The term green card is used regularly in the United States, but I often wonder how many people actually understand what it signifies.
Green card is an expression for what is really called lawful permanent resident or LPR status in U.S. immigration law.
A person having LPR status has the right to permanently reside in the United States, to work anywhere she or he chooses, and to enter into the United States after international travel without the need for a different visa.
Also, LPRs can sponsor spouses and unmarried children to immigrate to the United States in the same status through the petition process.
In this article, we will examine options for an individual who intends to live in the United States permanently to accomplish that goal.
For an individual to become an LPR, generally she or he must be sponsored, either by an employer or a qualifying family member. An employer can sponsor an employee or a person targeted for employment through a process called labor certification. During that process, the employer must recruit for the position as if it were available to the everyone.
If all applicants who respond to the job offering through the recruitment process were legally disqualified, the application is submitted to the Department of Labor for consideration. Then if approved, the company can continue with the actual green card procedure for the person being sponsored.
There are some exceptions to the labor certification requirement.
People of extraordinary ability who have received international recognition or acclaim for what they do, exceptional professors or and researchers, and multinational managers or executives can file petitions for permanent residence with the U.S. immigration authorities (USCIS) without a labor certification.
Also, there are three occupations that are pre-certified as being in labor shortage in the United States– registered nurses, occupational and physical therapists and sheepherders. Additionally, there is a waiver to the labor certification requirement for job offers that do not lend themselves to the labor certification process called a national interest waiver.
These petitions mandate that the position itself be in the national interest (for example cancer or Alzheimer’s research positions), and that the person seeking to fill the position itself be in the national interest.
People can also obtain green cards through the sponsorship of qualifying family members. Under current law, U.S. citizens can sponsor spouses, parents when the petitioning child is over age 20, children, no matter the child’s age or marital status, and siblings for permanent residence.
Permanent residents can sponsor spouses and unmarried children. Spouses, unmarried children under age 21 and parents of U.S. citizens over age 20 are regarded as immediate relatives under the law. There is no limit to the number of immediate relatives that can immigrate to the United States—no yearly quotas.
For all other relationships, including spouses and minor children of LPRs, there are annual quotas that produce in some cases wait times of over twenty years.
Although these are the most common ways to immigrate to the United States on a permanent basis, there are other approaches. For example, refugees resettled in the United States and those granted political asylum can file for permanent residence after one year.
The U.S. government has a diversity visa program designed to promote diversity among the immigrant population in the United States.
Each year, 50,000 green cards are issues to foreign nationals of countries who have a lower rate of sending immigrants to the United States than others. Countries that send a large number of people to the United States for LPR status are excluded from the program, such as China and India.
Additionally, a person facing deportation from the United States who meets specific criteria can seek permanent residence in the United States as relief from the deportation process. This is called cancellation of removal and adjustment of status for certain nonpermanent residents.
The criteria are that the person facing deportation, or technically removal, from the United States; be in the United States for more than 10 years without leaving (with some exemptions); have no serious criminal record; and have a qualifying relative– either a spouse, parent or child who is a U.S. citizen of lawful permanent resident who would suffer extraordinary and extremely unusual difficulty in the event of the deportation of their relative.
One other option is to seek a green card through investment. On an investment of $500,000 or $1 million depending on the specific investment vehicle the investor chooses, a foreign national can make an application for permanent residence in the United States.
The investment must produce 10 new jobs for U.S. workers within two years of authorization, and the status is conditional for two years to give the investor time to create those jobs.
These are the options for someone to secure a green card.