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How to Gain Permanent Residence in the United States

In this article, we will discuss how to gain permanent residence in the United States. For expert assistance with your immigration matter.

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For many thousands of prospective migrants from around the world, the United States represents the ultimate destination. After all, the US as we know it is a country entirely founded on immigration, dating back to 1492 when it discovered by Christopher Columbus. As one of the most ethnically diverse countries, around one million people per year, now gain legal permanent residence status in the country, with the majority originating from Mexico, China, India, the Dominican Republic, Philippines, Cuba, Vietnam, El Salvador, Jamaica, and Colombia. In this article, we will discuss how to gain permanent residence in the United States.

What Is A Green Card In The United States?

Most people have heard of the US Green Card but may not know what it is. A Green Card effectively grants its holder the right to legally live and work in the US permanently; in other words, if you have a Green Card, you have permanent residence. As such, the Green Card itself is issued as proof of permanent resident status by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

What Are The Routes To Permanent Residence In The United States?

Migrants can apply to become permanent residents through one of several routes. The most commonly used routes are the family pathway and the employment pathway. The Green Cards available are as follows:

  • Green Card through Family
  • Green Card through Employment
  • Green Card as a Special Immigrant
  • Green Card through Refugee or Asylee Status
  • Green Card for Human Trafficking and Crime Victims
  • Green Card for Victims of Abuse
  • Green Card through Other Categories
  • Green Card through Registry

Am I Eligible For A Green Card In The US?

The eligibility criteria and application process depending on the pathway to the permanent residence you choose. Here, we will take a look at the eligibility requirements for the main routes of family and employment.

Eligibility Requirements For A Green Card Through Family

You may be able to secure a Green Card if you are either an immediate family member of a US citizen (i.e. a spouse, unmarried child under the age of 18, or the parent of a US citizen who is at least 21 years old). If you don’t fit into the criteria of an immediate family member, you may still be able to gain PR if you are the:

  • Unmarried son or daughter of a US citizen and you are 21 years old or older
  • Married Child of a US citizen
  • Brother or sister of a US citizen who is at least 21 years old
  • Spouse of a lawful permanent resident
  • Unmarried child under the age of 21 of a lawful permanent resident
  • Unmarried son or daughter of a lawful permanent resident 21 years old or older

It is also possible for the fiancée of a US citizen or their child or a widow of a US citizen to apply.

If you are eligible for a Green Card through family, you will need to complete and submit Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Your family member in the US will need to sponsor your application for permanent residency; they will do this by completing and submitting Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.

Eligibility Requirements For A Green Card Through Employment

The employment pathway to a Green Card in the US has four subcategories; immigrant worker, physician national interest waiver, and immigration investor. The worker pathway itself has three tiers of priority, as follows:

  • First preference immigrant worker (EB-1)

To qualify under this route, applicants must:

  • Have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics, or
  • Be an outstanding professor or researcher, or
  • Be a multinational manager or executive who meets certain criteria
  • Second preference immigrant worker (EB-2)

To qualify under this route, applicants must:

  • Be a member of a profession that requires an advanced degree, or
  • Have exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, or
  • Be seeking a national interest waiver
  • Third preference immigrant worker (EB-3)

To qualify under this route, applicants must:

  • Be a skilled worker (meaning your job requires a minimum of two years of training or work experience), or
  • Be a professional (meaning your job requires at least a US bachelor's degree or a foreign equivalent and you are a member of the profession), or
  • Be an unskilled worker (meaning you will perform unskilled labour requiring less than two years of training or experience)

Applicants must also have a job offer from a US business that is willing to sponsor (petition) their application for permanent residence.

Like the family route, to apply for a Green card through employment or investment, you will also need to complete Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Your employer will also need to submit a Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, on your behalf.

If you are considering applying as an investor, the requirements state that you must “Have invested or are actively in the process of investing at least $1 million (or $500,000 in a targeted employment area) in a new commercial enterprise in the US which will create full-time positions for at least ten qualifying employees”.

How Can I Apply For Green Card In The US?

The exact application process for a Green Card depends on whether you are located in the US or outside. If you are outside the US, you will need to follow the process required by your local US embassy or consulate. If you are inside the US, the process is typically as follows:

  • Your sponsor will file an immigrant petition for you (often referred to as sponsoring or petitioning for you). In some cases, you may be eligible to file for yourself.
  • After USCIS approves the immigrant petition and there is a visa available in your category, you file either a Green Card application with USCIS or a visa application with the US Department of State.
  • You go to a biometrics appointment to provide fingerprints, photos, and a signature.
  • You go to an interview.
  • You receive a decision on your application.

Final Words

The process of applying for permanent residency in the US is relatively straightforward and transparent. If you need assistance with your application or to check if you are on the correct pathway for your needs and those of your family, speak to an immigration lawyer/attorney who will be able to help you realise your dream of living in the US.

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