People from all over the world want to settle in the U.S., but many of them don’t know how. The U.S. allows thousands of people every year to get a permanent resident card (green card), which allows them to permanently live and work in the U.S. However, it’s not easy to get a green card. There is a process that you must follow.
There are several ways that you can immigrate to the U.S. The most common ways are:
- Through a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (green card holder) relative
- Through employment
- Through the Diversity Visa Lottery
Foreign nationals who are sponsored by their relative or employer will be classified in a preference category. The U.S. government gives out a limited number of visas each year to immigrants in the different preference categories. You’ll have to wait until you can get a visa before you can get a green card. However, this doesn’t apply to the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. Immediate relatives don’t have to wait to get a green card.
Green Card through Your Relative
You might be eligible for a family-based green card if you belong to one of these categories:
Immediate relative of a U.S. citizen: Immediate relatives are the parents, husband or wife and children of U.S. citizens. Only U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years old can sponsor their parents as an immediate relative. U.S. citizens can sponsor their children as immediate relatives if their children are unmarried and less than 21 years old.
Other relatives of a U.S. citizen: U.S. citizens can sponsor their brothers and sisters, children above age 21 and married children of U.S. citizens for a green card, but these relatives will have to wait until a visa becomes available.
Relative of a green card holder: A green card holder can sponsor their husband or wife and unmarried children for a green card, but these relatives will have to wait until a visa becomes available.
Members of special categories: K visa holders, V visa holders and children of foreign diplomats in the U.S. can also get green cards. Depending on the visa type, they might have to wait until a visa becomes available before they can apply.
To get a green card, your relative would have to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative with the USCIS. An immediate relative of a U.S. citizen who’s living outside of the country will get a visa soon after the USCIS approves the Form I-130 petition. The National Visa Center will let them know that the petition has been approved, then they can apply for an immigrant visa. They will get their visa after they complete an application and an interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country.
Immediate relatives who are in the U.S. when their U.S. citizen sponsor files Form I-130 can file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, at the same time. They don’t have to go back to their home country to get a green card.
All other family-based green card applicants who are living in the U.S. legally as nonimmigrants need to wait until the I-130 petition is approved until they can file Form I-485.
Green Card through Your Job
- Through a job offer: You can get a green card through an employer who is willing to sponsor you for a green card and give you a permanent full-time job in the U.S.
- Through investment: People who make a $1 million business investment in the U.S., or a $500,000 business investment in a high unemployment or rural area in the U.S., and plan to create or preserve at least 10 permanent, full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers can get a green card. They don’t need a sponsor. They can file Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, to apply for a visa that would allow them to come to the U.S. and apply for a green card.
- Through extraordinary ability: People with extraordinary ability don’t need a sponsor either. They can apply for an immigrant visa for a visa that would allow them to come to the U.S. and apply for a green card.
- Through special categories of jobs: There are certain specialized jobs that allow foreign nationals to get green cards if their employer files Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. In some cases, they can file Form I-485 to apply for a green card at the same time as their employer files Form I-360:
- Afghan or Iraqi who translated for the U.S. government
- International organization employee
- Iraqi who assisted the U.S. government
- NATO-6 nonimmigrant
- Panama Canal employee
- Physician with a national interest waiver
- Religious worker
Green Card through Asylee or Refugee Status
U.S. immigration laws require refugees to apply for a green card one year after they were allowed into the U.S. as refugees if they want to remain in the U.S. However, asylees can choose to live in the U.S. as an asylee if they don’t want to apply for a green card.
Diversity Immigrant Visa Program
Fifty thousand people get immigrant visas through the Diversity Visa (DV) lottery program every year, which is also known as the Green Card Lottery. People from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. can take part in this program.
To take part in the green card lottery, you must be a high school graduate or have two years of work experience within the past five years. This work experience must be in a job that requires at least two years of training or experience.
In all these cases, you must show that you don’t have a criminal history and are eligible to enter the U.S. You will need to send documents to the USCIS that proves you are eligible.