Lawful permanent residence – the last step before citizenship.
Family Sponsored Preferences
If you are an immediate relative (spouse or under-21 unmarried child) of a US citizen, that US citizen can file a petition for you and you will be able to get your green card immediately once the US government processes your application. However, if you are not an immediate relative of a US citizen, you must have one of four relationships with a US citizen or LPR to obtain a green card.
- 1st Preference: Unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens
- 2nd Preference: Spouses and children of LPR’s OR unmarried sons and daughters of LPR’s
- 3rd Preference: Married sons and daughters of US citizen
- 4th Preference: Brothers and sisters of over-21 US citizens
The wait time for your green card varies depending upon the nature of the relationship and your country of origin. It also depends on whether your sponsor is a citizen or an LPR. Since every nation in the world is allowed an equal number of immigrants to the US each year, the wait times can be quite long in countries where a lot of people want to come to the US. These are the only family relationships that will allow you to get your green card. If you don’t fall into any of these categories, you may yet be able to obtain LPR status through one of the ‘Employment Based Preferences.’
Employment Based Preferences
1st Preference: Priority workers (extraordinary ability in science, arts education, business or athletics, outstanding professors or researchers and multinational executives and managers)
It is unlikely that you will fall into the 1st employment-based preference because it is generally reserved for the truly exceptional, recognized experts in a given field. This is the only employment-based preference in which the noncitizen may petition the government for a green card without the help of an employer.
2nd Preference: Members of professions holding advanced degrees, aliens of exceptional ability in science, arts or business
3rd Preference: Skilled workers, professionals and other workers
These two preferences require both that an employer petition the government for the potential immigrant and that the immigrant receive labor certification. To get labor certification, the employer must prove there are not enough US workers for the type of job and employing an immigrant will not hurt the wages or conditions of employment for US workers.
4th Preference: Religious workers and long-term employees of the US government
5th Preference: People who invest at least $1 million and employ at least 10 Americans for at least 2 years
These last two categories are pretty narrow but, since the quota for them is almost never exhausted, they can be a quick way to obtain your green card.
In the majority of cases, green cards are issued to immigrants who are already in the country on nonimmigrant visas. This process is known as ‘Adjustment of Status.’ It is useful because it allows noncitizens to remain in the country while going through the procedural process to obtain their green card. Adjustment of status still requires that you fit into one of the family-sponsored or employment-based preferences. It also tacks on the requirement that applicants must have been inspected and admitted to the US and that they haven’t overstayed their nonimmigrant visa by more than 180 days.
As with most rules that can disqualify potential immigrants, there are sometimes other parts of the law that might allow you to overcome obstacles to LPR status. Because immigration law can be complicated at times, it is important to talk to an immigration specialist if you have any questions about getting your green card. If you have any questions, contact the Hacking Law Practice’s immigration attorneys today and get started on your path to the American Dream.