With a green card, you can legally live and work in the United States. Eventually, you can apply for full United States citizenship. Most people that meet the green card requirements fall into one of several categories. However, unless you are an attorney, you probably don’t know specifically what the green card requirements are. When thinking about applying for a green card, consider if you can fall into one of these categories:
- you are an immediate relative of a United States citizen
- you are a long-term US resident
- you are an agricultural worker
- you are a “skilled” worker
- you are a refugee
How to Get a Green Card as an Immediate Relative of a US Citizen
Immediate relatives of United States citizens are given priority when determining who can be eligible for a green card. A special immigration priority is set aside for this category of people. If you can qualify as an immediate relative, you do not have to wait in line for a visa number to become available. There is an unlimited number of visas available for people with immediate relatives that are US citizens, so the green card requirements are much easier to meet. You are considered an immediate relative if you are:
- the spouse of a United States citizen
- the child of a United States citizen (if you are under 21 and unmarried)
- a parent of a United States citizen
- a stepchild or stepparent of a United States citizen (if the marriage took place before the child’s 18th birthday)
- an adopted child of United States citizen (if the adoption took place before you were 16)
If you are a family member who does not fall into one of the above categories, you can still be eligible for a green card. You should submit a visa petition right away because time is of the essence. The green card process will take longer than usual, and green cards are issued on a first come, first served basis. The waiting period is often very long and many years can pass until you get a response, so it’s a good idea to start as soon as possible.
How to Get a Green Card as a Long-Term US Resident
If you are a long-term United States resident that has been in the country illegally, you can request permanent residence and be eligible for a green card. “Long-term” would qualify as being in the United States for more than 10 years. However the green card requirements are a bit harder to meet if you do not have an immediate family member that is a citizen.
When you are faced with an immigration court proceeding for deportation, you can request permanent residence. This is called a cancellation of removal. You will need to show that one of your family members (such as a child or spouse) would face “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” if you were to be deported.
Being in the United States on a visa for a long time period can help too. You can apply for a green card if you have lived in the United States continuously since January 1, 1972 and can prove good moral character.
Talk to an immigration lawyer if you think you can qualify for a green card based on your long-term residency. Getting help from a lawyer is important, because if not done properly, you might cause yourself to be deported.
How to Get a Green Card as an Agricultural Worker
Agricultural workers that have worked in the United States for a long time period can find a way to be eligible for a green card. This is based on “amnesty” offered to agricultural workers in the past. Agricultural workers that have worked at least 90 days between May 1, 1985 and May 1, 1986, or have lived illegally in the United States since January 1, 1982, were given amnesty.
The deadline to apply for this has already passed, but late applications may be accepted under rare circumstances. It is difficult to meet the green card requirements for this category, but talk with a lawyer if you think you might be eligible.
How to Get a Green Card as a Skilled Worker
Skilled workers are people who have job skills that the United States needs. With your job skills, you can be sponsored by your employer and meet the green card requirements. Your employer may have to prove that you were offered a job or that there are no qualified United States citizens that could take your place.The reasoning behind the skilled worker category for green card requirements is that your skills can contribute to the national interest or benefit the United States.
You would be classified as a skilled worker if you hold an advanced degree, you have an exceptional ability in a certain field, or you manage a multinational company. For example, those with advanced technical or engineering skills are frequently eligible for a green card under this category. There are other types of skilled workers too. Talk to an immigration lawyer if you feel you can get a green card based on your unique skills.
How to Get a Green Card as a Refugee
If you are a refugee fearing persecution in your home country, you can be granted asylum and can eventually be eligible for a green card. Once you are physically in the United States, you can apply for a green card after one year of United States residency. If the conditions of your home country change, your status may be taken away. Your status as a refugee will be based on your race, religion, nationality, or political opinion. Consult with an immigration attorney to get help meeting the green card requirements if you are a refugee.
You may be eligible to apply for a green card through your family, a job offer, refugee status, or a number of other special provisions. Remember that it can be helpful to talk to a lawyer to make sure all your paperwork is properly submitted. Also inquire about possible interviews and security checks you might have to go through. There are many grounds of inadmissibility that could potentially cause someone to be ineligible, and you don’t want this to happen to you.