Department of State, those workers performing one-time specialty or seasonal labor could choose to apply for a temporary visa.
A temporary work visa establishes your right to live in the U.S. for a specified period of time so you can complete your job assignment. You must, however, return to your home country by the visa’s expiration date or apply for a renewal if you wish to stay longer. Your employer can also petition for your green card so that you can remain in the United States permanently.
When to apply for a permanent visa or Green Card
If you have unique skills that your employer needs on a steady basis, you may submit an application to become a permanent resident. As noted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, you may request an adjustment of your status and obtain permanent residency. Your receipt of a Green Card confirms your new residency status.
Also, in some cases, individuals with a temporary work visa have met a U.S. citizen, fallen in love and married. If you marry a U.S. citizen, you may apply for a Green Card immediately after becoming legally married. An official from the USCIS would interview you and ask questions about your relationship with your new spouse.
Your rights as an immigrant with a Green Card
When you receive your Green Card status, you can enjoy many rights that do not come with a temporary work visa. For example, you may purchase real estate, change employers and start a business.
After five years or three years (depending on how you obtained your Green Card), if you decide to become a U.S. citizen, you could begin the process of naturalization. Passing an English skills test, demonstrating an understanding of U.S. history, and showing good moral character is part of the citizenship process.