Globally, a lot of people are fascinated by the idea of living and working in the United States. Who wouldn’t want to experience the numerous opportunities, the lifestyle, the cultural diversity, and the perfect possibilities that the country has to offer? Absolutely no one! One of the most essential steps to achieve this goal is to obtain the US Green Card.
A Green Card is officially the Legal Permanent Residency issued by the US and it permits individuals to permanently live and work in the country. It may be a small piece of plastic but it unlocks a world of opportunities. Which include profitable jobs, high-quality education, and a chance to enjoy the American Dream.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through all it entails to acquire a Green Card. As well as the various types of US green cards and share some tips to acquire one. Let’s dive in!
What is a Green Card?
A green card is a small piece of plastic issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. It permits foreigners to live and work in the United States permanently and without restrictions. Furthermore, it’s also referred to as a Permanent Resident Card issued to foreign nationals who meet certain eligibility standards.
As a green card holder, you’re regarded as a lawful permanent resident and allowed to stay in the country indefinitely. Many people around the world who wish to live in the US usually seek a green card. Meanwhile, most people want to secure it to obtain better job opportunities, education, or reunify with family members.
Why You Should Have a Green Card
Obtaining a green card has lots of advantages, which include an opportunity to work for any employer in the US. As well as the chance to travel in and out of the country unrestricted. Furthermore, a green card will afford you the opportunity for US citizenship.
Another reason you should have a green card is for the freedom to live and work anywhere you want in the US. Also, it gives you the chance to earn a higher salary. As a green card holder, you are provided with legal rights and protections under US law.
Moreover, with the US Green Card, you’ll have access to certain social benefits, such as health insurance and education grants. You can also sponsor certain family members to acquire their own Green Cards. A Green Card is your golden key to the American Dream.
Types of Green Cards
There are many categories of green cards but the most common types include:
- Family-Based Green Card.
- Marriage-based Green Card.
- Parents of a US Citizen-based Green Card.
- Diversity Lottery Green Card.
- Employer-Sponsored EB2 and EB3 Green Cards.
- Other Green Cards.
1. Family-based Green Card
Family members of US citizens and current green card holders can apply for a family-based green card of their own. Family members that may qualify for this include spouses, children, parents, and siblings. As well as the spouses and children of those spouses, their adult children, and siblings.
Other individuals in this category are widows and widowers who were spouses to a US citizen at the time of the citizen’s death. However, if your spouse is a US citizen or a current green card holder and you apply for a marriage-based green card, you must prove the authenticity of the marriage before you receive a green card. Other extended family members like cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents do not qualify.
They are eligible to apply for a permanent resident card only if they also have a family member who is a US citizen or current green card holder.
2. Marriage-based Green Card
This type of green card is for spouses of US citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders). Importantly, you should understand that at the time the marriage was entered into, you both wished to build a perfect life together. Therefore, it must NOT have been entered into to obtain immigration benefits.
The US citizen or LPR spouse will start the process by filing an I-130 Petition for Immediate Relatives with USCIS. However, spouses of US citizens who are already in the US can apply for the I-485 Adjustment of Status concurrently with the I-130. Spouses of LPRs who are in the United States can also apply for the I-485 concurrently with the I-130 if the F2A category shows Current (C) on the Visa Bulletin.
Meanwhile, foreign spouses who are not yet in the US cannot file I-485 concurrently with the I-130. Instead, after USCIS has approved the I-130, the case will be sent to the National Visa Center and the process for the green card is completed with them.
3. Parents of a US Citizen-based Green Card
As a green card holder, if you want to petition to bring your parents to the US, you must be a US citizen and be at least 21 years old. Although the process is the same as the marriage-based visa, the petitioner will have to file an I-130 with USCIS. If it’s approved and the parents live outside the US, they will finish the process with their local US consulate.
However, if the parents are currently in the US, they can file the I-485 application to adjust status concurrently with the I-130, as immediate relatives of US citizens.
4. Diversity Visa Lottery Green Card
The Diversity Visa Lottery green card is created by the US government as an option for foreigners. This is due to the policy interest to demonstrate that the US stays open to countries with low immigration rates to the US. Every year, the Diversity Visa Program takes up to 50,000 immigrants and they are drawn randomly.
To qualify for the lottery, you’ll fill out a form on the State Department’s website when it’s available. The forms are usually available from early October through early November. After filling out the form online, you must save your confirmation number to check the status of your application in early May of the following year.
If you’re selected but reside outside the US, you will have to apply for your green card with Form DS-260 at the National Visa Center. However, if you’re in the US when selected, you can apply for a green card with an I-485 with USCIS as soon as a visa becomes available.
