How to Get a Green Card in the USA

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A green card is a physical document authorizing a foreign national (citizen of another country) to permanently live and work in the United States. As long as the individual adheres to certain regulations and doesn’t break any laws, he/she can remain in the United States indefinitely with permanent resident status.

But getting a green card can be a difficult process, especially for foreign nationals who may not speak English and are unfamiliar with the system. As such, it is extremely important to hire an experienced immigration lawyer if you want to obtain a green card in the USA.

Paths to Becoming a Permanent Resident

There are multiple paths to permanent residency, but most individuals are sponsored by a U.S.-based employer or family member. Under certain circumstances, refugees and individuals seeking asylum may also be eligible for a green card, as may victims of human trafficking and other forms of abuse.

There are other means of obtaining a U.S. green card, however, and these different paths to permanent residency are explained in more detail below.

  • Family sponsorship: When an immigrant to the U.S. has a parent, spouse, child, or sibling that is currently a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and has the financial means to provide support, that family member may sponsor the foreign national’s green card. 
  • Employer sponsorship: Individuals with advanced degrees and unique skills may be sponsored by employers who want to hire them. Vocations that sponsor a larger percentage of immigrants for employment include engineering, research, tech, science and medicine, and academia.
  • Asylum seekers/Refugees: Citizens of another country who are being persecuted due to their race, religion, or nationality may be able to obtain a U.S. green card as a result. Those who are currently displaced from their home country due to the threat of violence or death may also be eligible for permanent residency.
  • Adoption: A child under the age of 16 who is adopted by a current U.S. citizen or permanent resident may qualify for an adoption-based green card.
  • Investors: An individual who invests into the U.S. commercial economy in amounts of at least $500,000 may qualify for permanent residency if the investment also creates a certain number of full-time jobs.
  • Lottery: Each year, a total of 50,000 immigrants are chosen at random to receive a green card.

In certain situations, individuals may qualify for permanent resident status based on other factors. These special circumstances may apply to foreign nationals who have lived in the U.S. since at least 1972, certain diplomats who are unable to return to their home countries, and some religious workers, government employees, and graduates of medical school.

Determining eligibility and how to go about applying for permanent residency should not be handled without the help of an experienced immigration attorney by your side. The system is complex and constantly evolving, and even minor errors can result in excessive delays and outright denials.

It’s also important to note that permanent residency is not the same as citizenship. Although a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) can live and work in the U.S. for as long as they choose, they have several limitations when compared to citizens. Namely, permanent residents cannot vote or get a U.S. passport. Furthermore, they can be at risk of removal (deportation) if they remain outside of the U.S. for more than one year. In most cases, green card holders may apply for U.S. citizenship through a process called naturalization after five years of permanent resident status.

Steps to Obtaining a Green Card

Step one is to consult with a reputable immigration lawyer in your area. He/she will be able to help you determine eligibility and complete all requirements in an accurate and timely manner. The remaining steps include:

  • Filing a petition for permanent residency;
  • Waiting for availability in your category of eligibility;
  • Filing a formal application for permanent resident status;
  • Paying filing fees;
  • Waiting for further instruction, which may include an interview and biometrics test;
  • Receiving a decision;
  • Appealing the decision if your application was denied.

Although the above steps are fairly standard, exceptions and extra steps may exist. The timeline for obtaining a green card also varies widely and depends on multiple factors, including the office in which the individual is filing and the basis for filing. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an application averages between 7 and 33 months. Not the most straightforward answer to a question so closely tied to a person’s life, livelihood, and future. Fortunately, an experienced immigration lawyer can answer some of those questions and help you reduce the time it takes to become a permanent resident of the United States.

Family sponsorship is the most popular way to get a green card because it is often the easiest. If you’ve married a U.S. citizen or green card holder, or another family member with one of these statuses is willing to sponsor you, family sponsorship is usually the preferred path to permanent residency. But for all its relative ease and benefits, countless variables can complicate the process. Furthermore, the qualifying situations listed earlier are not exhaustive; exceptions can be made and special circumstances are considered on a case by case basis. This is why it is so important to work with a skilled immigration lawyer, such as the team at Noble Vrapi, if you or a family member wishes to obtain a green card in the USA.

August 6, 2020 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
Posted in: Uncategorized