Getting a green card is not an easy task. To do so, you will need to file under one of the following categories: an immediate relative of US citizen; family-sponsored preference (a close family member such as a spouse or parent); employment-based preference (a prospective employer has petitioned for your green card); diversity lottery program; or special immigrant juvenile status. There are also various ways to get a green card by litigating an application for relief before the Immigration Courts.
Each category has its own set of requirements and it can be difficult to know what the various categories are and how your situation may fit into them. To help you out, we have created this page that talks about the most common types and provides some very basic information on how someone would start thinking about the best possibilities to go about getting their green card!
As a general rule, it is usually easiest to get a green card based upon a family relationship. However, you need to be aware of the fact that just because this is the easiest method it does not mean that is quick or easy to do.
Below we will discuss some common ways to get a green card, explain how long you may be waiting, and discuss some traps and pitfalls that are common in some of these categories.
##Getting a Green Card as the Husband or Wife of a Citizen or Resident
There is no required waiting list for the Husband or Wife of a US Citizen since these are what are known as Immediate relative cases. That is because there is no numerical limitation on the number of people that can get residency through marriage to a US Citizen. Therefore there is no backlog in residency visas because there is an unlimited amount of such residencies available. The only delays you will experience would be due to either bureaucratic delays or delays caused by improperly filing.
The processing time for properly filed immediate relative cases is currently about one year. It is however very common for processing times to go far beyond this one year due entirely to errors by the individual submitting the applications. Failing to properly file often includes; not proving the bona fides of your marriage within the strict definition outlined in the US immigration laws, not filing the proper form, not filling out all of the required forms, submitting forms that are not necessary or relevant, not including all of the necessary evidence, not understanding the legal ramifications of your past immigration history, etc.
The possible ways that your filing could go wrong are almost endless. This could be particularly dangerous since it can not only cause extreme and unnecessary delays in getting your legal status but could also expose you to possible criminal proceedings and/or deportation and removal actions.
If you are married to a lawful permanent resident of the United States (green card holder) there is a limit to the number of residency visas that can be granted each year. That often causes additional delays beyond that which are caused by applicant errors and the slow grinding of the USCIS bureaucracy. At the time that this article is being written, there is no current backlog in the category of a husband or wife of a lawful permanent resident (green card holder). However, this is highly unusual and can change from month to month. Over the past forty years, our attorneys have seen backlogs in this category that can stretch for many many years.
## Getting a Green Card as the Child of a US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident
The first thing one must do is determine whether the US Immigration laws consider you a child or whether it considers you an adult son or daughter.
For immigration purposes, a "child" is an unmarried person under the age of 21.
A “son” or “daughter” is a person who is married or is 21 years of age or older.
However, even if you are over 21 you may still sometimes get the preferential treatment the laws provide for a child if you qualify under a law known as the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) If someone applies for lawful permanent resident (LPR) status as a child but later turns 21 before being approved for LPR status (a Green Card), that person can no longer be considered a child for immigration purposes. This situation is usually known as “aging out” and can mean that these applicants would have to file a new petition or application, wait even longer to get a Green Card or may no longer be eligible for a Green Card. A CSPA calculation can often allow a way around this.
This makes a big difference for many people. If someone qualifies as a child of a US Citizen they are not subject to any visa eligibility backlogs. If they are the child of a lawful permanent resident, or are the son or daughter of a citizen or LPR, or are the married son or daughter of a citizen they will be eligible for their green card but it could involve years of waiting.
In addition to the danger of "aging out" a common difficulty arises when a father who is a citizen or green card holder applies for his child or son or daughter. While proving maternity is usually just a matter of providing a properly issued birth certificate proving paternity is often more difficult. This is particularly true if the beneficiary was born out of wedlock.
## Getting a Green Card as the Parent of a US Citizen
Parents of US Citizens are considered Immediate Relatives and thus there are no numerical limitations (and thus no backlog) in residency visas for this category.
US Citizens who were born out of wedlock also tend to have a problem proving their father's paternity within the strict definitions outlined in the Immigration laws. This is particularly true if the father is not listed on their birth certificate.
## Getting a Green Card Through an Employer or Investment
To get a green card through an employer, the person must have a labor certification to show that there are no qualified US workers available for the position. There are also a few specialized categories that do not require a labor certification. Additionally, you may qualify for a green card as an investor. Once you prove your qualifications and eligibility USCIS will approve your petition and designate your case in one of 5 different categories:
Priority workers (known as EB-1). These are further broken down as:
- Aliens with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics;
- Outstanding professors and researchers; or
- Certain multinational managers and executives.
Aliens who are members of the professions holding advanced degrees or who have exceptional ability (known as EB-2)
Skilled workers, professionals, or other workers (known as EB-3)
Special Immigrants (known as EB-4) These are usually either religious workers (who do need a job offer) and special immigrant juveniles (who do not require a job offer)
Immigrant Investors (known as EB-5)
No matter how you attempt it, it's not easy to get a green card.
The process of getting a green card can be very long and complicated. Doing it incorrectly could waste years and a lot of money. It also could expose you to deportation, criminal charges, and being barred from ever entering the US.
We offer affordable and expert immigration representation to handle all the necessary paperwork that will make it easier for you to get your green card. Contact us now