According to the Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS) Annual Flow Reports, a total of 1,016,518 people became the legal permanent residents (LPR) or green card holders in the US in 2014. More than 50 percent of the people who received their LPR status were already residing in the US and 64 percent were granted their new LPR status because of their lawful family relationship with a US citizen or a Green Card holder. As you can guess, every year the US government receives millions of immigration applications. If you are wondering how many, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has an answer— six million. If you wish to apply for a US Green Card, make sure that you know all the rules and the eligibility criteria. Consulting an immigration attorney may give your application the right direction it needs. Moreover, the criteria change depending on your current residence (outside the US or inside it) and the category under which you are filing an application. Generally, a Green Card is valid for 10 years. However, sometimes an applicant is granted a conditional permanent resident status due to which the validity of a Green Card is granted for only two years. Following are a few categories under which you may file a Green Card application:
Relatives in the US
You need to be related to a US citizen, either as a parent (for citizens over the age of 21), as an unmarried child under 21 years of age, or as a spouse. You may also apply under the special categories if you are a battered child or spouse, the widower or widow of a US citizen, or were born into the family of a foreign diplomat in the United States. Under special circumstances, stepparents and stepchildren may also qualify for a Green Card.
You can file a Green Card application based on a permanent employment offer. In most cases, your employer will have to obtain a labor certificate and then file a Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker for you. However, you must hold a management position or equivalent, have a valid degree, and hold a job role for which no similarly qualified United States citizens are available at the time.
It’s always better if the foreign national seeking a Green Card works in a lucrative employment category, or works for an international organization. The eligibility criteria include religious workers, including nuns, priests, monks, rabbis, and deacons. The other jobs in the specialized category include professions such as Afghan/Iraqi Translator, broadcaster, International Organization Employee, Iraqi Who Assisted the U.S. Government, NATO-6 Nonimmigrant, Panama Canal Employee, and Physician National Interest Waiver.
If you’re a physical therapist by profession or a registered nurse, you will be eligible to receive a Green Card as long as you’ve got a job offer from a US-based medical center or hospital.
In certain cases, a person doesn’t need an employment offer in the US to file a Green Card application. You may avail of this benefit and file a self-petition if you were granted a National Interest Waiver (NIW) (E11) or have extraordinary abilities in the field of arts, science, business, education, or athletics (E21). The application process varies depending on if you are in the US or outside it when you file the petition.
One of the easiest and ‘safest’ ways to go about the application process is to consult an immigration attorney when you decide to apply for a USA Green Card. An attorney will help you understand the eligibility criteria, the category under which you must file the application, and the documents you need. The process becomes much easier once you know what you have to do.