How to Apply for a Green Card

green card eligibility

How to Apply for a Green Card

What is a Green Card?

A green card is a form of identification that shows a person has been granted permission to live and work in the United States permanently. The “green card” itself is the actual identification card that proves this authorization. It is greenish, but most observers may chuckle then they discover that it is mostly blue. You could also take the concept of green to be symbolic. Think of it as a green traffic light that indicates that you can proceed to live and work here. It simply means that a green card holder is a lawful permanent resident. There are various types of green card eligibility, but the process is generally the same.

 

How is a Green Card Different From a Visa or Citizenship?

There may be some overlap of these concepts, but this is a basic comparison.

A visa serves as permission to seek entry into the United States. With this authorization, you are able to present yourself at a border and request admission into the U.S. The border guard or U.S. customs agent decides if you can enter. The visa can be a document or just a stamp on a passport.

A visa may also refer to operational eligibility status with the U.S. State Department. Such status is maintained continuously for current residents of the U.S. for the purpose of tracking non-citizens who reside here.

This article points out that a green card does not imply that its holder can come and go from the U.S. freely. It may be better to operate with a visa only at first. Then, when you are ready to stay more permanently, you will have a better chance of getting your green card approved.

 

Green Card Eligibility

There are three main categories for through which someone can apply for a green card. For any of them, you need to

  • Be eligible for one of the immigrant categories established in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)
  • Have a qualifying immigrant petition filed and approved for you
  • Have an immigrant visa immediately available
  • Be admissible to the United States

 

Family

This category includes spouses, parents and unmarried children of citizens and current green card holders. Children must be under 21, but those 21 and over can apply my meeting certain conditions. Find more details here.

Job

An offer of permanent employment may meet the requirement. You may also qualify as an investor or entrepreneur in a business that creates U.S. jobs. You can also do a “self-petition” if you have special skills and abilities to offer the U.S. workforce. That way, you would earn the particularly cool sounding status, “Alien of Extraordinary Ability.” Find more job-related information here.

Refugee or Seeker of Asylum

One year after you’ve been allowed to enter the U.S. as a refugee, you must apply for a green card. Although not required, it may also be a good idea for those granted asylum to apply at that one-year mark. There are more details of these humanitarian categories on this page.

Benefits

With a green card, you are free to apply for any job in the United States, other than some with high levels of security clearance. You can relocate to any state, and you can leave and reenter the country. In addition, you may choose to sponsor your family for the same status.

You can begin the process of becoming a full citizen once you have your green card.

 

What to Expect

Each of the categories has its own procedures for application and approval. This site has many answers for the typical application process. You usually receive a work permit within 90 days. After you have your work permit, you can apply for your Social Security card, which takes another two weeks. You will attend an interview about 3-4 months later. You can continue to renew your work permit while waiting for your green card is issued.

 

Are Current Immigration Issues Cause for Concern?

It is true that one administration may interpret the rules of immigration differently than others. But the recent hysteria over immigration in the media and social media feeds political influence more than actual practice.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are constantly reviewing and allowing people to enter the country. If you follow the process and don’t have a reason why you’d be denied, there is no reason to fear. On President’s Day 2017, there were 162 naturalization celebrations all over the country with more than 25,000 people becoming new citizens!

 

Where Do I Start?

Make sure that you identify the correct category to ensure you follow the right process. Start with the links under the three main categories. Then begin completing the forms and following the instructions. Make sure you complete the forms completely, with any required signatures. Then, you’re on your way to the status of permanent resident and possibly citizenship.

 

PHOTO: Bianca Aguilar / CC0

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