To live and work permanently in the United States, you will need a green card (i.e. lawful permanent resident status). Some foreign nationals manage to stay for many years in the U.S. simply by renewing their nonimmigrant visa many times over. However, this is an expensive and unpredictable process, and a nonimmigrant visa severely limits the activities and work you can complete while living in the United States.
Obtaining a green card also allows you to (eventually) apply for citizenship through naturalization. All in all, a green card is a highly coveted status and, for many, well worth the effort of the process.
Without further ado, here are 4 ways to become a lawful permanent resident.
1. Through Family
Family-based immigration is quite common. If you are related to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, they may be able to sponsor you (i.e. file an immigrant petition on your behalf). All family-based immigration categories require a family member to sponsor the potential green card holder.
If you are related to a U.S. citizen, they may sponsor you if you are their:
- Son or daughter;
- Parent; or
If you are related to a lawful permanent resident, they may sponsor you if you are their:
- Spouse; or
- Son or daughter.
Both lists are ordered by preference (highest to lowest). Sons and daughters who are unmarried and under 21 have a higher preference than older/married sons and daughters.
2. Through Employment
Employment-based immigration is also very common. For most employment-based green card categories, you will need a qualifying U.S. employer to sponsor you. The U.S. government prioritizes specialized, highly skilled, or world-renowned individuals over unskilled and uneducated workers. Additionally, your employer will likely need to prove that there is a genuine need for foreign employment that cannot be filled by American-born workers.
Some nonimmigrant work visas allow you to adjust your status, as well. These are called dual intent visas, and they include the following categories:
Be careful, however, if you choose to pursue permanent residence by first obtaining a nonimmigrant visa. Most nonimmigrants visas do not allow you to possess dual intent, and the adjudicating officer may believe you are committing fraud if you apply for a nonimmigrant visa (other than the ones listed above) with the long-term goal of becoming a permanent resident.
3. Through Investment
Investment-based green cards are technically the fifth category of employment-based immigration, but they do not require you to have a bona fide job offer from an employer. In other words, you can self-petition for an investment-based green card.
To qualify, you will need to invest at least $1,800,000 in a qualifying U.S. commercial enterprise (or $900,000 if the enterprise is in a “target employment area”). These amounts are the result of recent increases, but be aware that several government websites have not yet changed to reflect the new minimums.
4. Through Humanitarian Programs
The United States gives green cards to many people each year based on humanitarian grounds.
Humanitarian programs that may allow you to become a permanent resident include:
- Asylum – for those who cannot return to their country of origin for fear of violence or persecution; allows for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence after one year
- T or U visas – for victims of human trafficking and other crimes; initially grants temporary status but allows for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence
- Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) – for individuals of any gender who have been abused by a U.S. citizen spouse, parent, or child, or by a lawful permanent resident spouse or parent
Family-based, employment-based, investment-based, and humanitarian-based green cards are just a few of the most common ways people obtain green cards. For more options, explore the eligibility categories page on the USCIS website or get in touch with an experienced attorney.
Get Started on Your Green Card Process Today
Do any of the above options sound like they are right for you? Would you like to explore any additional options you might have at your disposal? Sintsirmas & Mueller Co. L.P.A. is here to answer all your questions and help you find the best possible path toward lawful permanent residence. We have handled countless cases and look forward to using our experience to help you succeed.