If you are an immigrant in the U.S., a green card is the key to stability and security, and a path to becoming a U.S. citizen. Depending on your circumstances and the way you entered the country, there are a number of ways to obtain a green card, formally known as the Permanent Residence Card. Before you begin the process of obtaining a green card, it is recommended that you speak with an attorney to analyze all of your options to pick the optimal one.
Green Card through Family
One of the most common ways to obtain visa is through a family member. If you are an immediate relative to a U.S. citizen or a green card holder, they may be able to petition for your green card. In order to qualify under this category, your immediate relatives include:
- Unmarried children under 21; and
- Parents of U.S. citizens over 21.
U.S. citizens may also be able to petition for siblings and married children over 21; however, because those individuals are not considered immediate relatives, the process will usually take much longer.
In addition, there are preferences categories for relatives of U.S. citizens and green card holders, which usually indicate how long the process will take, depending on whether the applicant is higher in the preference category or lower.
This group includes U.S. citizens’ unmarried, adult sons and daughters over the age of 21. This group is the easiest to prove relationship between the parties and usually allows for a quicker process to complete all the steps.
Second Preference 2A
This group includes spouses of green card holders and unmarried children under 21 years of age.This process also allows for usually a quick turnaround, provided that all documents are completed and sent correctly.
Second Preference 2B
This group includes unmarried sons and daughters over the age of 21 of permanent residents, rather than U.S. citizens.
Third group includes U.S. citizens’ married sons and daughters of any age.
Last group includes brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens and while it is one way to obtain a green card, it usually takes a significant amount of time.
Green Card through Employer
Another option that allows immigrants to obtain green card is through an employer. Under this category, there are three most common ways to get a green card, and each requires the applicant to show different things.
If you received a permanent job offer by a U.S. based employer, the employer may be able to petition for a green card for you. However, this can be a lengthy process, which begins with the employer receiving a certificate from the U.S. Department of State.
If you have invested a certain amount of money into a U.S. business, you may be eligible to apply for a green card. At least $1,000,000 is required as an investment into a new business or $500,000 into a business in one of the targeted employment areas.
Last category is through extraordinary abilities visa, or EB-1A. This is for applicants who are best in their designated field, and may include Noble Prize winners, Olympic athletics, or winners of other worldwide known prizes.
Green Card for a Refugee or Asylee
Those coming into the U.S. as refugees or asylees may also apply for a green card. Refugees must submit their application after being in the country for a year and should be familiar with all the requirements for filing. Seeking help of an attorney is advised to avoid mistakes, which can result in a denial of the application.