Permanent Residence (Green Cards)

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A permanent resident card (or “Green Card”) serves as proof of a person’s lawful permanent resident status in the United States. Most permanent residents can eventually naturalize and become United States citizens.

Permanent residence may be acquired through several methods, but the most common are through family members and employment.

Family–based Green Cards

The most common method is through a family member petition. Some family relationships qualify the foreigner for an immediate green card (unmarried sons and daughters, spouses and parents of certain U.S. citizens).

To be eligible for a green card through an immediate relative:

  • If the immigrant is present in the United States, they must have entered the United States with inspection at an authorized port of entry (such as a border crossing, airport, or port).
  • The immigrant must not have committed, admitted to or have been convicted of certain crimes which would prevent them from attaining permanent residence.
  • Must be otherwise eligible. There are numerous reasons why people may not be eligible, ranging from prior deportation orders to admissibility bars for remaining in the United States without authorized stay and then departing the United States.

Additionally, permanent residence can be attained through non–immediate relatives (including spouses, children and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents, married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens). However, in these cases additional eligibility requirements must be met, and visas are not immediately available. The waiting period to attain a green card through one of these non–immediate relatives can be many years.

Employment–based Green Cards

In addition to getting a green card through a family member, immigrants can, through the use of a sponsor, petition for a green card. Eligibility for employment–based immigration depends on numerous factors, but for most petitions, it requires that the foreigner have a position offered to her or him that will remain open at least until the foreigner has her or his permanent residence, have never worked unlawfully in the United States or been out of status for more than 180 days. Because of the complications surrounding employment–based immigration and because most foreigners will need to wait several years before they can request a green card based a job offer, it is extremely important that an attorney be consulted regarding the process.

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