A Guide on How to Obtain a Green Card in the United States.

Learn about what a green card is, who it's for, the requirements, and process for obtaining permanent residence in the U.S.

What is a Green Card?

A “green card” is the term most often used by people when referring to the immigration status of an individual granted permanent permission to reside in the United States. There are several ways to obtain permanent residence, or a green card, in the United States such as employment, marriage, familial ties, refugee status etc.

Although there are several categories to obtaining a green card, some require a certification from the U.S. Department of Labor. Generally, an employer must get this certification showing that there are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified and available in the geographic area where the immigrant is to be employed and that no American workers are displaced by foreign workers.

A green card will authorize an individual to live, work in the United States, and allow them to apply for citizenship after a certain number of years of residency. Every year there is a Green Card Lottery program (Diversity Immigrant Visa Program) that gives an opportunity for potential immigrants to obtain the status of a permanent legal resident in the United States.

The program runs each year and provides 50,000 green card to applicants randomly selected in the lottery process. However, citizens of nations with large numbers of immigration to the United States are not eligible for the Green Card Lottery. The list varies each year, but a current list of countries that are eligible can be found on the USCIS’s website.

Requirements for getting a Green Card

The first step in allowing an employer to hire a foreign worker permanently in the U.S. is to obtain a labor certification by the Department of Labor. The Department of Labor then must certify to the USCIS that there are no U.S. workers able, willing, qualified and available to accept the job and that the employment will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.

An employer must file with ETA an Application for Permanent Employment Certification (ETA Form 9089). The application describes in detail the job, duties, educational requirements and other special capabilities the employee must possess to do the work as well as a statement of the prospective immigrant’s qualifications. However, some applicants are not required to receive such certification before becoming eligible for the Green Card Lottery.

Individuals seeking a green card through a job can apply while abroad once they are assigned an immigrant visa number, which is organized based on preferences.

The first preference is for individuals with special abilities, distinguished academics, professors and researchers and international executives.

The second is for professionals with an advanced degree or workers with exceptional talent.

The third preference is for skilled workers and professionals, or workers who have less than two years of relevant experience.

The fourth is for individuals under special circumstances, and certain religious workers.

Lastly, the fifth preference is for immigrant investors, who must invest a certain dollar amount in a venture that creates at least ten new jobs in the U.S. or other lawful permanent residents and immigrants.

These are all ways of being eligible to obtaining a green card and none are guaranteed. More information on the forms for each preference and particular situation should be sought via an attorney, but those are most of the basics.

Popular types of Work Visas available in the United States:

H-1B Visa - Specialty Occupation Worker (skilled worker)

H-2B Visa - Temporary non-agricultural worker

H-2A Visa - Temporary agricultural worker

L-1 Visa - Intra-company Transferee

B-1 Visa - Business visitors

J-1 Visa - Exchange Visitor Program

 

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