Apply for a Green Card

For many people, the first step towards being able to permanently live and work in the USA is applying for an immigration visa (Legal Permanent Resident Status). There are 3 different paths you can take towards getting a Green Card: Through winning the Green Card Lottery, through your work or through your family.

Where can I apply for a Green Card?

A Green Card is an immigrant visa for the USA. There are several different paths you can take to apply for an immigrant visa to permanently reside in the USA. In general, all applications are sent to and processed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). After USCIS has approved the Green Card application, the main Green Card applicant will be invited to complete the so-called “consular processing” at the US embassy in their home country. Since 2004, the Green Card application must be completed and submitted online.   

Generally, there are three Green Card categories:

  • Immigration through winning the Green Card Lottery - "Diversity Visa Program"
  • Immigration through a job/investment - "Employment-based categories”
  • Immigration through family unification - "Family-based categories"

Admission requirements, application processes and features, waiting times, the authorities responsible, and costs all differ depending on the Green Card category. The first step is to identify which Green Card category applies to you. Maybe you have relatives in the USA, a job offer in the USA or have an idea for a new business in the United States? Some things never change though and the easiest way for USA fans to get a Green Card is to participate in the Green Card Lottery.

Green Card through the Green Card Lottery

The simplest way to get a Green Card is through the Green Card Lottery. The U.S. Department of State gives away 55,000 Green Cards through the Diversity Visa Program every year. Even though a fair amount of luck is needed, this path is the most available to those looking to make their dream of living in the USA come true. People in each participating country have a fair chance to win since no country receives more than 7% of the total Green Cards.

Getting one of these highly sought-after resident permits through the Green Card Lottery is easy. All you must do is apply to participate in the drawing that takes place every year. The American Dream is the largest Green Card consulting agency worldwide and provides a wide range of comprehensive services, especially in all matters concerning the Green Card Lottery. In case you are one of the 55,000 annual lucky winners, you have the right to apply for a Green Card and emigrate to the USA.

Tips for the application:

  • Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 automatically receive a Green Card when they are included in the application.
  • Spouses of winners in a same-sex marriage automatically receive a Green Card if the marriage is legal under US law.

 Green Card through a Job

There are a few visa options for those seeking to take up work in the United States. Which visa is required depends on the type of work and under what conditions. Therefore, each case needs to be individually assessed. Crucial factors when deciding on a work visa include qualifications, citizenship, the planned length of stay and company affiliation or corporate constellation. The most common visa types (nonimmigrant) are those issued for temporary work in the USA. If you would like to permanently live and work in the United States, then you need to apply for an immigrant visa (Green Card) in one of the following categories. Furthermore, please be aware that applying for most U.S. work visas is a very complex and time-consuming process.

You can get a Green Card through a job in the following cases:

  • You get a very specific job offer for a position which few Americans can fill. The employer must fill out an application with USCIS and the Department of Labor and carry-out the application process
  • Entrepreneurs and investors can get a Green Card for creating new jobs in the USA
  • Some immigrant visa categories allow for a so-called self-petition. Through self-petitions, people with extraordinary skills can apply under the “Aliens with Extraordinary Ability” or the “National Interest Waiver” option.  
  • Applicants who qualify under the very specific special job category can also apply for a Green Card. These jobs include Afghan/Iraqi translator, international organization employee, religious worker and many more. 

Green Card through the Family

One of the longstanding foundations of the Green Card program is making sure families stay together when one member emigrates to the United States. Immediate relatives of and people who marry US citizens or Green Card holders also qualify for a Green Card. Each individual case is subject to category restrictions. Moreover, applicants must endure a waiting period before a Green Card becomes available and this differs strongly between the categories. 

Relatives/Spouse of a US Green Card holder

Immediate family members of a Green Card holder have the right to emigrate to the USA. Not only US citizens, but also Green Card holders (Permanent Residents) have the right, according to American immigration law, to file an application to bring certain family members to the USA through a Green Card. Bringing family to the USA is subject to restrictions.

US immigration law allows the following family members of Green Card holders to apply for a Green Card:

  • Spouses of Green Card holders

People who marry a Green Card holder are allowed to emigrate if the marriage is legally binding and not a sham marriage.  

Spouses are included in the Second Preference Category under the subsection F2A. There is a yearly quota for the number of visas issued in this category and applicants should expect a waiting period before receiving their Green Card (See Visa Bulletin).

  • Unmarried children of a Green Card holder under the age of 21

In keeping with yearly immigration quotas, there is a distinct difference between unmarried children under the age of 21 and those over the age of 21. In general, children under 21 can emigrate quicker because they fall under the Second Preference Category. Despite this, there is a waiting period and an applicant may have to wait years before receiving their Green Card. The same conditions apply for adopted and step-children.

  • Unmarried children of a Green Card holder over the age of 21

 

Win the Green Card Lottery and your children also get a Green Card!

 

Children of Green Card holders who are unmarried and over the age of 21 must, unfortunately, wait many years for their Green Card. These children are included in the Second Preference Category, but under the subsection F2B.  

Exact waiting times and immigration quotas can be found in the Visa Bulletin released monthly by the U.S. immigration authorities. The same conditions apply for adopted and step-children.

Take note: There is no possibility for Green Card holders to bring other relatives, such as married children, parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. to the United States under these family reunification conditions.

Relatives/Spouse of a US Citizen

Under certain conditions, US citizens can also file immigrant visa applications for immediate relatives. US immigration law allows the following family members of US citizens to apply for a Green Card:

Immediate relatives of a US citizen:

  • Spouse
  • Unmarried children under the age of 21
  • Parents of US citizens (if the US petitioner is over the age of 21)

Other Close Family Members:

  • Unmarried children over the age of 21 (First Preference)
  • Married children over the age of 21 (Third Preference)
  • Brother or sister (Fourth Preference)

Please take note that US citizens cannot apply for an immigrant visa for other family members like aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, etc. and these relatives do not qualify for a Green Card through family unification.

How a green card holder or us citizen can file a Green card application for a relative

To apply for an immigrant visa through a family member who has a Green Card, the following steps need to be taken:

  • The first step is filing the Green Card Application (I-130, Petition for Alien Relative) with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The main applicant in this case is always the Green Card holder or the U.S. citizen who is petitioning for their relative.
  • In the petition, you must provide documents like a birth certificate, proof of family relationship, etc. How quickly USCIS processes the application depends on the relationship of the Green Card holder to the family member. 
  • USCIS will support the application only after they are convinced that the family relationship is authentic.
  • The petition can be rejected if, for example, the US authorities believe that a marriage in not authentic and only took place for the spouse to get a Green Card. If the US authorities are suspicious, they will invite the pair for an interview and may even visit the applicant’s home for an inspection.
  • Take note: A US citizen who has lived for at least one year outside of the USA can file the petition with the US consulate in the country they are living in.
  • After the application has been authorized by USCIS, the Green Card applicant (foreign relative) is notified that they can proceed with the so-called consular processing. If the foreign relative is already living in the USA with a nonimmigrant visa, it is possible to get the visa while in the USA under a procedure called adjustment of status.

Family-sponsored waiting period in the visa bulletin

Take note that additional information concerning waiting periods for different visa categories and types can be found in the monthly-released Visa Bulletin. Here, the US authorities post all current immigrant and nonimmigrant visa information. A visa is available for the applicant as soon as there is a “c” for current in the visa category table that pertains to their visa. A cut-off date is given in the table if there are no longer any visas available in that visa category.  The priority date is the date that the petition was properly filed with USCIS or the respective US consulate.

 

 

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