Getting a Green Card

The first step to acquiring a green card is to assess individual’s eligibility. An individual may be eligible through a number of different pathways. The most common green card categories are family-based and employment-based.

In family-based cases, certain close family members of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents may be eligible for a green card. For example, the foreign national may be married to a U.S. citizen or to a permanent resident or may be the fiancé or fiancée of a U.S. citizen.

Under U.S. immigration law, the spouse of a U.S. citizen is considered to be an “immediate family member.” Other immediate family members are the minor children and the parents of U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens who are 21 years or older may petition for their foreign national parents. There is no annual limit or quota for the number of immediate relatives that are permitted to receive green cards.

There are also green card categories available for certain classes of individuals that are close family members of legal permanent residents (green card holders), such as a spouses or minor children. There are annual quotas that dictate how many green cards in those categories can be granted.

Regardless of the category, there are many requirements to meet before a foreign national will be granted a green card. One example is that an individual must show that they will not become a “public charge” in the United States.

Several categories of job offers can lead to an individual eventually being granted a green card. Most of those employment-based categories involve the U.S. employer engaging in a required good faith recruitment process of U.S. workers. Only if the recruitment does not locate minimally qualified U.S. workers for the proposed job will the employer be able to file a “labor certification” application to the U.S. Department of Labor. The U.S. Department of Labor will review the labor certification application. Only if that agency certifies that U.S. workers are unavailable for the position may the next step in the foreign national’s immigration process proceed.

Some employment-based categories of extremely qualified individuals may petition for themselves without the sponsorship of a U.S. employer. That also includes skipping the process of recruiting U.S. workers.

In addition, individuals can immigrate to the United States under a special immigrant visa or through the refugee or asylum process. There are other categories as well.

Foreign nationals who want to immigrate to the U.S. should work with an experienced U.S. immigration lawyer to assess their eligibility and qualifications.