Green Card Requirements

Looking up green card requirements would be worthwhile for individuals hoping to apply. Eligibility of foreign-born “fiancé” of U.S. citizen may apply for a K-1 or visa to enter the country. A K-1 visa holder is a nonimmigrant on a temporary visa of 90 days.

Marriage is required for a foreign-born citizen to apply for a green card for permanent resident status by way of the post K-1 visa “adjustment of status” process. There are no annual limits on K-1 visas for fiancés. Foreign-born persons entering the United States on a K-1 visa, are not subject to delay in issuance of renewal status as occurring with some other categories of visa application. If already living in the U.S. or engaged to a U.S. citizen residing in a foreign territory outside of the U.S., a K-1 visa is not necessary. In such case, legal marriage and green card application are recommended where: 

  • One of the two persons is a U.S. citizen, and not a green card or permanent resident;
  • Both members of the marriage union are single and of legal age to be married. This includes same-sex marriage if affirmed in a state where it is legal;
  • An immigrant has a genuine intent to marry a U.S. citizen petitioner on arrival in the country;
  • The couple have met in person during the past two years.

The K-1 visa is inappropriate for persons merely considering marriage. Intention to marry is adequately documented with arrangements, a date, or record of deposit or retainer for facilities or photographer. Where a couple is subject to religious prohibition of meeting in person prior to the marriage, and a legal marriage has been customarily arranged by the couple’s families, a request to the USCIS to waive the personal meeting requirement must be submitted. The K-1 visa also entitles the unmarried children under 21 years of age to be issued K-2 visas to enter the U.S. with the parent. Application for green card permanent resident status for children can be submitted after the marriage is legally registered.

U.S. permanent residents holding green cards are not eligible for K-1 visa consideration for fiancées. Immigrants entering the U.S. on a tourist visa or other visa for the primary purpose of getting married and application for green card status should consult with an attorney. Without proper representation, the immigrant could be denied permanent resident status based on visa fraud.

The K-1 visa was enacted by Congress in 1970, as a measure to unite families of U.S. citizens that might have been separated for an extended period, otherwise. The K-1 visa eliminates the risk that a fiancé with valid claim to intent to marry a U.S. citizen is not denied entry, or worse. During the 90-day period, an applicant may work in the country. The couple must file the green card petition Form I-130 to adjust the status petition I-485 with the United States Immigration and Nationalization Service.

To commence the K-1 and visa process, the U.S. citizen of the couple must file a Form I-129 with the INS. Once approved the INS forwards the file to the U.S. Consulate abroad nearest the residence of the fiancé. The K-1 interview and green card interview procedures are nearly identical

There is four months from the approval date of the K-1 visa petition that the fiancé can apply at a U.S. Consulate abroad. While in some cases the four-month period is extended, each request for extension adds to the complexity of case, if the intention to marry the U.S. citizen is called into question. Couples not wishing to marry within the 90-day period of the K-1 visas, must pursue a non-immigrant work visa or utilize a B-1/B-2 visa for the alien immigrant to stay in the country during the period.

Who Is Eligible for a Family-Based Green Card?

The average wait for foreign immigrant, extended family members to obtain visa consideration is 5 to 25 years, depending on country of origin and category. Categories considered for family-based green card petition post-entry:

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens, including widows and widowers;
  • Children with at least one U.S. citizen parent, who are under the age of 21 and unmarried;
  • Parents of U.S. citizens, if the citizen is over the age of 21 years;
  • Stepchildren and stepparents, if the marriage creating the relation was affirmed prior to the child’s 18th birthday;
  • Adopted children, if the adoption took place prior to the child’s 16th birthday.

The same INS rules governing parents and children apply to adoptive relatives, with additional procedures for eligibility. Other categories of family generally do not meet priority criteria for “fast-track” visa entry. Where extended family are considered, the U.S. family member must petition on behalf of the applicant, and show verification of financial sponsorship of the immigrant before visa petition I-130 will be considered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Approved visa petitions are sent to the Department of State's National Visa Center for issuance of an immigrant visa number.

Employment-Based Green Cards - Application Process

A total of 140,000 green cards are offered each year to foreign workers whose job skills are not found through advertisement in the U.S. labor market. Employment-based eligibility for entry to the country is a multistage process that must be commenced by the employer. First, the employer requests prevailing wage determination (PWD) ruling from the U.S. Department of Labor by way of the iCert system.

A PERM labor certification must then be obtained by the employer via the USDOL with Form 9089 petition submission within one year of PWD issue. A visa petition Form I-140 filing with the USCIS by the employer must be done within 180 days of PERM labor certification approval. The Priority Date approval process for entry to the U.S. may be delayed due to volume petition.

