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A Guide on Obtaining a Green Card
Are you one of the foreign nationals who aspire to obtain a lawful permanent residence status in the United States? There are various ways on how a non-U.S. citizen can become a legal permanent resident. You may be eligible to become a green card holder in the United States under the sponsorship of a family member or an employer.
A green card allows you to work and live legally anywhere in the United States and qualify for U.S. citizenship after three or five years. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is responsible for approving green card applications. A competent Durham immigration attorney can help you determine your eligibility to apply for a green card.
This article will help you understand the green card application process by answering the following questions:
- How Do I Qualify for Lawful Permanent Resident Status?
- What are the Different Types of Green Cards?
- How Do I File for a Green Card?
How Do I Qualify for Lawful Permanent Resident Status?
The U.S. immigration law offers several ways for a foreign national to apply for a Green Card. The eligibility requirements may vary depending on the immigrant category you are applying under.
A non-resident may be eligible to apply for LPR status if:
- The non-resident has an approved visa petition filed by a United States employer
- The alien is the spouse, parent, or child of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
- The applicant is a refugee or asylee who has been in the United States for at least one year after being granted that status
What are the Different Types of Green Cards?
There are many categories of green cards. The most common types are:
Family-Based Green Card
Eligible family members include spouses, children, parents, and siblings of U.S. citizens and current green card holders may apply for family-based green cards.
Employment-Based Green Card
This type of green card allows multiple subcategories of workers to apply for permanent residence.
Humanitarian Green Cards
If a foreigner has physically lived in the United States for at least one year since receiving refugee status or asylum, he or she may apply for a green card. Victims of human trafficking, crime, or abuse may also apply for permanent residence under this category.
Diversity Lottery Green Card
The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program) makes up to 50,000 immigrant visas available annually, drawn from random selection among all entries to individuals who are from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.
Longtime-Resident Green Card
You may be eligible to register for a green card through “registry” if you have resided continuously in the United States since before Jan. 1, 1972.
How Do I File for a Green Card?
The steps you must take to apply for a green card will vary depending on your situation. A reliable Durham immigration attorney can help you prepare the necessary paperwork for your green card application. Here is the general application process that most applicants will go through:
The Sponsor Submits Petition
The first step is usually for the green card sponsor to submit a petition on behalf of the green card applicant. This is applicable for family-based and employment-based green card petitions.
- For family-based green card applications, you need to prove your familial relationship with a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or employer that makes you eligible for the green card.
- For employment-based green card applications, your employer needs to complete a “prevailing wage” request and wait to receive a prevailing wage determination (PWD) from the United States Department of Labor (DOL). The employer must conduct a recruitment process, and fail to find a U.S. citizen worker who is qualified and willing to accept the job. Then, the employer must submit a labor certification request to the DOL on Form ETA 9089 and wait for it to be approved.
The Beneficiary Submits Application
Once the USCIS approves the green card sponsor’s petition, you can now submit your green card application. You will either submit a consular application (if applying from outside the U.S.) or an adjustment of status (if applying from inside the U.S.).
Wait for Your Priority Date
If the U.S. government has a yearly quota of the green card type you’re applying for, you may have to wait to receive a visa number before submitting a green card application. This is based on your “priority date,” which comes from the date that either your I-130 petition or labor certification was first received. You may check the current number of visas available in the visa bulletin posted on the State Department’s website.
Set Your Biometrics Appointment
After submitting the green card application, you will be scheduled for a biometrics appointment where they’ll collect your fingerprints, photograph, and signature. This step is done to check if you are involved in any criminal activity.
Undergo a Medical Examination
Most Green Card applicants will be required to undergo a medical exam done by a U.S.-government-approved physician.
Attend the Green Card Interview
This interview is one of the most crucial parts of the green card process. A government officer will review your application and ask you questions. It often happens at a USCIS office or a local U.S. embassy if you’re applying from outside the country.
Wait for the Final Decision
Your green card application will either be approved or denied by the U.S. government. You might have to wait several weeks or months to hear back from the office processing your case. If your application is successful, you will receive either a visa to enter the U.S. as a permanent resident or a letter of approval (for adjustment of status). You shall receive your green card within several weeks or months later.
Here are some of the ways on how to check the status of your green card application:
Provide Your Receipt Number
After you submit your application to USCIS, the usual practice is to send a receipt within several days or weeks. There will be a 13-digit receipt number that starts with three letters to identify the office handling the application (such as EAC, LIN, SRC, or WAC). You can track your case in the system using this receipt number.
Check Your Immigration Status Online
You can check your application case status on the website of USCIS by clicking the “Case Status Online” page and entering your receipt number.
The Role of an Immigration Lawyer
The United States immigration system is a complicated system to navigate your way through. To ease the burden of the immigration process, do not hesitate to schedule a consultation with our experienced Durham immigration attorneys at Diener Law. Our immigration law firm can provide legal advice regarding forms, paperwork, documentation, and interviews for a successful green card application.