A green card is a special document that grants foreign individuals the right to enter, exit, work and live permanently in the United States. Before applying for a US permanent residence, the person must be sure of its eligibility under the existing categories.
In this article, you will discover the crucial steps to qualify for a green card.
Immediate Relatives of US Citizens
In the United States, immediate relatives are the first category of eligibility for granting green cards.
- Spouses of US citizens (including recent widows and widowers).
- Unmarried individuals under age 21 with at least one US citizen parent.
- Parents of US citizens (in case the US citizen son or daughter is at least age 21).
- Stepchildren and stepparents of US citizens (in case the marriage that originated the relationship took place before the child’s 18 birthday).
- Adopted children of US citizens or permanent residents (in case the adoption took place before the child reached age 16 and other requirements are met).
Other Family Members of US Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents
The second category includes close family members from US citizens or permanent residents who are not immediate relatives.
Commonly, they fall into one of the existing preference categories, as only a certain number of applicants receive this type of green card yearly.
In such cases, it is hard to predict the wait time with any certainty, given that the wait times depend on several factors, such as:
- the applicant’s native country,
- the number of applications from the same country, and
- the workload at the US immigration agencies.
In this sense, there are four main subcategories, known as F1, F2A, F2B, F3, and F4.
The F1 category (Family First Preference) includes unmarried adults (age 21 or older) with at least one US citizen parent.
The F2 category (Family Second Preference) is divided into two – F2A and F2B. The F2B subcategory includes spouses and unmarried children (younger than age 21 only) of a green-card holder. The F3B subcategory includes unmarried children (age 21 or older) of a green-card holder.
The F3 category (Family Third Preference) includes married people (any age) who have at least one US citizen parent, while the F4 category (Family Fourth Preference) includes siblings of US citizens (the citizen must be age 21 or older).
Preferred Employees and Workers
Given the fact that the United States is the world’s strongest economy, many specialized professionals are needed in the market. Every year, a total of 140,000 green cards are available for professionals whose job skills meet the requirements.
The wait time for applicants in this category varies a lot, ranging from months to years to get an available green card.
Refugees and Asylees
The American government offers refuge to individuals who fear, or who have actually experienced, persecution in their home country. The concept of persecution is divided into 5 categories:
- racial persecution (including ethnic group),
- religious persecution,
- persecution originated by the individual’s nationality,
- persecution originated by political opinion, and
- persecution derived from the individual’s membership in a particular social group.
While a person outside the country would apply to be a refugee, any person already at the US border or inside the country would apply for asylum.
People fleeing their home countries because of poverty or random violence are not qualified in either category. Individuals with criminal backgrounds are blocked for asylum eligibility.
Long-Time Residents in the United States
As provided by law, certain individuals who have lived illegally in the United States for more than a decade can request permanent residence as a defense in immigration court.
Anyone who fits this category must demonstrate that its spouse, parent, or children (who must be US citizens or permanent residents) would face “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” in case the applicant was forced to leave.
Instead of going directly to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (which could result in deportation), we strongly recommend you consult an immigration attorney if you think you qualify.
Annual Diversity Green Card Lottery
Currently, the US government made 50,000 annual diversity visas available to people from countries that recently have sent the fewest immigrants to America.
On some special occasions, laws are passed by an individual member of the US Congress to make green cards available to individuals in special situations.
This type of green card is granted for humanitarian reasons in extraordinary cases, helping someone get permanent residence even if the law would not allow it.