A green card identifies a person as a U.S. permanent resident, allowing them to live, work, enter, and exit the United States throughout their entire lives. Individuals with green cards can also eventually apply for U.S. citizenship.
Green card eligibility is determined by the following categories:
Immediate relatives of U.S citizens: This includes spouses, widows and widowers, unmarried people under the age of 21 with at least one U.S citizen parent, parents of a U.S. citizen aged 21 or older, and stepchildren and adopted children who meet certain criteria.
Additional family members: Other family members related to at least one U.S. citizen are also eligible for green cards. They are considered by a preference system. Unmarried adults age 21 or over have first preference. Spouses and unmarried children of a green card holder, so long as the children are younger than age 21; and unmarried children age 21 or older of a green card holder have second preference. Married people, any age, who have at least one U.S. citizen parent have third preference, and siblings have fourth preference.
Preferred workers: Green cards are granted to 140,000 workers whose skills are needed in the U.S. market. They must be recruited only after no qualified U.S. workers are available for the jobs. Preferred workers are also granted green cards using a preference system.
Green card lottery: The U.S. grants 50,000 green cards to residents of other countries that have sent the fewest immigrants to the U.S. The green card lotteries are used to promote ethnic diversity.
Special immigrants: Some special considerations are made to offer green cards to people in unique situations. Examples are international broadcasters or retired U.S. federal employees working outside the country.
Refuge and Asylum: People who have suffered persecution in the past, or fear possible persecution in the future in their home country, can apply for asylum or refugee status. Persecution must involve race, religion, nationality, political affiliation, or social group membership.
Amnesty and special agricultural worker status: The government once granted amnesty status to undocumented people living in the U.S since January 1982, and for some agricultural laborers working for at least 90 days from May 1985 – May 1986. An immigration lawyer can help individuals determine if they qualify for class action lawsuits regarding amnesty.
Long-time residents: Certain undocumented people who have been living in the U.S for more than ten years can request permanent residence as a defense in immigration court. You must show you have an immediate family member who is a U.S citizen, or returning to your country of origin would present extreme hardship.
Special cases: In some rare cases, U.S. Congress members have intervened to help someone get permanent residence even if they would not qualify according to one of these categories.
Applying for a Green Card
The first step to apply to become a permanent resident is to file an immigrant petition. There are different types depending on the basis of the person’s availability and immigration category. Some are filed individually while others are filed on a person’s behalf.
After the petition is approved, the person completes another document called Form I-485, along with the required filing fee and evidence to prove eligibility. The applicant receives a receipt for their form, an appointment date, a possible interview with an immigration office, and eventually a written notice of decision.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Help Clients Better Understand Green Card Eligibility
Green card eligibility can be confusing. The dedicated Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. take the time to determine if you are eligible for permanent residence status and help you properly apply for a green card. We guide you every step of the way, helping you to take the best legal course of action to protect you and your family in the U.S.
Call us today at 215-925-4435 or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia, we represent clients in the greater Philadelphia area, including those in Delaware County, Montgomery County and Philadelphia County.