Green Cards – Immigrant Visas

Permanent residency and U.S. citizenship begins with a green card. Citizens of other countries can seek permanent residency through a green card process, also known as immigrant visa process. If you already legally live in the U.S., and want to become a permanent resident, you can file an application for ‘adjustment of status’ to legal permanent residence, if you have an approved and current visa petition.

The green card (permanent residence) is usually the first step towards U.S. citizenship. For example, you may become a permanent resident after being petitioned (sponsored) by a spouse, close family member or an employer. This could happen after receiving refugee status or asylum, after winning the diversity visa lottery, or by holding a nonimmigrant temporary visa.

Once you obtain lawful permanent resident status, you receive a government-issued identification card. The card is evidence that you have the right to live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis; to travel and return; and to petition for certain close family members to also receive a green card. If you hold a green card, you cannot vote in U.S. elections. And, you cannot remain outside the U.S. for unlimited amounts of time. You can lose your residency rights if you fail to advise the government of an address change, or if you commit any crimes. Also, green card holders can’t always get the same assistance and benefits from the government that U.S. citizens can.

Once you hold a green card, you can apply for U.S. citizenship after certain a period of time. This process is called “naturalization.” Other ways that people can become U.S. citizens include by birth in the U.S., birth overseas to a U.S. citizen parent, and living in the U.S. as a child when a parent naturalizes.

Family-Sponsored Green Cards

You can obtained a green card based on the immigration status of a family member. Depending on his or her status, you may be able to enter the U.S. immediately, or immediately become a green card holder if you are already in the U.S. The wait time depends on which category you fall into (listed below). Immediate relatives (spouses, children under 21, and parents of U.S. citizens) are eligible to become green card holders right away (subject to normal paperwork processing), while those who fall into other categories may wait 1 to 10 years, or more. The categories are:

  • Spouses, children under 21, and parents of U.S. citizens;
  • Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens aged 21 and over;
  • Spouses, children, and unmarried sons and daughters of legal permanent residents;
  • Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and their spouses and children;
  • Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens ages 21 and over.
  • Family based immigration is complicated and mistakes can permanently effect your ability to enter or remain the U.S. At the Oriole Law Group, we have experienced immigration attorneys on staff to represent you every step of the way.

    Employment-Sponsored Green Cards

    If a family based green card is not available to you, obtaining one through your employment is a good option. Whether or not you qualify for a green card based on your work is one best answered by an immigration attorney. However, the U.S. government classifies workers as follows:

  • Priority workers;
  • Professionals with advanced degrees or aliens of exceptional ability;
  • Skilled workers, professionals (without advanced degrees), and needed unskilled workers;
  • Special immigrants (e.g. ministers, religious workers, and employees of the U.S. government abroad);
  • Employment creation immigrants or “investors”.
  • Applying for an employment based green card is a multi-step process involving numerous submissions and generally should not be undertaken without the advice of an experienced immigration attorney. If you are in need of assistance, the Oriole Law Group is here to help. Schedule a consultation today.