Becoming a permanent resident (Green Card) in the United States is complex and lengthy. A reputable green card attorney can assist individuals with all process aspects.
There are two primary pathways to a green card: family sponsorship and employment-based. Each of these routes has its requirements and processing times.
Employment-Based Green Card Applications
There are various ways to obtain permanent resident status in the United States and eventually become a full citizen. Some of the most common are through sponsorship by a family member, through employment eligibility, or through the PERM Labor Certification process. Green card lawyer in California can help you determine which pathway is best for your situation and help you through the entire process.
The first step for many employment-based immigrants is securing a visa through the PERM process or a nonimmigrant visa, such as an H-B or T.N. visa. Then, someone must file a petition for you, usually a family member or an employer.
Immediate family members can get their green cards faster than other categories of applicants, but there is still a limit to the number of visas available each year. Professionals with advanced degrees, other skilled workers, and certain special immigrant visas are also eligible for sponsorship.
Family-Based Green Card Applications
A family-based green card allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor their relatives, including spouses, children, siblings, parents, and others, to obtain a green card. Those who are immediate relatives (spouses, children under 21, and parents) do not face annual or per-country limits for visa availability, so their applications are prioritized. However, for other relatives, demand for green cards far exceeds supply, and applicants can face years-long wait times based on their priority date, which is determined by the date their sponsorship petition was filed.
Families of Lawful Permanent Residents and U.S. citizens may register for the Diversity Visa Lottery to mitigate these lengthy processing times. It is a chance for people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States to win a green card. However, winning a green card through this route does not guarantee it will be permanent. The holder can lose their status if they leave the country, commit certain crimes, or change their name or address without notifying the U.S. government.
Adjustment of Status
If you are already in the United States with a temporary visa, you may be eligible for green card status through an adjustment of status. This process allows you to apply to become a lawful permanent resident without traveling back to your home country and waiting for your case to be processed. Generally, this option is available to immediate family members of U.S. citizens, a spouse who entered the country on a K-1 fiance visa, asylees or refugees, or victims of human trafficking and certain crimes who came to the country with a U.S. nonimmigrant visa.
A qualified green card attorney can help you determine whether this option fits your situation and how to begin the process. Once approved for your green card, you will be a legal permanent resident and can start the path to citizenship. However, green card holders do not have all citizenship rights and cannot vote or serve in public office.
Unlike adjustment of status, consular processing takes between five and 12 months to complete. It requires an immigrant petition filed by a U.S. citizen or green card holder on behalf of the beneficiary, attending a biometrics appointment and an interview at a consulate. Some beneficiaries who apply under consular processing are refugees, asylum seekers, victims of domestic abuse, or individuals sponsored by a family member through the Violence Against Women Act.
Unlike AOS, which allows USCIS officers some leeway in weighing cases, consular officers must follow strict guidelines when reviewing an applicant’s eligibility for a visa. If an officer finds a beneficiary objectionable, they may refuse the application or recommend denial of the visa. An attorney can help the beneficiary understand the grounds for inadmissibility and assist them in preparing to resubmit a more compelling case. The beneficiary must also attend a medical exam with a USCIS-approved doctor; the cost of this exam varies depending on where they live.