Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs), famously known as “green card holders,” are non-immigrants authorized to live permanently in the U.S.
In 1820, 8,385 people received green cards. In 2019, the number was over one million.
A green card allows the holder to live and work anywhere in the U.S. The green card takes you a step closer to becoming a U.S. citizen if you meet the eligibility criteria.
Broadly, a foreigner can become a green card holder to live with their immediate family. Economic and humanitarian reasons are other grounds on which you can be granted a green card.
Are You Eligible for a Green Card?
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants Lawful Permanent Resident cards (I-551) in six broad categories. They are:
1. Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens
2. Family-sponsored preferences
3. Employment-based preferences
4. Refugees and Asylees
Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens
You are eligible for a green card if you are a spouse, child, or parent(s) of a U.S. citizen above 21 years old. More than 40% of new green cards every year are granted in this category.
Suppose you wish to become a green card holder because you have a relative who is a permanent resident or a citizen. In that case, you must go through a multi-step process to get a green card.
Those who are married and fulfill the visa requirements can start the green card process online. If your spouse lives outside the United States, he or she may be able to complete the green card process without having to travel to the U.S.
You Can Petition for Your Relative’s Green Card
If you want to help your relatives obtain a green card, you must first file a petition for him or her to stay legally and permanently in the United States.
Green card holders wishing to bring a spouse or child to the United States must first file a foreign relative petition, known as the I-130 form. The applicant spouse, citizen, or LPR must submit the “Petition for a Foreign Relative” I-130 form to the USCIS within 30 days of marriage.
The filing or approval of the petition does not mean that your relative can immediately relocate to the U.S. The form only reviews the eligibility of your relative to apply for the green card. In essence, this is the first step for your immediate relative to apply for a green card.
Family members excluded from the immediate relative category may be eligible for immigration under family-sponsored preferences. Classes are organized by priority.
U.S. law allows certain family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to get a green card. This category includes family members who are not immediate relatives. The preferred immigrants under this category are:
- Unmarried sons and daughters above 21 years of age
- Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
- Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens (the citizen should be above 21 years of age)
Under employment-based preferences, you can get the coveted green card if you are excellent at what you do—of course, in the fields that the U.S. prefers. The category is divided into three preferences.
- You are the first preference if you are:
- A proven extraordinaire in arts, athletics, business, education, or sciences. You can apply for your green card directly. Fill out Form 1-40.
- An outstanding researcher or professor. Your employer must petition USCIS on Form I–140. The employer should also prove its ability to pay the researcher or professor the promised pay continuously.
- An indispensable multinational’s manager or executive. The employer has to follow the above-described process.
- You are preferred if you are a member of certain professions and hold an advanced degree in the field or have proven exceptional caliber.
- You are eligible if you are a skilled worker meeting the requirements specified on labor certification and have a U.S. job offer to propose.
Refugees and Asylees
If you are eligible to be a refugee in the U.S., you should apply for a green card within one year.
If you have been granted asylum in the U.S., the law allows you to apply for a green card. You must apply for permanent residence within two years of the status.
The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, popularly known as the green card lottery, is a surprising way to get into the U.S.
Every year, 50,000 visas are randomly issued to people from countries that generally do not immigrate to the U.S. This program is designed to increase diversity in the United States, and it is one of the most successful immigration programs in history.
There’s Also the Green Card for the Entrepreneur
If you are a wealthy businessman or woman, you can invest in the U.S. economy and earn the right to live there.
The investment must be at least $1.8 million and must create or preserve at least ten jobs, but in certain areas, the investment can be around $900,000.
Once You Get the Green Card
The most significant advantage is that you are entitled to apply for citizenship. However, before that, you must:
1. Have lived in the United States for at least five years or three years if married to US citizen;
2. Be proficient in English;
3. Have sufficient knowledge about the United States; and
4. Pass a naturalization test
Remember that you need to renew your green card. You should begin the renewal process at least three months before the expiration date of the green card.
Mentioned above are the most common routes to getting a green card. But if you want to get it easily:
- Marry a U.S. citizen or green card holder. However, marrying for the sake of immigration is considered fraud. If guilty, you may face imprisonment or deportation. Follow this path only if your marriage is genuine.
- Scout the U.S. Department of Labor website, and look for jobs that have scarce U.S. resources. If you fit in, then you have a chance to be chosen.
- If you are an unskilled worker, then the U.S. agricultural sector has opportunities, provided that there is an insufficient number of U.S. citizens willing to do the same work.
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