A green card gives an individual the authorization to work and live in the U.S. indefinitely. There are several ways to obtain a green card in the U.S. The most common are through employment or family immigration.

  • Family Based Green Cards

    A U.S. citizen and a permanent resident are allowed to petition for certain relatives to come and live permanently in the U.S. A person may qualify for a green card as an immediate relative or as a family member in one of the preference categories, if a U.S citizen relative petitions on their behalf. Permanent residents can petition for his/her spouse and unmarried children of any age to immigrate to the U.S.

    An immediate relative of a U.S. citizen is the spouse, unmarried children under age 21, and the parents of a U.S. citizen who is over 21 years. There are an unlimited number of visas in the immediate relative category and an immigrant visa number will become immediately available once the visa petition filed for them is approved. Immediate relatives are eligible to apply for a green card from either inside or outside of the U.S.

    The family preference category is further subdivided into four preference categories. These are:

    • First Preference: Unmarried sons and daughters, any age, of a U.S. citizen
    • Second Preference:
      • Spouse and/or child under age 21 of a permanent resident
      • Unmarried adult child of a permanent resident
    • Third Preference: Married children, any age, of a U.S. citizen
    • Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of a U.S. citizen

    Only a limited number of relatives may immigrate under the family preference category each year. Therefore, there is usually a waiting period before an immigrant visa number becomes available.

  • Employment Based Green Cards

    There are different requirements for each type of employment based green card. Some categories require you to already have a job offer from a U.S. employer (sponsor). Also, some categories require an employer to file a Labor Certification application while other categories allow you to self sponsor. There is a limited number of employment based green cards. Preference is based on the qualifications of the green card applicant and labor needs in the U.S.

    Employment based green cards are divided into the following five preferences:

    • EB-1
      • Individuals of extraordinary ability
      • Outstanding researchers or professors
      • Multinational managers and executives
    • EB-2
      • Individuals with advanced degrees or exceptional ability
    • EB-3
      • Professionals, skilled workers, or other workers
    • EB-4
      • Special immigrants such as religious workers
    • EB-5
      • Employment creation investor
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