Many people contact our immigration law firm, wanting to apply for a green card (also known as permanent residency). Some are well-versed in immigration law and know the exact category, while others just know they want a green card.
To obtain permanent residency in the U.S. there must be a basis for obtaining permanent residency authorized by Congress. Moreover, the beneficiary will usually require a petitioner. This petitioner is usually an employer or family member.
Family Based Green Card
A common method of obtaining a green card is through a family member that is already a US Citizen petitioning for the intending immigrant. This can include a spouse, parent, child, or sibling. In some situations a person who is only a permanent resident may also petition for the immigrant. There is no annual quota for the number of immigrant visas issued to immediate relatives (spouses and children under 21) of US Citizens, but the other categories are subject to annual limits per category and per country. Sometimes the backlog can take many years before an immigrant visa becomes available. For more information on current processing times, look at the current visa bulletin. http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_1360.html
Employment Based Green Card
Another way to obtain US permanent residency is for an employer to petition for the worker. The first step is that the employer must show that there are no qualified US workers who are willing and able to do the job at the offered wage (which must equal or exceed the prevailing wage). This is accomplished by a test of the labor market, and then the petition is submitted to DOL for review if the employer does not find a willing, able, and qualified US worker. The next step is the employer submits an application to USCIS showing that the foreign worker has the required qualifications and the employer has the ability to pay the worker. Then the worker must wait for a current priority date based on the current visa bulletin (again subject to category and country numerical limitations). Finally, the worker can adjust status to a permanent resident.
Investment Based Green Card
A wealthy foreign national can also obtain permanent residency in the U.S. residency through an investment in the EB-5 program. This means investing at least $500,000 (or $1,000,000 if not in a rural or targeted employment Area) and creating 10 new jobs for US workers. The investor can either start their own business, expand an existing business, or invest through a Regional Center that takes care of the job creation requirements for them.
There are a few other paths to permanent residency such as obtaining a National Interest Waiver or showing the foreign national is an Alien of Extraordinary Ability. There are also options for certain Religious Workers and Asylum seekers to potentially obtain permanent residency as well.
Hopefully, this provides you with a rough overview of the different avenues that one might take to immigrate to the United States. Frequently people can qualify in several different categories and sometimes the best choice is not becoming a permanent resident at all.
Article Courtesy of Jason Feldman, Attorney at Law, of Feldman & Feldman.