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Obtaining a Green Card

Obtaining a Green Card

A Green Card is the informal name for a United States Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551). The early permanent resident card (1946 to 1964) was green in color, so it was loosely referred to as a Green Card. Recently, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) changed the format of the card and reverted back to the green color. The owner of a green card has the right to permanently live and work in the United States. It is also a path to becoming a U.S. citizen.

There are multiple ways for an individual to become a permanent resident and obtain a Green Card. The most common include family, employment, and investment.

Family-Based: U.S. Congress has made it somewhat easier for family members to be reunited with their relatives who are American citizens or lawful permanent residents.

1. Immediate Relative of an American Citizen
If you are the spouse, child, brother or sister, parent, or if you are engaged to be married to an American citizen, you can become a lawful permanent resident if the person to whom you’re related or engaged files a petition with the USCIS (Formerly known as the INS) or the American Embassy of your country of residence.

2. Related to a Permanent Resident
If you are the spouse or unmarried child of a lawful permanent resident, you can obtain a Green Card if the relative who has the Green Card files a petition with the USCIS (Formerly known as the INS) or American Embassy of your country of residence.

3. Other Relatives
If you are the aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, cousin, grandmother, or grandfather of an American citizen, of if you are the brother, sister, parent, or you are engaged to someone who holds a Green Card, you DO NOT qualify for a Green Card based on a “family relationship”.


If you are not eligible for family-based sponsorship (or even if you are), you may be able to obtain a Green Card on the basis of your work, as either a priority or non-priority worker.

1. Priority Workers

Priority workers (also known as EB-1) are people who possess skills that are considered in short supply or especially needed in the U.S. Priority workers include people with extraordinary ability, outstanding researchers and professors, and multinational executives and managers. These highly skilled workers are exempt from undergoing the Labor Certification Process, which is a lengthy process that tests the local U.S. job market and protects U.S. workers’ interests.

2. Non-Priority Workers

This is a broad classification and includes individuals with graduate degrees, professionals without graduate degrees, skilled and unskilled workers. Generally, non-priority workers are required to complete the Labor Certification Process to ensure that the vacant position cannot be satisfactorily filled by a U.S. worker. The exception to this rule involves National Interest Waivers (NIWs).

• Investment-Based
An alien entrepreneur from any country who invests from $500K to $1 Million USD in a new business and employs at least ten (10) American citizens or lawful permanent residents is eligible for a Green Card. The category allows for 10,000 immigrant visas per year to be issued and was designed to stimulate overseas investment and employment.

• Special Immigrant-Based
Certain immigrants qualify as designated special immigrants, including: religious workers, former government and military officials, and retired international organization officials. In addition, certain groups are granted the right to immigrate to the U.S. or given amnesty.

• Asylum-Based
Individuals who have suffered past persecution and/or have a well-founded fear of future persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group in his/her home country, are eligible to apply for a Green Card. For more information about Asylum, please click here.

World events during the past decade have exposed the different faces of the American people. As a whole, our patriotism has become more visible. But this wave of patriotism has also diluted some of the founding principles upon which our country stands. Like the pilgrimage of past generations, immigrants today provide an endless stream of talent, ingenuity, and creative abilities that ultimately deepen the fabric of our society and represent the continuation of our tradition as a nation of immigrants. Regrettably, efforts to “protect” and “defend” have made it increasingly difficult for foreign nationals to enter and remain in the United States. In particular, maintaining lawful nonimmigrant status has increased in complexity and violators are facing severe penalties for minor, technical breaches of the law. It is essential for nonimmigrants to know the consequences of failing to maintain lawful status and the related issue of “unlawful presence.”