Ways to get a Green Card in the U.S.

green-cardWays to get a Green Card in the U.S.

The question we get asked most often from foreign nationals is “how do I get a green card?” Permanent Resident Card also frequently referred to as “green card” is essentially the process of becoming a permanent resident of the United States. The green card ultimately grants its holder (lawful permanent resident) authorization to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis.

There are, in fact, different ways to get a permanent resident card (Green Card}. These ways considerably vary depending on diverse categories and whether one lives in the U.S. or outside of the U.S., are as follows in no particular order.

o Green Card through family-based relationship
o Green Card through employment-based relationship
o Green Card through Asylum or Refugee Status
o Diversity Visa Lottery
o Green Card through investment
o Special Immigrants (Other ways to get a green card)

Green Card through family-based relationship
To promote family unity U.S. Immigration laws rightfully confer legal permanent resident eligibility to certain family-based groups. U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents can file a petition and sponsor for their close family members. If you are the spouse, child, parents, siblings or are engaged to marry to a U.S. citizen you can become a lawful permanent resident. However, there are significant differences and various factors that go into the consideration, such as while as a spouse, parents and children (under 21 and unmarried) are considered immediate family members and their petitions are approved faster, the waiting period for other relatives could be considerably longer due to limited number of immigrant visa availability. If you are a lawful permanent resident, you can file a petition for your spouse and children.

Green Card through employment-based relationship
You may also be able to obtain a green card based on an offer of permanent employment in the United States. In most cases the employer must get a labor certification and file a petition on your behalf. It is a lengthy process with multiple steps that requires following and complying with stringent Department of Labor regulations. Conversely, there are situations where labor certification is not required and you can self- petition without needing a job offer. (a) If the person has extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, job offer in the U.S. can be waived; (b) If you are an outstanding researcher or a professor, or (c) a multinational executive or manager, labor certification is not required. However, in these two categories the petitioning employer must be a U.S. employer. (d) Labor Certification is also not required if you can be qualified under National Interest Waiver. With the National Interest Waiver, essentially, you will be requesting that the Labor Certification be waived because it is in the interest of the United States.

In addition, there are other employment based options available for people of different professions and skills, including domestic workers, cooks etc.

Green Card through Asylum or Refugee Status
These protections are granted to foreign nationals who are already in the United States, or at the border who meet the international definition of a “refugee” and who are unable or unwilling to return to their countries because of persecution or well-founded fear of being persecuted. You have to demonstrate to the United States government that you fear persecution in your country based on your race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion. There is no set definition of the five grounds listed above, and proving that you fall under one of these protected grounds and preparing the application is extremely complicated. In addition, some people are not eligible even they fall under one of these categories. It is, therefore, very important to get legal help from an experienced attorney. If you are granted the asylum or refugee status, you will be eligible to apply for green card (lawful permanent resident status) 1 year after receiving your grant of asylum.

Diversity Visa Lottery
U.S. immigration laws provide a class of immigrant visa known as “diversity visa”. A limited number of immigrant visas are available each fiscal year to the foreign nationals who are drawn randomly from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. There is no fee to enter the diversity visa lottery and application is easily filed electronically. Winners of the diversity visa lottery are also eligible to include their spouse and all children under 21 years of age in the same application.

Green Card through investment
You can get a green card through investment with EB-5 visa program. As regulated by the EB-5 immigrant investment program, if you invest at least one million dollars in the United States (or US$ 500,000 within a high employment or rural area in the U.S. that has been certified by the state government as a “Targeted Employment Area”) and employ at least ten U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, you are eligible to apply for a green card.

Special Immigrant
Special Immigrant Program, under the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), makes green cards available to people in special situations (e.g., workers for recognized religious organizations, certain foreign workers who were employed by the U.S. government and have the recommendation of the principal office in charge of the U.S. government foreign office in which they were employed, retired officers of certain international organizations, Afghanistan or Iraq nationals who supported the U.S. Armed Forces as translators). This category was created by Congress for various immigrant visas that don’t seem to fit in other categories.

I have intended to give a basic overview of the ways to get a green card with this article, and the information is presented does not constitute legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, and is subject to change without notice. U.S. immigration laws are extremely vast and complex and full of exceptions, nuances and intricacies. Consequently, mistakes made can have a disastrous effect on the applicant. In order to achieve immigration goal you are seeking to obtain, hire an experienced immigration lawyer, when your American dream, right to gain entry into or remain in this country is at stake, you simply cannot afford to make mistakes.

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Gokhan Yazici

Gokhan Yazici is an experienced attorney and counsellor practicing in the state of New York. He is specialized in U.S. Immigration Law, Corporate & Business Law, Business Transactions, Commercial Litigation, International Trade & U.S. Customs Law. Mr. Yazici holds an LL.B. degree from Istanbul University Law School and an LL.M. degree from Temple University James Beasley School of Law.