Miami Immigration: Green Card Basics

There are a variety of avenues for getting a green card for US residency. Probably the most common are through employment or through relatives who have US citizenship. Unfortunately, in many categories only a certain number of people receive green cards every year, and there’s a lengthy waiting list. Here is an overview of green card categories.

Family-Based Green Cards

One of the fastest ways of getting a green card is to have a close relative who is a US citizen assist you. You qualify if you’re the spouse of a US citizen, an unmarried child of a US citizen and under the age of 21, the parent of a US citizen who is at least 21 years old, the stepparent of a US citizen if the marriage creating the relationship took place before the US citizen’s 18th birthday, the stepchild of a US citizen if the marriage creating the relationship took place before your 18th birthday, or the adopted child of a US citizen adopted before the age of 16. There is no waiting list in this category. Successful applicants receive their green cards after completing and submitting the necessary paperwork.

If you are a family member of a US citizen but you don’t qualify in one of the categories listed above, or if you’re a family member of a US permanent resident, you may still qualify for a green card, though you probably fall into one of the so-called preference categories. There are only a certain number of green cards given out each year in each preference category, and in some categories the wait is long. There are preference categories both for people applying for green cards as family members and for people applying for employment-based green cards.

If your relative is a US citizen, you may be eligible for a green card if (in preference order):

Your parent is a US citizen, you’re unmarried, and you’re 21 or older

Your parent is a US citizen and you’re married

Your sibling is a US citizen

You may also qualify for citizenship if your relative is a permanent resident, and you’re either the spouse or the unmarried child of the green card holder.

There are also employment-based green cards. These usually require an employment offer. You may qualify for an employment green card if, in order of preference, you are:

A person of extraordinary ability, or professor or notable researcher, or an executive of a multinational companies

A person with an advanced degree or with exceptional abilities

A professional or skilled worker in an in-demand profession

A religious worker

An investor who’s willing to invest $1 million (or $500,000 under some circumstances) in a US business

There is also an annual lottery. Currently, 50,000 green cards are awarded to people who are chosen through a lottery system. People who are citizens of countries who have fewer immigrants to the US have higher chances of being selected.

Some people may qualify for a green card because of special circumstances. There are several small green card categories that include people seeking political asylum, retired employees who worked for the US government overseas, and broadcasters. People who have been living in the US illegally longer than ten years can request permanent residence if their deportation would cause “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” to a close relative who is a US citizen or permanent resident.

Securing a green card is a complicated process and it’s important that you have an experienced immigration attorney on your team. Please contact us today to learn more!


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