HOW DO I OBTAIN A GREEN CARD?
Obtaining permanent residency (i.e. a green card) is a complex process. Foreign nationals who want to gain permanent residency must complete several steps. Generally, an employer or close family member must sponsor someone for immigration. Employers may sponsor certain foreign nationals who have legal status but do not otherwise have qualifying relatives. If a foreign national is pursuing family based sponsorship, their family member must be either a green card holder themselves or a U.S. citizen. This family member is called a “petitioner” or “sponsor.”
Your petitioner must usually be a close relative (spouse, fiancé, parent, adult son or daughter, or sibling) with adequate income and assets to support you. Be aware that grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins cannot petition for a relative for immigration purposes.
There are two groups of family based immigrant visa categories: (1) immediate relative categories and (2) family preference categories.
WHAT IS AN IMMEDIATE RELATIVE IMMIGRANT VISA CATEGORY? WHO CAN PETITION FOR ME?
The immediate relative category requires that you be classified as an “immediate relative,” meaning that you are the spouse, parent or unmarried minor son or daughter (under age 21) of a U.S. citizen. There is no limit as to how many of these petitions may be granted each fiscal year. If you are the immediate relative of a U.S. citizen already in the U.S. with permission, you may be able to apply for permanent resident status without having to return to your home country to complete processing. This is called “adjustment of status.” (Please remember that if you are the parent of a U.S. citizen, your son or daughter must be age 21 or older to petition for you). If you are the spouse, parent, or unmarried minor son or daughter of a U.S. citizen, please schedule an appointment with me and we can discuss your unique immigration case.
I HAVE HEARD OF SOME FAMILY BASED PETITIONS GOING ON A WAITLIST. WHAT IS THAT ABOUT?
Family based petitions for adjustment of status that are on a waitlist are under the family preference category. This category is for specific and more distant family relationships with a U.S. citizen or green card holder (legal permanent resident). The laws require numerical limitations on how many green cards are issued in this manner so many petitions are put on a waitlist. Only a certain number of petitions are granted each fiscal year; the wait could be anywhere from a few months to many years. The length of the wait depends on the foreign national’s country of origin (not necessarily their country of citizenship). There are some exceptions to allow someone to use a different country of origin, but these are rare and complicated cases.
The family preference categories are:
- Family First Preference (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children, if any.
- Family Second Preference (F2): Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and over) of permanent residents (i.e. green card holders).
- Family Third Preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses or minor children, if any
- Family Fourth Preference (F4): Brothers and Sisters of a U.S. citizen, and their spouses and minor children (provided that the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years of age).
Unfortunately, this wait list can be very unpredictable. It is best to consult with an attorney to analyze your case.
i do not have permission to be in the u.s.?
Even if you are in the U.S. illegally, you can still obtain a green card. This is also a very complex situation. To obtain a green card in this manner, you must be granted a “waiver of inadmissibility,” meaning the government pardons your unlawful entry. There are two types of waivers: (1) Provisional (or “State-side”) Waivers of Inadmissibility, and (2) Complex Waivers of Inadmissibility. Many of my clients seek a provisional waiver, which allows them to remain in the U.S. while a decision is made on their case rather than waiting abroad. As of November 20, 2014, both U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents (i.e. green card holders) may sponsor a foreign national for a provisional waiver. The U.S. citizen must be the spouse or parent of the undocumented foreign national. Determining whether a person is eligible for a provisional waiver requires a thorough consultation with an attorney to analyze the law and facts of each specific case.
WHAT IF I WANT TO BRING SOMEONE TO THE U.S. WHO IS LIVING ABROAD?
It is entirely possible to bring a relative to the U.S. Some relatives, like a fiancé(e), may choose to come to the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa (see the “Visas” page). Other foreign nationals may want to obtain their immigrant visa abroad and come to the U.S. with a green card. This is called “consular processing,” a form of family based immigration. You may apply at a U.S. Department of State consulate abroad for an immigrant visa. To sponsor a relative applying at a U.S. Department of State consulate abroad, a petition must first be filed with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Eventually, the foreign national will attend an interview at the consular office abroad. The consular office will decide if the foreign national is eligible for an immigrant visa. If you’re looking to sponsor a family member living abroad to come to the U.S. on an immigrant visa (or even nonimmigrant visa), please schedule an appointment with me.
NONE OF THESE APPLY TO ME. ARE THERE ANY OTHER WAYS TO GET A GREEN CARD?
There are various other ways to apply for a green card, some of which are listed below:
- Apply as the widow or widower of a U.S. citizen and you were married to your U.S. citizen spouse at the time your spouse died
- Apply as the abused spouse, child (unmarried and under 21), or parent of a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident through VAWA (Violence Against Women Act)
- Apply as an asylee if you were granted asylum status at least 1 year ago
- Apply as a refugee if you were admitted as a refugee at least 1 year ago
- Apply as a human trafficking victim if you currently have a T nonimmigrant visa
- Apply as a crime victim if you currently have a U nonimmigrant visa
- Apply if you were selected for a diversity visa in the Department of State’s diversity visa lottery
- Apply if you are the abused spouse or child of a Cuban native or citizen
- Apply if you have resided continuously in the U.S. since before January 1, 1972.