What Are the Green Card Eligibility Categories?
Contributor: Van T. Doan
For immigrants to the United States, lawful permanent residency—a green card—is the goal. With a green card, you can live and work in this country, and someday, if you wish, apply for citizenship. There are many ways to get a green card. Here are the various ways you, or a loved one, may become eligible for lawful permanent resident status.
Green Card Through Family
One of the most common ways for an immigrant to qualify for a green card is through family relationships. You can get a green card as an immediate family member if you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, an unmarried child of a U.S. citizen and you are under 21 years of age, or the parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years of age.
Other family members of U.S. citizens may also be eligible for a green card, such as a U.S. citizen’s sibling who is at least 21 years old; an unmarried child, aged 21 or older, of a U.S. citizen; and a U.S. citizen’s married child who is aged 21 or older.
A fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen may also become a lawful permanent resident of the United States, as may their child. However, the fiancé(e) must marry the citizen within 90 days of entering the country. A widower or widow of a U.S. citizen may also be eligible for a green card if they were married at the time of the citizen spouse’s death.
Certain family members of lawful permanent residents may themselves become eligible for green cards, including spouses, unmarried child under age 21, or the unmarried child of a U.S. resident age 21 or older.
Usually, a U.S. citizen or LPR must cooperate in the immigrant family member’s green card application process. However, an abused spouse or parent of a citizen or green card holder, or an abused unmarried child under the age of 21, can self-petition under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
Green Card Through Employment
Employment is another common way for a foreign national to become a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. Immigrant workers may obtain a green card under first preference, second preference, or third preference categories, typically through their employers. First preference immigrant workers are those who are multinational managers or executives, outstanding professors or researchers, or individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts, athletics, sciences, education, or business.
Second preference immigrant workers are professionals with advanced degrees, have exceptional abilities in the sciences, arts, or business, or are seeking a national interest waiver. Skilled workers, unskilled workers, and professionals with a bachelor’s degree make up the third preference category.
Physicians who agree to work full-time in clinical service in an underserved geographical area may also qualify for a green card so long as they meet certain requirements. Lastly, immigrant investors who are investing a minimum of $1,050,000 in a new commercial enterprise in the U.S. that will create at least 10 full-time jobs may qualify for a green card. If the investment is in a targeted employment area or infrastructure project, the investment may be as little as $800,000 to qualify the investor for a green card.
Other Green Card Eligibility Categories
While the great majority of green cards are issued to those who qualify through family or employment, there are other ways to become a lawful permanent resident. They include people in the following categories:
- Special Immigrants including religious workers working for a nonprofit, children with Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, nationals of Afghanistan or Iraq who served the U.S. government in certain capacities, certain international broadcasters, and certain eligible employees of international organizations and their families
- Refugees and Asylees who have had that status for at least one year
- Human Trafficking and Crime Victims
- Green Card Through Registry for individuals who have resided continuously in the United States since before January 1, 1972
If you need to apply for a green card, or you want to help someone else get a green card, it can be especially helpful to have the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney. An immigration attorney can ensure that you qualify under one of the categories listed above and can help make sure that your application is complete and accurate.
If you have questions about green card status or any other immigration issue, we invite you to contact our law office to schedule a consultation.
Categories: Immigration Law