What is the easiest way to get a green card?
There are several ways you can obtain a green card or become a lawful permanent resident, BUT the most popular ones are through family and work. The other pathways include proving that you’re fleeing persecution, making large investments, being a victim of crime, and others.
In this article, we will discuss the two most popular ways to get a green card – family-based and employment-based immigration.
What is Family-based Immigration?
Recognizing that family is important, Congress created ways for US citizens or lawful permanent residents to bring their close relatives to the US.
About 60% of all green cards issued are for family-based petitions.
If you are a child, a brother, a sister, a parent of a US Citizen, or if you are engaged or married to a citizen (whether opposite-sex or same-sex), you can become a lawful permanent resident in the United States.
To start the process, the US citizen must file a petition with USCIS.
What if unfortunate circumstances occur during your application?
If unfortunately, your US spouse dies before your petition is approved, you can file as a widower within two years of the death of your spouse. However, you still need to show that you had a good-faith marriage and that your marriage was not a sham just to get a green card.
Similarly, if you find that your spouse is abusive, you don’t need to stay in the relationship just to get a green card. In cases like this, the VAWA process can help you.
For both instances mentioned, you can petition for yourself by filing Form I-360 within two years of the death of your spouse (for widower) or within two years of divorce (for VAWA).
What if your relative is a lawful permanent resident?
For siblings, you will have to wait until they become a USC for them to file for you.
On the other hand, if you are married to a lawful permanent resident or an unmarried child of one, you can get a green card — just not anytime soon. Your green card holder relative must file a petition with USCIS first.
But, you’ll have to wait several years, yes, YEARS, until you reach the top of a waiting list before you can apply for the actual green card.
What if you are a relative of a green card holder?
Moreover, if you are an aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, cousin, grandmother, or grandfather of a US citizen, or if you are the brother, sister, parent, or fiancé of someone who holds a green card, you do not qualify for a green card based on a “family relationship.”
Unfortunately, the US Congress had to draw the line on what constitutes a family for the purpose of immigration.
What to know when filing for a Family-based Visa?
With the various circumstances explained, it is important to know some important points when filing for a Family-based Visa:
- Start with the permanent resident filing Form.
The process of applying for a US visa starts with the permanent resident filing Form I-130, with US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
- Wait for a Visa to become available.
Once your petition is approved, you still need to wait for a visa to become available. How long it will take depends on the date you filed, your visa preference category (One through Four), and your country of citizenship. The Department of State issues a monthly visa bulletin. To learn how to read the visa bulletin you can review the article we wrote on the subject.
- File for a change of status to Lawful Permanent Resident.
Once the petition is approved and the visa is available, you can file to change your status to a lawful permanent resident. You will either request an adjustment of status or consular process, depending on your circumstances. For more information on the difference between the two, you can check out our other article on the subject.
If everything goes well, you will then be issued a green card. Congratulations!
What is Employment-based Immigration?
What if you do not have what the US Congress constitutes as a “family relationship” with a US citizen or a green card holder? There’s another way! You may still obtain a green card through a job offer from an employer in the United States— which can be specified as a priority or a nonpriority worker.
Who are Priority Workers?
Priority workers are people with specialties. They have a high level of skill and competence in a certain subject. This can cover internationally known artists, outstanding professors, researchers, and people with international experience. This category is also known as “employment first preference.”
These highly skilled and specialized people have a more straightforward immigration process than most. Some don’t even need a job offer. And they aren’t even required to go through the difficult labor certification process that other immigrating workers go through.
That’s because the Department of Labor has determined that nobody else can do their job.
Who are Non-priority Workers?
If you are offered jobs that require graduate degrees in the arts or sciences, or a profession like a law degree, a master’s degree in business administration (MBA), or a bachelor’s degree plus five years of specialized experience, you may be eligible for immigrant visas too. This category is known as “employment second preference.”
You will first need certification from the Department of Labor saying that no qualified US worker is available, willing, and able to do the job you are offered.
BUT WAIT! There’s more! It’s also worth pointing out that those without a university degree or skilled or unskilled workers, such as factory workers, plumbers, domestic workers, and carpenters, can apply for a labor certification and green card with a job offer as an “employment third preference”
What to know when filing for an Employment-based Visa?
There are a lot of Work Visa types so make sure you file the correct one for you.
Take note! To qualify for a second or third preference employment application, you will need:
- A job offer in the US;
- Labor certification approval by the Department of Labor certifying that your employer is paying an appropriate wage for the position; and
- An approved petition by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, known as a Form I-140, to classify you as someone who is eligible for that particular job.
If you do not meet even one of these conditions, the Embassy might deny your visa application.
Seek Legal Help
If you are having trouble with your visa application or if you qualify for any of these family or employment-based green cards, you may seek expert legal advice from an immigration attorney to discuss your case or assist you in your immigration journey.