U.S. Immigration Overview

Russian Immigation

The process is the same, whether your relative is Russian, Ukrainian, or Belarusian. The only difference is the location of the immigration interview All Russian citizens need a visa to enter the United States. There are two types of visas: non-immigrant visas and immigrant visas. A non-immigrant visa is a document that allows a person to travel to the U.S. temporarily.

An immigrant visa, on the other hand, is a visa that allows a person to apply for permanent residence. Please note: an immigrant visa is not the same thing as permanent residence; an immigrant visa just allows the Russian citizen to apply for permanent residence.

All Russian citizens who want to permanently live and work in the United States need to be U.S.  Permanent Residents. The “green card” is the document that proves that someone has Permanent Resident status. If your relative is currently in Russia, you must go through a two-step (or three-step) process.

Step 1: Immigration petition
The first step in any immigration process is for the U.S. citizen or resident to file a petition on behalf of the Russian citizen. In other words, the US citizen asks the U.S. Government for permission for a loved one to come live in the United States. When the petition is approved, the approval is sent to the U.S. embassy in Moscow for further processing.  http://www.uscis.gov/i-130

Step 2: Consular Processing
The U.S. embassy will then schedule the Russian citizen an interview date. On that date, the Russian citizen must go to the U.S. embassy in Moscow and be interviewed by a consular official (Ukrainian have their interviews in Kyiv and Belarusians have their interviews in Minsk.) If the process is approved, then the Russian citizen is allowed to travel to the United States. Upon arrival, the Russian citizen is considered a U.S. Permanent resident and in a few weeks a green card will arrive for that person in the mail.  http://moscow.usembassy.gov/ivisas.html

Step 3: For Fiancées
If the Russian citizen was approved for a fiancée visa, the Russian citizen will not be considered a Permanent Resident upon arrival in the U.S. Instead, the Russian citizen will have temporary permission to remain in the United States for 90 days. During this time the U.S. citizen and Russian citizen must marry. After the wedding, the Russian citizen must apply for permanent residence. After that process is complete, the Russian citizen receives his/her green card in the mail. http://www.uscis.gov/i-129f

If your relative is already in the US.

If your Russian loved one is already in the United States, you can probably take care of this process in just one procedure, which is known as the one-step application. Steps 1 and 2 combined The U.S. citizen files a petition for the Russian citizen and, at the same time, the Russian citizen files an application for permanent residence. After an interview at an immigration office in the U.S., the Russian citizen is then granted U.S. permanent residence.

Citizenship: 
After five years of Permanent Residency, a Russian citizen is eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. However, if the Russian citizen acquired their residency through marriage to a U.S. citizen, then the Russian citizen will be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship in three years. http://www.uscis.gov/n-400