A Green Card holder (permanent resident) is someone who has been granted authorization to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. As proof of that status, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants a person a permanent resident card, commonly called a “Green Card.” USCIS has implemented a lengthy, tedious and strict process for applying for permanent residence, but for millions, it has been well worth the effort.
A green card gives the holder permanent residence in the U.S. – the ability to live and work in the country for the foreseeable future.
You can become a permanent resident several different ways:
These generally include:
(1) being admissible to the U.S.;
(2) being eligible for an immigrant category established by the Immigration and Nationality Act;
(3) having an immigrant petition filed and approved for you; (4)having an immigrant visa immediately available.
To apply for a green card, you must fit into an INA immigrant category, which includes: employment-based, family-based, refugee or asylum categories:
If someone is employed by an American company or has received a job offer to work in the U.S., he or she fits into this immigrant category. Immigrants can choose to apply for either a green card or an immigrant visa abroad. When a visa becomes available, it is granted to the most qualified individuals according to these rankings of preferences:
- Priority workers such as immigrants with extraordinary talents, researchers in emerging fields, outstanding educators and multinational executives;
- Advanced degree holders and members of highly complex fields, like science and medicine;
- Skilled workers, professionals and other qualified employees;
- Immigrants in specialty fields, such as religion; and
- Workers who serve to create more jobs, like certain entrepreneurs and investors.
An immigrant can qualify for a green card if he or she is an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. This includes parents and spouses as well as children under the age of 21 who are unmarried. In some cases, applicants do not have to wait for a visa to become available to qualify under family-based circumstances.
Those admitted to the U.S. as a refugee or as the spouse or child of a refugee must apply for a green card one year after being granted entry into the country. Those granted asylum are not required to apply, but it may be in the best interest of the immigrant to avoid extradition.
While these three categories are the most common ways that immigrants become permanent residents, there are also other options. For example, you can participate in the green card lottery, file an immigrant petition or apply through a special circumstance such as Armed Forces member or a victim of trafficking.