The Path to a Green Card
A Green Card authorizes people from other countries to live and work in America. People who are already in the U.S legally are not required to obtain one although it is often desirable. Although it involves some paperwork and fees it can make sense for anyone who wants to stay for an extended period of time. If you plan to apply for naturalization and become an American citizen you will need to have a Green Card, with a few exceptions. Here are some of the common ways that people can obtain a Green Card!
- Diversity Visa Lottery
The Diversity Visa Lottery may be the best option for people from qualifying countries. As its name implies it was developed to promote diversity in America. For that reason, it is only available to individuals from countries underrepresented in the U.S. You can find a list of countries that are eligible, and those that aren’t, here.
The DV lottery can be a simple way to qualify for and receive a green card and gain all the benefits of permanent residency in America. Bear in mind that the government only gives out 50,000 diversity visas per year, representing a small percentage of people trying to obtain one.
There are some other options for getting into the US. The following is a quick list of the most common ones. You can find out more about them on the website for the U.S. Customs and Immigration services.
- US Green Card Through Family
If you have family in the US who are permanent residents or US citizens, you may be able to immigrate to the US. They will need to file an I-130 petition on your behalf. Then, depending on which category of family member you are, you will either need to wait in a long line to be able to proceed with your application, or in certain situations, you can jump to the head of the line (e.g. for spouses and parents of US citizens).
- US Green Card through Employment
If you are an employee, or a U.S. based company wants to hire you, your employer can sponsor you to obtain permanent residency. If you receive a job offer from a U.S. based employer you can ask whether the company will sponsor you for a Green Card.
- US Green Card through a Visa
If you have a visa that allows you to immigrate to the U.S. sometimes you can use the visa to apply for visas for your family, and sometimes also for permanent residency. E.g. the U-visa, the T-visa and several others allow a person to adjust status and get a green card after a certain period of time (3 years).
- US Green Card through Marriage
If your fiancé(e) or spouse is a US citizen, you may qualify for a US green card through marriage. This option has been portrayed in the media as a straight forward process, but it is not. Be prepared for skepticism that your marriage is only to gain a Green Card.
If you won asylum, or entered the US as a refugee, you can be eligible to apply for a green card after 1 year.
- Cancellation of Removal
If you were in immigration court and you applied for and won a case of cancellation of removal, than you automatically become a lawful permanent resident and you are eligible to receive your green card.
- VAWA (Violence Against Women Act)
If you were the victim of abuse at the hands of a US citizen or green card holding spouse or parent, you may be eligible to apply for a green card without waiting for them to petition you.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service has forms and instructions for all types of visas on its website. You can prepare an application, or consider working with an immigration attorney to insure you choose the right option for you and your family. An experienced attorney can help you complete the paperwork correctly and make the strongest case possible for you to gain permanent residency. You can contact Landerholm Immigration A.P.C. at 510-488-1020 for a free evaluation of your situation.