How to Get a U.S. Green Card – 3 Ways That Work

US Green Card - A man riding a bike and a woman running behind carrying a US flag

In order to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States, which means you are legally allowed to live and work there, you ought to obtain a Green Card. You can take various steps to apply for the Green Card, depending on your situation. 

It may seem complicated at first, but in reality, it isn’t. The crucial thing is to determine whether you are eligible to apply based on established criteria. And if you happen to be, the good news is there’s a high chance that you will succeed in getting it!

In the following section, you can learn more about the three major answers to how to get a U.S. Green Card.

3 Ways To Get a U.S. Green Card

#1 – Through Family

The first and most common way to become a U.S. Green Card holder is on a family basis.

This is the so-called “family reunification” process that allows close relatives of U.S. citizens to apply for a Green Card. As the name suggests, the main idea behind this type of immigration is bringing foreign relatives of people who already live in the U.S. closer to them. Also, it can be issued to allow family members of Green Card Holders to immigrate with them. 

Conditions that categorize an individual as a relative of a U.S. citizen are immediate and non-immediate relations described below. Any family member relationship must be legally established per the requirements of the USCIS Form I-130 Petition for an Alien Relative prior to the application for a Green Card.

Immediate relatives

RelationName of the Preference CategoryFixed Yearly Quota
Children under the age of 21 and are unmarriedIR-2, IR-3, IH-3, IR-4, I-H4No

Applicants who fall under this category have a couple of beneficial circumstances. First, they have priority over other relatives, as they are issued a Green Card as soon as their relative status is confirmed and the application is processed, without a waiting period. Moreover, the number of people that can immigrate as an immediate relative is not limited by a yearly quota.

The requirements for different categories are as follows:

  • Applicants are eligible to apply as spouses if their marriage with a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder is legally binding. Arranged marriages solely for the purpose of immigration are not allowed. 
  • Children under 21 years who aren’t married also don’t face a waiting period or any fixed quotas. Likewise, adopted children that fulfill these criteria are entitled to a Green card, but it is required that they have lived with their adoptive parents for a minimum of 2 years. 
  • Finally, the category that accounts for parents of U.S. citizens who can obtain a Green Card requires the child to be over 21 years of age for s/he is going to act as a financial sponsor for his parents.

Non-immediate relatives

RelationName of the Preference CategoryFixed Yearly Quota
Children over the age of 21 or who are marriedF-1, F-3Approximately 23,400
SiblingsF-4Approximately 65,000

Applicants on the basis of non-immediate relatives are subject to waiting periods, and there is the upper limit of accepted immigrants.

What is specific for these categories?

  • Children over 21, married children, and their spouse and minor children can apply to receive the Green Card, but the waiting time varies between 6 to 20 years. 
  • In the same manner, siblings of U.S. citizens can obtain a Green Card. They also face a long waiting period of approximately 14 years, though many people get it sooner than that.

2 – Based on Employment

The second best way to obtain a U.S. Green Card is via employment-based categories.

You are admissible to the lawful permanent resident status if you get a job offer for permanent employment in the United States. Your employer is required to fill out USCIS Form I-140, known as the Immigrant Petition for an Alien Worker that guarantees that you, and no one else or few people, are skilled enough to work in the position. Alternatively, your job may be appropriate for petitioning if it falls under the category of jobs of special immigrants.

Next, there is the O-1 category for those individuals who can demonstrate that they have an extraordinary ability or achievements in certain fields (science, arts, education, business, athletics, motion picture). “Extraordinary” here means awarded recognition above many other people. An example is winning a Nobel Prize, or equivalent, for your specific field.

Investors and entrepreneurs who are willing to invest in the business industry of the U.S.. can get a Green Card by filling out Form I-526. The minimal requirements are a million-dollar-investment into a new business or half a million dollars into an existing area. Both have to result in 10 permanent job positions in the labor market. 

3 – Win the Diversity Visa Lottery (DV)

If you don’t have a close relative in the United States and do not fulfill the job requirements, the Green Card Lottery and a bit of luck can get you a U.S. Green Card.

First introduced in 1994, the Diversity Visa Lottery is held annually, and each year, 55,000 Green Cards are awarded to foreign citizens. Its main principle is to encourage a multicultural American society and its status of the “melting pot of nations” through immigration. Green Card winners can also bring their spouse and children under the age of 21 with them.

Requirements that you have to meet to apply for the Green Card Lottery include:

  • That you are born in a country that’s included in the program. As the U.S. authorities strive to provide a chance for people from countries with low immigration indexes to move. Those whose natives make up a significant percentage of immigrants in America, such as Mexico and Canada, are excluded.
  • Equivalent level of education of U.S. high school diploma or equivalent, which is 12 years of formal schooling. Alternatively, two years of work experience in some of the qualified professions gained within the past five years.

No language skill criterion? That’s right! Many people who can’t speak English very well have migrated with a Green Card without any problems. While it is good knowing that there are no formal requirements such as a certificate, if you’re interested in immigration, learning the language is the best idea.

The application process for the Green Card Lottery is carried out online, and it is fairly straightforward.

How do you feel now?

You are now informed about the requirements for the three most efficient ways to get a U.S. Green Card. If you are eligible, feel free to move forward in the process, no matter whether you have a relative in the United States, or you’re applying under employment categories. Or perhaps you’re determined to win a lottery?

Good luck with fulfilling your American Dream!

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