The lawful permanent resident status, or “green card," gives foreign nationals the authority to build a new life in the United States. This immigrant status not only allows you to live in the country but also to get a job or pursue an education. However, acquiring a lawful permanent resident (LPR) status can be challenging. It often involves various procedures that may vary depending on your circumstances.
As you navigate your immigration journey, you will find yourself processing documents with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The USCIS is the government agency that handles immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. It operates under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the central government body that secures the country from threats through border security and emergency response.
Benefits of a Green Card Holder in the U.S.
Green card holders are non-U.S. citizens legally authorized to live permanently in the United States. With this immigration status, LPRs are eligible to do the following:
- Pursue a career or offer employment
- Pursue educational opportunities
- Own a real property
- Receive financial aid at universities and public colleges
- Join the U.S. Military
- Apply for U.S. Citizenship upon meeting certain requirements
The U.S. immigration laws offer various ways for foreign nationals to obtain permanent resident status. One way to admission is family-based immigration, which aims to reunify families in the United States. Other significant categories are immigrants admitted for employment, humanitarian purposes, and countries with low immigration numbers to the United States. The eligibility for green card applications may vary on each visa category.
Green Cards for Family Members
The United States values family reunification. With this in mind, the U.S. government provides avenues for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to petition their family members. Here, family relationships play a crucial role as family-based immigration is prioritized over other types of green card applications.
For instance, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens such as spouses, children, and parents may be petitioned for a green card. Permanent residents may also petition their spouses and unmarried children of any age.
Family-based immigration involves a series of steps and requirements. You can learn more about family preference and immediate relative petitions in this article by FindLaw.
Green Cards for Employment-Based Immigration
Employment with a U.S. employer could also grant you a green card. Employment-based immigration allows certain professionals to work in the United States, bringing their expertise and skills. The employment-based immigration has specific preference categories, which include the following:
- Foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in arts, athletics, business, education, or sciences
- Outstanding researchers and professors
- Certain multinational executives and managers
- Foreign nationals who hold advanced degrees
- Those with exceptional ability
- Skilled workers
- Other workers
It is important to remember that having a job offer does not automatically guarantee a U.S. visa. Specific employment categories may look for various requirements, each with unique criteria. You can learn about employment-based green cards here or on the USCIS website.
Green Cards for Special Immigrants
The U.S. immigration laws also issue green cards to special immigrants. Special immigrants are foreign nationals who are a member of specified groups. You may obtain an employment-based green card as a special immigrant if you are one of the following:
- Religious worker
- International broadcaster
- Afghanistan or Iraq national
- Special Immigrant Juvenile
- An employee of an international organization or NATO employee and their family members
Green Cards for Refugees or Asylees
If you are a foreign national with asylee status, you may apply for a green card through adjustment of status. This process can be done after meeting specific eligibility requirements and lapse of a certain period. The U.S. government requires the asylee to at least be in the country for one year before adjustment of status.
On top of that, other requirements need to be met for an asylee to become a legal permanent resident. These requirements include continuously meeting the definition of a refugee and continuous physical presence in the United States.
Consult the linked article to learn how to get a green card as a refugee or asylee.
Green Cards Through Visa Lottery
The U.S. Department of State administers the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program) every year. This program provides up to 50,000 immigrant visas every fiscal year to foreign nationals from countries with low levels of immigration to the United States. The 50,000 immigrant visas are drawn randomly from all applications, hence the term "visa lottery."
Most foreign nationals selected in the visa lottery reside outside the United States. They process their visa applications through U.S. embassies or consular processing. To learn more about the DV program, visit the U.S. Department of State website or read this Diversity Lottery article by FindLaw.
Green Cards for Victims of Abuse, Crime, and Human Trafficking
The U.S. government also provides special consideration to victims of abuse, crime, and human trafficking. Foreign nationals who were victims of these acts can become lawful permanent residents after meeting specific requirements.
For more information about this immigrant category, you may visit this USCIS website.
Seek Legal Advice From an Immigration Attorney
The rules for obtaining a green card can be overwhelming and daunting. U.S. immigration laws often change, and intricate steps may apply to one case but not another. To ensure that you are going through the right path, it is recommended that you seek legal advice from an immigration attorney. With their experience in handling various aspects of immigration laws, they can give legal advice tailored to your case.
Whether you have questions about sponsorship migration, looking at naturalization for U.S. citizenship, or have concerns with deportation or removal, an immigration attorney can assist you. FindLaw offers a directory of immigration lawyers near you.
Learn About Green Cards
- Who May Obtain a Green Card? - A U.S. permanent resident card, or “green card," identifies the cardholder as a permanent resident of the U.S. Learn about the categories of those eligible for a green card and how to obtain one.
- How To Keep Your Green Card - Once you've obtained a green card, you have to observe a number of rules to keep your immigrant status. This article provides information about activities you should avoid, like leaving the country for long periods.
- Petition for a Family or Employment Green Card - An employer or family member can petition the government to obtain a green card on your behalf. Learn about the family and employment green card process, including the visa petition, priority, and more.
- The Green Card Process: Do's and Don'ts - A collection of tips to help make the green card application process go as smoothly as possible. Learn about what you should do and what you should avoid when obtaining a green card.
- Can I Travel Without a Green Card? - Find answers to your questions about how a green card will affect your ability to travel. Learn whether permanent residents and those awaiting a change in their immigration status may travel freely.
- Green Card Marriage Interview FAQ - Commonly asked questions about green card marriage interviews. Find answers to your questions about the type of things covered in the interview, how to prepare for it, and the time frame for the green card process.
- How to Use the U.S. Visa Bulletin - Commonly asked questions about green card marriage interviews. Find answers to your questions about the type of things covered in the interview, how to prepare for it, and the time frame for the green card process.
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