How to Get a Green Card in the United States – What You Should Know
A Green Card, officially referred to as a Permanent Residence Card, allows the holder to live and work permanently in the United States of America.
Learn about the many different strategies available for getting a Green Card in the United States, including winning your way through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, popularly known as the Green Card Program.
Green Card vs. US Citizenship?
The Green Card allows the holder to live and work permanently in the United States without being subject to immigration restrictions. While permanent residence in the United States means that the person has the right to reside in the United States indefinitely, it does not grant US Citizenship.
Green Card holders have many of the same rights as US Citizens but do not have the right to vote. Green Cards are not transferrable and are not automatically extended to children born outside of the U.S. You also cannot have a U.S. passport and must renew the Green Card every 10 years.
How to Get a Green Card in the USA?
Living permanently in the United States as a non-citizen requires you to have a green card which can be acquired in a few different ways, including:
- Company transfer
- Green Card Lottery
A Green Card application must be completed and submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). After USCIS approves your application, you will be scheduled for an interview at a consulate or embassy. Your eligibility for an immigrant visa will be determined by a consular officer during this interview.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Green Card?
Green card holders are legally allowed to live and work in the United States and are protected by U.S. immigration law. There are many benefits to having a Green Card, including eligibility for certain government benefits and protection from deportation. Green card holders also have the option to apply for U.S. citizenship after living in the country for a certain period.
What are the Different Ways to Get a Green Card in the USA?
The application process for each of the methods outlined below can vary, but they all require the submission of various forms and supporting documents. In some cases, such as with the Diversity Visa Program, there is also an interview process.
1. Investment-Based Green Card
Foreign nationals can get an investment-based Green Card if they have a job offer from a U.S. employer. The employer must prove that the foreign national’s skills are needed in the United States and that they will be paid a wage that is at least the prevailing wage for their occupation in the area of intended employment.
The ‘investor visa’ is one of the most sought-after visas for overseas investors — and there are several categories that each offer flexibility in terms of qualification requirements, capital requirements, and, of course, visa type.
The EB-5 visa is for investors that wish to live and work in the US permanently after investing in a new commercial enterprise. The amount does not need to be in a single investment but can be split between multiple investments.
An investment must be deemed ‘real”—meaning the investment must be in cash and something of substance, not shares in a limited liability company. As of 2022, the capital requirements for an investment-based green card are $800,000 for Targeted Economic Areas (TEA) and rural locations, or $1,050,000 in other areas. The foreign national must have the intention of residing permanently in the US.
2. Marriage-Based Green Cards
Green Cards through marriage are some of the most heavily scrutinized applications, which is why it is critical to get everything right. The process starts with the U.S. citizen filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This application establishes a qualifying relationship between your spouse and you, while also requesting the U.S. government reserve an immigrant visa for your spouse.
Marriage-based green cards are privileged in that the government does not apply any numerical limits on the number of relatives who can get a green card each year.
3. Company Transfer Green Card
An Intra-company Transferee L-1 Visa enables foreign companies to transfer specialized employees, executives, or managers to the U.S. as long as their employment will continue at an affiliated branch. If a branch does not exist, then it must be created.
Other requirements are that the business must have been conducting business in the U.S. for at least one year. This strategy for getting a green card in the U.S is preferable, as there is no requirement for labor certification.
4. Study Your Way to a Green Card
International students studying in the U.S. have F-1 visa status. The major downside to a study-based green card is that it is only valid while the student is enrolled in school. Part of the application process requires the student to prove they will return to their home country once they have their qualification.
Naturally, many USA students wonder how they can go about extending their time in the U.S. by going from an F-1 visa to a green card.
Students who are studying towards a bachelor’s or master’s degree are entitled to a work permit referred to as Optional Practical Training.
Once the year of training is complete, students can request their employer apply for an H1B work visa and a labor certification from the Department of Labor, which is a declaration stating there is no one else willing or qualified to take the job.
When the applicant successfully jumps through all these hoops, they can apply for a green card through the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. Unfortunately, getting a green card this way is a long and arduous process, but may be one of your only options if you don’t have funds but have rare skills to offer.
5. Achievement-Based Green Card
Getting a green card through accomplished achievements is the fastest way for athletes, artists, and scholars to get a green card in the U.S. without an employer sponsor.
Every case is unique, and not all will qualify. People who have extraordinary skills but do not qualify can still apply for a temporary Extraordinary Ability O-1 Visa
6. Work Your Way Toward a Green Card
If you are skilled in a specialty occupation, you may be able to get a green card if your employer is willing to sponsor you. A work-based green card uses the H1B application described above for students, which means it’s a long and complex procedure.
It’s also limited in how many people can apply per year. Exceptions to this rule include applicants whose work is related to a college, a college-affiliated non-profit, or a U.S. government research organization.
You may be eligible for an EB-2 extraordinary worker green card based on a national interest waiver if you have an advanced academic degree or approved labor certification in a shortage occupation where no U.S. workers meet the requirements. Getting a green card through an EB-2 is highly desirable as there are fewer applicants, so the wait time is shorter.
7. The Diversity Visa Program also known as The Green Card Program
Every year, the Diversity Visa Program gives entrants the chance to win a Green Card and is one of the best ways to gain permanent residence in the United States.
Anyone born in any of the eligible countries can participate in the Green Card Lottery, providing they meet the requirements, including:
- Twelve years of formal primary and secondary schooling
- Two years of professional work experience
It sounds easy, but there is still a significant bureaucratic hurdle, including stringent photo requirements and the complicated DS-260 online form that is required to be submitted before the Visa interview in the American embassy if your application is selected for further processing.
Unfortunately, many people are disqualified at this critical juncture due to the long list of mistakes that can be made. Making it worse is that applicants are never informed about where their application failed, leaving them open to the same errors the following year.
One of the best ways to ensure you are not disqualified is to use the value-added Green Card Program submission service from the US Green Card Office that guarantees an application is not disqualified because of errors. These services are not available when using the free government service, so don’t risk your chance of getting a Green Card by doing it yourself. Find out how to apply for a Green Card in the United States through the professional immigration service provided by US Green Card Office.