A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

How to apply for a U.S. green card?

The immigration laws in the U.S. are extremely complicated.  Many intending immigrants do not understand how they can apply for legal status in the U.S.  The following is a summary of seven major ways that one may apply for a U.S. green card:

1. Petition by Close Family Members
If you have a parent, spouse, child, brother, or sister who are U.S. citizens, then you may be eligible to apply for a green card through them. Certain lawful permanent residents may also apply for their relatives. Each relative category has its own sets of rules.   Waiting times vary considerably according to the closeness of the relationship, the immigration status of your relative, your marital status and your country of birth. For example, if you are married to a U.S. citizen, you may obtain a green card in nine months (or less if you are in the United States). However, if you are petitioned by your brother who is a U.S. citizen, it may take over ten years for you to obtain permanent residence, even longer if you were born in a country with a large backlog such as China, India, or the Philippines. 

2. Petition by an Employer
A U.S. employer who cannot find a suitable and available U.S. worker to fill a job opening may petition for a qualified foreign worker for the opening.   In fact, this is the most common way for F-1 students and H-1B workers to obtain permanent resident status.  Normally, a labor certification needs to be approved before the employer may petition for a green card for the employee.  Certain employment-based immigrant categories are exempt from the labor certification requirement (E.g., extraordinary ability and national interest waiver applicants)

3. Extraordinary Ability / Exceptional Foreign Nationals and  Special Categories
For those people who possess superior education, extraordinary or exceptional ability, or work at multinational companies, they can apply for a green card directly without first obtaining a labor certification, and sometimes even without a job offer.  For some foreigners whose immigration is considered in the national interest of the United States, they may also apply for a green card on their own by requesting for a "national interest waiver".  Eligible religious worker such as priests, nuns, and missionaries may also apply for a green card based on their need to work.

4. Visa Lottery (Diversity Visa)
Every year, approximately 50,000 immigrant visas are available for nationals of countries which have not sent a large number of immigrants to the U.S. during the preceding five years.  The odds are doubled if both your and your spouse apply at the same time.   

5.  Investor / Investment Visas
For those individuals who are able and willing to invest a substantial amount of capital in the U.S., they may also be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa based on the EB-5 visa category.  Their investment and business must meet very vigorous requirements and create at least 10 jobs in the U.S. 

6. Political Asylum
Foreign nationals who have suffered persecution in the past or who fear persecution in the future may be eligible to apply for lawful permanent resident status by applying for political asylum.   The alleged persecution must be based on race, religion, political opinion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group.  

7. Extraordinary Relief
Finally, if you are in removal, deportation, or exclusion proceedings, you may also apply for permanent residence through suspension of deportation or cancellation of removal. These are extraordinary forms of relief granted only to the most deserving applicants only.

Update: The Trump Administration has made proposals to overhaul of the U.S. immigration system including elimination of certain family visa categories, cancellation of the Diversity Visa Program, and replacing some employment visa categories with a new merits-based system.  However, these are merely proposals until they were endorsed by Congress and signed into law.  Subscribe to our blog to get updates of the most current immigration news.   3/13/2018

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