A green card identifies its holder as a U.S. permanent resident, with rights to enter, exit, work, and live in the United States for their entire life -- and to eventually apply for U.S. citizenship. But before you think about applying for U.S. permanent residence, make sure you're eligible under one of the following categories.
Immediate relatives are at the top of the list when it comes to qualifying for green cards and receiving them quickly. This category includes:
An unlimited number of green cards are available for immediate relatives whose U.S. citizen relatives petition for them -- applicants can get a green card as soon as they get through the paperwork and application process.
Certain family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents are also eligible for green cards -- but not right away. They fall into the "preference categories" listed below, meaning that only a certain number of them will receive green cards each year (480,000). The system is first come, first served -- the earlier the U.S. citizen or permanent resident turns in a visa petition, the sooner the immigrant can apply for a green card. The waits range from approximately four to 23 years in the family preference categories, which include:
Because of high demand, the waits for people from China, the Dominican Republic, India, Mexico, and the Philippines tend to be particularly long.
A total of 140,000 green cards are offered each year to people whose job skills are needed in the U.S. market. In most cases, a job offer is also required, and the employer must prove that it has recruited for the job and not found any willing, able, qualified U.S. citizens or residents to hire instead of the immigrant. Because of annual limits, this is a "preference category," and applicants often wait years for an available green card. Here are the subcategories:
Employment First Preference. Priority workers, including:
Employment Second Preference. Professionals with advanced degrees or exceptional ability.
Employment Third Preference. Professionals and skilled or unskilled workers.
Employment Fourth Preference. Religious workers and miscellaneous categories of workers and other "special immigrants" (described below).
Employment Fifth Preference. Investors willing to put $1 million into a U.S. business -- or $500,000 if the business is in an economically depressed area. The business must employ at least ten workers.
A certain number of green cards (currently 50,000) are made available to people from countries that in recent years have sent the fewest immigrants to the United States.
Occasionally, laws are passed making green cards available to people in special situations. The current special immigrant categories are:
certain members of the U.S. Armed Forces who enlisted overseas and served 12 years.
For more information contact:
The Law Office Of Julio E. Portilla P.C