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Can I Apply for Green Card After 5 Years in US

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Can I apply for a Green Card after living here legally for five years. Hi, I'm Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States at our offices in St. Louis, San Diego and Washington, DC. Today's question comes from one of our YouTube subscribers and they want to know Jim, if I've been in the United States in legal status for five years, does that mean it's time for me to apply for my Green Card? And I think that the questioner has a little bit of a disconnect between immigrant visas and non-immigrant visas, immigrant status and non-immigrant status.

Remember, if you're in the United States in non-immigrant status or, as I believe the viewer meant, legally, in other words you've been in the United States in some kind of legal status, does that give you the right or the ability or the time to file for lawful permanent residence, to apply for an immigrant visa to stay in the United States permanently? The answer to this question is sadly, no. Just being in the United States and following the rules and having a non-immigrant visa for a certain amount of time does not give you any legal status and no way for you to apply for lawful permanent resident status.

That is really in certain ways, your non-immigrant status doesn't give you any leg up or any path to a Green Card residence or to citizenship. The things are sort of on two separate tracks. So of course, if you're in the United States, you need to be here in valid immigration status. Then of course, there are a lot of people who aren't, but I think the viewer just sort of assumes that those people can't apply for Green Card, but just being here on a non-immigrant visa. So let's say you're here on an F1 student visa for four or five, six years.

Maybe you go to school, you get OPT and then you've been in the United States for five years. It's the five year anniversary of you arriving in the United States in valid non-immigrant status. Does that mean that you can then apply for a Green Card? No, it doesn't. Remember, for a Green Card, for lawful permanent resident status, you need one of four things to have occurred. You either need to win the diversity visa, you need to be granted asylum, you need a family member to sponsor you, or you need an employer to sponsor you.

Those are really the four major routes. There's some investor visas and some religious visas that might lead to a Green Card, but that involves somebody sponsoring you. Just the simple fact of being in the United States in legal status doesn't give you the right or the ability to apply for a Green Card. So in a way, all that time that you've been here in that non-immigrant status doesn't really affect or help your ability to get that Green Card. Now, you might make connections, you might find an employer through the H-1B program or something like that who wants to sponsor you for a Green Card.

But just the fact of being in the United States with valid immigration permission doesn't give you that right to an automatic Green Card. Hope this makes sense. You got to have some outside source, a family member, a loved one or an employer sponsor you for that Green Card. Hope this makes sense. 314-961-8200, that's our number [email protected], that's our email address. Immigrant Home is the name of our Facebook group. You should join us there. We'd love to see you there. There's about 6,000 people plus in the Facebook group right now.

And then of course, we have our YouTube channel where we have hundreds and hundreds of YouTube videos answering as many immigration law-related questions as we've been able to over the last six years. And then of course, we have our immigration answer show where we're there on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My friend Daniel is back on Tuesdays and Thursdays. At noon central, we'll be in there answering immigration questions from around the world. Thanks a lot and we'll see you next time.

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