Foreign workers with visa status can file for a green card application with Form I-485. The USCIS requires an interview at a U.S. consulate abroad, or at a USCIS office in the United States. Immigrant visas are issued after the consulate interview. Green card petition with the USCIS, in this case, must be done after entry. USCIS office interviews result in an “adjustment process” and permanent resident petition.

Spouses and children of employment-based green cards may enter the U.S. as accompanying relatives. Employment-based visas given “First Preference” by the USCIS are for priority workers deemed to be “persons of extraordinary ability” in the arts, business, education, sciences or athletics. USCIS first preference include outstanding researchers, professors, and executives and managers of multinational companies.

“Second Preference” employment visa petitioners are professionals with advanced degrees. “Third Preference” visa applicants are skilled professionals or unskilled workers. “Fourth Preference” are religious workers falling under “special visa” criteria, and other miscellaneous categories of workers. ”Fifth Preference” are wealthy investors or EB-5 visa applicants proposing investment of at least $500,000 to $1,000,000 in business investment in the United States.

Who Can Get an Investment-Based (EB-5) Green Card?

The United States welcomes green card petition by investors with an Employment Fifth Preference or EB-5 visa. EB-5 visa holders must invest $1 million in a new, restructured, or expanded U.S. business, or $500,000 if determined to be an economically disadvantaged community. Holders of EB-5 visas are entitled to apply with their spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 for permanent residency. Petition for EB-5 visas is limited to 10,000 per year, with 3,000 visas reserved for applicants investing in areas of high unemployment, or of rural development. A waiting list persists for EB-5 visas. Eligibility requirements are restrictive.

Eligibility for a Green Card as a Special Immigrant

The unmarried children of a foreign-born spouse under the age of 21 are eligible for special immigrant status via green card petition. After five years, a child bearing a green card exhibiting good moral character and speaking English, and passing a U.S. history and government exam, can apply for U.S. citizenship with INS Form I-360. Immigrant minors may not petition for their natural or adoptive parents in another country to immigrate to the U.S. under any circumstance.

Foreign nationals under age 21 who are unmarried, declared dependent and eligible for long-term foster care by a U.S. Court based on a case of abuse, neglect, or abandonment, remains in the court’s custody for determination if it is in the child’s best interest to become a permanent resident.

Each year, 10,000 special immigrant visas falling under category EB-4 are comprised of six main classifications. This includes persons who served honorably on active duty with the U.S. military for 12 years after Oct. 15, 1978. Afghan and Iraqi nationals are given priority and considered under a separate visa. Foreign workers employed abroad by the U.S. government for 15 years, and retired officers or employees of specified international organizations residing in the U.S. holding a G-4 or N visa may file a green card petition at time of retirement. Foreign employees of the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong are eligible after three years of service.

Who Is Eligible for Asylum Protection in The U.S.?

Persons who have faced persecution in their home country, or are facing near future persecution based on their nationality, political opinion, race, religion or membership in a social group is eligible for asylum protection in the United States. The same rules are applied to refugees and asylum seekers. There is no limit to annual number of applicants. Approved refugee and asylees may remain in the country indefinitely or until the circumstances of persecution discontinue, or the person applies for green card status. Persons falling under the two categories are eligible after one year.

Eligibility for a Green Card Under the Registry Provision of the I.N.A.

Immigrants living in the U.S. continuously since Jan. 1, 1972. The standard criteria to permanent residency applies. Applicants must not be ineligible for naturalization (citizenship); are not deportable under Section 237(a)(4)(B) or inadmissible under Section 212(a)(3)(E) of the Immigration and Nationality Act as a criminal (i.e., narcotics), procurer, or immoral category of person (i.e., alien smuggler or subversive).

Green Card for Special Agricultural Workers

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 provided for amnesty green card eligibility for agricultural workers for a minimum of 90 days between the dates of May 1, 1985, and May 1, 1986.

Longtime Residents

Longtime residents of more than 10 years are entitled to request permanent residence. Proof of imminent hardship if deported must be evidenced to meet the criteria to longtime resident exemption.

Inquiries concerning USCIS immigration petition for visa entry to the United States can submit a request for legal consultation at the UpCounsel marketplace. UpCounsel lawyers represent the top 5 percent attorneys in the United States, graduating from top law schools such as Harvard Law School and Yale Law School. UpCounsel attorneys have an average 14 years of legal experience and have represented corporate clients like Google and Menlo Ventures.