5. Employer-sponsored EB2 and EB3 Green Cards
To qualify for the EB2 green card, you must have an advanced degree or its equivalent, such as a bachelor’s degree plus five years of progressive work experience in the field. However, to qualify for an EB3 green card, you must be a skilled worker, professional, or unskilled worker. Skilled workers are individuals who have jobs that require two years of training or experience.
Professionals are individuals whose job requires at least a US baccalaureate or foreign equivalent degree and are members of the professions. Unskilled workers are individuals who have jobs that require fewer years of training, education, or experience. For these applications, a US employer will have to file an I-140 and show that they are capable of paying the offered wage.
Once the I-140 is approved, your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age will qualify to apply for admission to the US under E34, EW4, or E35.
6. Other Green Cards
The US government also issues numerous other types of green cards aside from the ones we’ve discussed above. Some of these include permanent resident cards for special immigrants like media professionals and religious workers. As well as Afghanistan and Iraq nationals who have served the US government under certain capacities, and other workers who have served in an international organization. Others include green cards for Cuban citizens and American Indians born in Canada.
Top Ten Tips for Obtaining US Green Cards
The process of obtaining the US Green Card can be complicated and demanding. However, if you have the right counsel and you understand the process, it’ll be much easier. Below, we have compiled the top ten tips to assist you in obtaining a Green Card. Read on!
- Understand the various types of Green Cards available and choose the one that best suits your situation.
- Ensure you gather all the required documents in advance to avoid delays.
- Also, you should ensure your application form is filled out accurately and completely to avoid rejections.
- Stay up-to-date with changes in immigration laws and policies.
- Ensure you prepare well for the interview process and answer all questions honestly.
- Be patient and stay positive. The process can be time-consuming, but it’s worth the wait.
- Ensure you always keep copies of all documents and correspondence related to your application.
- Be vigilant always and not fall for scams promising quick and guaranteed Green Cards.
- If you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to seek legal advice.
- Lastly, always remember that the process is a legal one and must be treated with seriousness and respect.
Green Cards Application Process
The Green Cards application process is divided into three major steps. These include
- Determining your eligibility.
- Filing the appropriate petition.
- Adjusting your status or consular processing.
1. Determining your eligibility: This involves recognizing the appropriate category of Green Card you qualify for, such as family-based, employment-based, or diversity visa.
2. Filing the appropriate petition: This is carried out by a sponsoring family member or employer in the US.
3. Adjusting your status or consular processing: Lastly, this involves attending an interview and having your application reviewed by US immigration officials.
It’s essential to understand that the Green Card application process can be complex and demanding but each case is unique. Therefore, you should seek expert advice to navigate the process efficiently.
Green Cards Processing Time
The processing time for a US permanent resident is about some months to many years. However, it will depend on the type that you are applying for and where you’re applying from. Read on for a more precise estimate of the processing time.
1. Applying from inside the US: For spouses and immediate family members (parents and minor children) of US citizens who are applying from inside the US via adjustment of status, the processing time is currently 12.5–20.5 months. However, for spouses of US green card holders, other family members, and employment-based green cards, the processing time can be much longer, about two years or more.
2. Applying from outside the US: For spouses and immediate family members (parents and minor children) of US citizens who are applying from outside the US through consular processing, their processing time is currently 14–15 months. All other categories are subject to country caps, and processing time differs dramatically. Additionally, for spouses of US green card holders who are applying from outside the US, the processing time is currently – months.
Green Cards Cost
The authorized fee associated with filing a family-based green card is $1760 for applicants who want to apply from inside the US. The authorized fee associated with filing for applicants who want to apply from outside the US is $1200. However, this does not include the cost of the medical exam, which varies by provider.
Common Challenges in the Green Cards Process
Like any legal process, processing of Green Cards also has some challenges. Which may range from long processing time, complex paperwork, and changing immigration policies, to high costs. But, these challenges can be handled successfully using the right approach.
For instance, preparing for long waiting periods involves having patience and staying updated on the status of your application. Also, the complex paperwork involves careful attention to detail and ensuring that all information provided is accurate and updated. Staying informed about changing immigration policies can help you anticipate potential changes that may affect your application.
Finally, managing the high costs involves planning your finances and exploring options like fee waivers.
Obtaining a permanent resident is a huge step towards achieving the American Dream. Although the process can be confusing and demanding, with the right knowledge, approach, and assistance, it can be handled perfectly. Remember, each visa journey is distinctive, and while this guide provides a comprehensive overview, it’s advisable to seek expert advice tailored to your specific situation.