Green Cards, also officially known as United States Permanent Resident Cards, are the proof of one’s permanent resident status. Green Card holders have the right to work and live permanently in the United States. You can understand Green Card as a permission to live and work in the U.S. with treatment almost the same as U.S. citizens—with the exception that U.S. Permanent Residents cannot vote or hold elected office, can be deported for certain criminal conviction(s), and cannot live outside the U.S. indefinitely.
Most importantly, Green Card holders are entitled to the same amount of financial aid and tuition rates as U.S. citizens for undergraduate and graduate educations at public colleges and universities. Many venues exist for eligible Green Card applicants.
Following is a brief introduction to common paths to obtain a GreenCard:
- Family-Based Green Card: Green Cards are given to spouses of U.S. citizens, or immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (father, mother and biological children) or children adopted prior to turning 16 years of age. Many foreign nationals enter the U.S. on a K-1 fiancee visa and later apply for Adjustment of Status (I-485) and receive a greencard. Green cards are also available for the spouse, minor child, and unmarried child over 21 of a U.S. Permanent Resident. Green cards are also available to the siblings of U.S. citizen children, but the wait for visa availability can exceed 10 years. The primary form to start a family-based petition is called the I-130 These cases often require professional guidance so that applicants can best prepare for interviews in light of immigration officers’ expectations.
- Employment-Based Green Card: You may already know that your full-time job may qualify you for a Green Card. The primary form is called the I-140 There are many options to qualify for one based on employment—following are just some examples—
EB-1 Category: Extraordinary Ability, Outstanding Researcher, Multinational Executive or Manager: This category includes outstanding researchers; people of extraordinary ability in sports, science or arts; and multinational executives or managers who worked at least one year outside the U.S. and is being transferred to work on an indefinite basis for the U.S.-based subsidiary or affiliate. Extraordinary Ability individuals can sponsor their own immigration petition.
EB-2 Advanced Degree, Exceptional Ability or National Interest Waiver (NIW): If the job you are applying for requires an advanced degree, and you possess that degree or its equivalent, then your employer can sponsor your EB-2 green card. Similarly, if you possess a degree of expertise significantly above that normally found in science, art or business, your employer may file your EB-2 green card. The former two categories require that the employer first file a Labor Certification proving that U.S. or Permanent Resident workers are not available to fill the job. The final subsection of EB-2 category is called National Interest Waiver. These individuals can self-petition and not required to file a labor certification application. The applicant must demonstrate that that have at least a masters degree and demonstrate that their presence in the U.S. will serve the U.S. national interest in areas such as health, economics, national security, education, etc.
EB-3 Skilled and Unskilled Workers. This category includes skilled and lower skilled workers. The employer must first file a labor certification (ETA 9089) to demonstrate the unavailability of U.S. citizen or permanent resident works to fill the targeted job. The waiting line for visas to become available, as specified monthly in the National Visa Bulletin’s listing of priority dates for various visa categories, is often many years long.
EB-4: Religious Workers. Religious workers such as clergy, nuns, choir directors and religious school instructors often enter the U.S. on a non-immigrant worker visa called the R-1. Many religious workers are often sponsored for green cards by their employer under the EB-4 category. The form used in this case is I-360.
EB-5 Immigrant Investor: Nearly 10,000 green cards are allotted per year for foreign investors and their immediate family members. The investor is required to invest either $1,000,000, or $500,000 in an economically distressed area (Targeted Employment Area) and demonstrate that the investment will create 10 new jobs within 2 years. The form used in this type of case is I-526.
- Other Venues: Green Cards are also available to certain nationalities who play and win the “Green Card Lottery,” also known as the DV Lottery. Congress also instituted special venues to grant Green Cards based on, most often seen, humanitarian concerns. Asylum is an epitome—the applicants must prove that they have credible and reasonable fear of persecution against themselves or immediate family upon return to home country. Based on the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA), battered and abused spouses of U.S. citizens or permanent residents can also self-sponsor and apply for permanent resident status. Victims of certain crimes may be eligible for a U Visa (Form I-918) and later apply for a green card. Victims of human trafficking may also be eligible for a T Visa (Form I-914) and later apply for a green card. Individuals in removal proceedings who have been in the U.S. at least 10 years prior to the commencement of deportation process, and who has eligible family members who would experience extreme hardship if the applicant is deported, may be eligible for a green card granted by the Immigration Judge, called Cancellation of Removal Many of these cases involve complex legal and factual issues, and would therefore benefit from the assistance of skilled immigration lawyers.