Foreign nationals can permanently live and work in the United States if they obtain a green card. The U.S. government issues several types of green cards every year.
Our comprehensive FAQs should answer important questions about the green card program. If your question is not answered below, reach out to our legal team at MR Civil Justice to help you.
What is a Green Card?
Also known as a permanent resident card, a green card allows foreign nationals to lawfully live and work in the United States. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is responsible for approving green card applications. Lawful permanent residents (LPR) or green card holders can sponsor certain relatives (e.g., spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age) for their own green cards and apply for U.S. citizenship after three or five years.
What is USCIS?
USCIS is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that oversees legal immigration in the United States. The agency is mainly responsible for approving green cards, work permits, travel permits, naturalization (i.e., U.S. citizenship), and other “immigration benefits.”
What is the Difference Between a Conditional Green Card and a Permanent Green Card?
A conditional green card is valid for two years, while a permanent green card is valid for 10 years. A conditional green card holder must file Form I-751 to “remove the conditions” and obtain a permanent green card.
What is the Difference Between a Green Card and Citizenship?
Although being a green card holder and a U.S. citizen allows a person to lawfully live and work in the United States, a U.S. citizen can vote in all national and state elections, run for public office, and not be subjected to deportation.
What are Family-Based Green Cards?
Family-based green cards allow “immediate relatives” of U.S. citizens and green card holders to live and work in the United States. Common examples of immediate relatives include spouses, unmarried children, parents, and siblings, as well as widows and widowers of U.S. citizens. Both heterosexual and same-sex couples can also obtain marriage-based green cards.
What are Employment-Based Green Cards?
In most cases, U.S. employers must sponsor a foreign national to obtain an employment-based green card. There are a variety of employment-based visas available each year.
First preference immigrant workers consist of foreign nationals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics; who are outstanding professors or researchers; or are a multinational manager or executive.
Second preference immigrant workers consist of foreign nationals that are members of a profession that requires an advanced degree; have exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business; or are seeking a national interest waiver.
Third preference immigrant workers consist of foreign nationals that are skilled or unskilled workers, or a professional with at least a U.S. bachelor’s degree or equivalent.
There are employment-based visas available for “special workers,” such as media professionals, religious workers, employees of specific international organizations, as well as Afghanistan and Iraqi nationals who have served in the U.S. government in a specific capacity.
Immigrant physicians who agree to work full-time in clinical practice in a designated underserved area for a certain period can obtain a Physician National Interest Waiver.
Lastly, foreign nationals investing at least $1 million in an area that will create at least 10 new full-time jobs for U.S. workers can obtain a green card as an investor.
What are Humanitarian Green Cards?
The U.S. government also offers green cards to foreign nationals based on humanitarian reasons. People seeking asylum or refugee status, abuse victims (through the Violence Against Women Act [VAWA]) and crime victims (U visa), and human trafficking victims (T visa) can apply for this type of green card.
What are Diversity Lottery Green Cards?
Every year, the State Department publishes a list of countries whose citizens can enter a lottery for a diversity immigrant visa. These countries have a low number of foreign nationals in the U.S. and only people from countries that are listed can apply for the lottery. Only 50,000 diversity green cards are given every year.
What are Longtime Resident Green Cards?
Foreign nationals who have lawfully or unlawfully lived in the U.S. since January 1, 1972, can apply for a green card as “longtime residents” through a process known as “registry.” A longtime resident must also be a person of “good moral character” by not engaging in any serious criminal activity and must not have committed a deportable offense or a crime that disqualifies them from being U.S. citizens through naturalization.
What are Other Types of Green Cards?
Besides the main green card categories mentioned above, there are still many other kinds of green cards. Examples include green cards exclusively for Cuban natives or citizens through the Cuban Adjustment Act and green cards for American Indians or Native Americans born in Canada with at least 50 percent American Indian blood.
What is the Visa Bulletin?
The State Department publishes the Visa Bulletin every month to show which green card applications can move forward. Each year, there are caps on the number of green card issues under certain categories.
What is a Biometric Screening?
The biometrics appointment is a short and simple process, in which a government representative will document a green card applicant’s fingerprints, photos, and signature to run a thorough background check, looking for any serious criminal history or previous immigration violations.
What is the Green Card Interview?
The final step and most critical part of the green card process, the green card will be led by an interviewing officer who will ask you questions related to your application and if any changes occurred between the time you filed and your interview date. The interview will take place at a USCIS field office (if the foreign national lives in the U.S.) or a U.S. consulate or embassy (if the foreign national lives abroad).
The primary goal of the officer is to ensure that the information a green card applicant has provided on their application is consistent with their answers at the interview. The secondary objective depends on the type of green card.
For instance, foreign nationals applying for a marriage-based green card will be asked questions to determine the validity of the marriage. Foreign nationals applying for a family-based green card will be asked questions to confirm their relationship with the sponsor they claim.
Can I Work in the U.S. While Waiting for My Green Card?
Unless you already have a work permit, you cannot work in the U.S. until you obtain a valid work visa.
Why Would My Green Card Application be Denied?
Common reasons why a green card application is denied include mistakes on forms, insufficient funding, missing documents, unable to demonstrate eligibility, failing to establish an authentic and valid marriage, and ineligibility.
Should I Hire an Immigration Attorney?
Having an experienced immigration lawyer on your side can significantly increase your chances of obtaining a green card. Your lawyer can help you file the necessary paperwork, ensure that there are no mistakes on the forms, meet all the deadlines, and prepare you for the green card interview.