What is a Green Card?
Green cards, formally known as “United States Lawful Permanent Residency,” authorize an individual to live and work in the United States permanently, and allow them to apply for citizenship after a number of years of residency, with exceptions made for those who marry U.S. citizens or come to the country as refugees.
A permanent resident does not hold the same status as a United States Citizen, but an adjustment of status eventually becomes an option.
Foreign Nationals first hold Conditional Permanent Resident for a number of years depending on their status before they are eligible to become citizens.
While green cards can be obtained through family, investment, refugee status, and other special conditions, green cards can also be obtained through employment. Here’s more information about green cards through jobs.
Types of Green Cards
Individuals can become eligible for permanent residence and a green card through several ways, including marriage and employment. Individuals seeking a green card through employment can apply from their home country once they are assigned an immigrant visa number, which is organized based on the following preferences:
First Preference: Individuals with special abilities, distinguished academics, professors, and researchers, and international executives are eligible for First Preference Permanent Residency or an immigrant visa. Evidence can range from Pulitzer or Nobel Peace Prizes and Athletic Awards to Professional Associations and Publications.
Second Preference: Professionals with an advanced degree or workers with exceptional talent. This also includes foreign nationals interested in a National Interest Waiver
Third Preference: Skilled workers and professionals are eligible for Third Preference EB-3 green cards. Workers are required to have at least two years of experience and professionals usually require degrees from accredited universities.
Fourth Preference: Individuals under special circumstances like Translators, Armed Forces Members, NATO-6 employees, certain religious workers, and Employees of global organizations.
Fifth Preference: Immigrant investors who are willing to invest between $500,000-$1,000,000 in a venture that creates at least ten new jobs for U.S. citizens, or other lawful permanent residents are eligible for fifth preference green cards.
How to Get a Green Card
There are four basic employment-related ways to obtain a green card, including:
Green Card through a job offer: An individual can apply for a green card after receiving a formal offer to work in the United States.
Green Card through investment: An individual establishes a business venture that creates new jobs in the U.S. Foreign Nationals taking this route will typically fall under the Fifth Preference EB-5 category.
Green Card through self-petition: Distinguished individuals with exceptional abilities, or specific individuals who are granted a National Interest Waiver, can file a green card for themselves.
Special Category Green Card: This category includes workers in the established special immigrant categories, such as broadcasters, international employees, and certain religious workers, for example.
Green Card Application Process
Although the application process differs based on the method in which one seeks to obtain a green card, generally an I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, must be submitted. An I-140 Approval Notice is a document that grants an employer the option to employ a foreign national on a permanent basis. In some instances, foreign nationals with exceptional ability can self-petition for an I-140 filing.
Once the petition is approved individuals can apply for a green card through Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status to remove any conditional requirements from their status. If the priority date for the foreign national is current, they are able to file the I-485 and the I-140 concurrently.
Here are more specific guidelines based on each path of green card application:
Applying for a Green Card
The Green Card Lottery Program
The annual green card lottery program (Diversity Immigrant Visa Program) is an opportunity for potential immigrants to obtain the status as a permanent legal resident of the USA. This program runs each year and provides “Green Cards” to applicants randomly selected in a lottery process – known as Green Card Lottery.
The annual lottery began in 1995 makes 50,000 permanent resident visas (also known as Green Cards) to foreign nationals (and 5,000 to Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act beneficiaries) in countries with low rates of immigration.
Who is Eligible for the Green Card Lottery
To be eligible to apply for the green card lottery, you must be a native or a country with a low rate of immigration to the United States.
Countries that have sent more than 50,000 foreign nationals to the United States in the last five years are unable to apply for this visa. For the 2016 lottery, Brazil, Canada, China, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, United Kingdom, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Peru, Mexico, Pakistan, South Korea, Colombia, Bangladesh, and Northern Ireland are some of the ineligible countries.
There is no cost to enter the Green Card lottery, but the only way to apply is to complete and send a form electronically at the US Department of State’s Website during the registration period. Many companies also offer to help with the application process for a fee, but using these vendors does not increase a person’s chances of being selected.
You must also meet the education or work experience requirements.
In order to qualify for the lottery, a person must have at least a high school education or two years of trade work experience.