If you weren't born in the United States, you need to obtain a green card before you can live and work in the country without worrying about time restrictions. Your green card is what identifies you as a permanent US resident and eventually gives you the ability to apply for citizenship. Unfortunately, green cards aren't just handed out to anyone who wants one. They are only given to qualified individuals. Learn more about US green card qualifications to determine whether you qualify.
Immediate Family Members
If you are the immediate family member of a US citizen, you are eligible to apply for a green card. Immediate family members who can apply for green cards include:
- Spouses and widows/widowers
- Children who are under the age of 21 and unmarried — only one of a child's parents need to be a US citizen for the child to apply for a green card
- Stepchildren — if the marriage creating the stepchild/stepparent relationship happened before the child turned 18 years old
- Adopted children who were adopted before they turned 16 years old can apply for a green card if they were adopted by either a permanent residence or legal citizen of the United States and meet all other legal requirements
- Parents and stepparents of children who are United States citizens and are at least 21 years old
Non-Immediate Family Members
Even if you don't have an immediate family member, but do have a relative who is a US citizen, you may still be eligible to apply for a green card. These family members are considered preference family members and include:
- Brothers and sisters of US citizens
- Children of US citizens who are 21 years old or older or are married
- Spouses and children of US green card holders
Unfortunately, the United States only gives away 480,000 green cards to preference family members each year. So, preferred family members are placed on a waiting list until it's their turn to apply for a green card.
Additional Eligibility Options
People who don't have any family members who are US citizens may still be eligible to apply for a green card if they qualify for a specific type of green card. Each year, 140,000 green cards are given to preferred employers and employees who are qualified to fill a specific job need that cannot be filled by current citizens, as well as investors who are willing to invest $1 million in a US business or $500,000 in a US business that employs at least 10 people and is located in a economically depressed area. Also, another 500,000 green cards are allotted for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery, which is also known as the Green Card Lottery. Cards allocated for the Green Card Lottery are given to people who come from regions of the world that have sent the fewest number of immigrants to the country over the past five years.
Applying for a green card is a long process. If you aren't sure whether you qualify for a green card or you need help with the application process, you should discuss your options with an immigration attorney as soon as possible.
For more information, contact Tesoroni & Leroy or a similar firm.