Getting your Green Card gives you permanent residency in the United States, and is the second to last step in becoming a United States Citizen. For some, this process will be faster and go more smoothly than others. And Green Card status is not available to everyone immediately. Before we review the process of getting your Green Card, let’s talk about who is eligible to apply.
How Can I Become Eligible for a Green Card?
There are a few different situations that will allow you to get a Green Card and adjust your status to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
Through Family Members
If you have a family member who is a United States citizen or permanent resident, you may be eligible for a Green Card.
- Immediate relatives (spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents) of citizens or Green Card holders will have a visa number readily available to them.
- Unmarried children over the age of 21, married children, and brothers and sisters of a U.S. citizen can be sponsored by the citizen under the “family preference category.”
- If you have been offered a job in the United States, your employer can get a labor certification for you and file a Form I-140 to petition for your Green Card status.
- If you are investing in an enterprise that creates jobs in the United States, you may apply for a Green Card.
- You may be able to self-petition for a Green Card. If you have a specific skill set or interest in employment (examples include Afghan/Iraqi translator, broadcaster, religious worker, and so on) you will have an easier time applying for your permanent residency.
Through Refugee or Asylum Status
If you were admitted to the United States as a refugee or the family member of a refugee, or were granted asylum in the United States, you can apply to be a permanent resident one year after you enter the United States.
Through Other Means
There are other ways to get your Green Card if you come to the United States without family or employment. A full list of exceptions, including entering through Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and Cuban Native status, can be found through the USCIS website.
So You’re Eligible – What’s Next?
Immigrant Petition. Once you’ve determined your eligibility, you will have to file an immigrant petition. Different categories of eligibility have different forms to fill out. In addition to that form, you will have to file a Form I-485, the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
Visa Availability. Before you file the Form I-485, you must check to see if a visa is available for your specific category. Immediate relatives always have a visa number available, but other categories may require you to file your immigrant petition and wait for a spot to open up before you file your Form I-485.
Application Support Center Appointment. Once these forms are filed, you will have to show up at an Application Support Center appointment. You will be fingerprinted, photographed, and will have your signature taken so the USCIS can conduct proper background checks.
Interview. You may also have to go to an interview with a USCIS office member. If you have a family member sponsoring you, he or she will have to appear at your interview with you. The interviewer will ask you questions about your history and review any and all travel documents you may have.
Final Decision. Once all of the paperwork and appointments are completed, you will get your final decision in the mail. You can check your status online as well.
For many immigrants, this process is easier said than done, and it can take months for the entire thing to be completed. If you need legal help adjusting your status or need to appeal a denial, contact a skilled Minneapolis immigration lawyer today.
About the Author:
Katie DeGrio Channing is a community advocate, passionate lawyer, and an experienced small business owner. During her 14 years of working in immigration law, she has been able to help individuals and families from all backgrounds obtain citizenship and find their place in Minnesota and the United States. Her work in the community has helped bridge cultural barriers and educated her peers about immigration rights and law.