Legal Permanent Resident (Green Card)
An non-citizen is eligible for legal permanent resident status or green card depending various factors such as method of entry, status on entry, petitioner’s relationship to the applicant (spouse, parent, child or sibling, or employer), petitioner’s immigration status if family based petition (U.S. citizen or green card), and priority date that visa becomes available after petition is approved. Generally, immigrant visa processing is through National Visa Center (NVC) and consular posts when outside the U.S., or ineligible for adjustment of status through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), or when applicant prefers processing at consulate for strategic or convenience reasons. After either the I-130 (Family Petition), or I-140 (Employer Petition) is approved, visa number needs to become available in order to applying for green card. If the applicant has violated U.S. immigration law such as but not limited to prior removal, exclusion or unlawful entry, and certain criminal convictions then such inadmissibility ground would need to be waived or excused prior to granting of green card status. The following consist of most but not all categories under which a non-citizen may qualify for green card:
- Asylum: generally an asylee may adjust status to permanent residence or green card by applying for adjustment of status, maintaining physical presence in the U.S. for at least one year after being granted asylum, continuing to maintain asleep or refugee status, and be admissible as an immigration under the U.S. Immigration Laws.
- Family I-130, Petition for Alien Relative: an immediate family member (spouse, parent, child or sibling) may petition immediate relative to start the process for permanent resident status or green card. After the I-130, Petition for Alien Relative is approved, visa number is issued but depending on the familial relationship, visa number may not be issued for several years. Visa number is required prior to applying for green card either with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), or U.S. Consulate Processing.
- Cancellation of Removal for Non-Resident: undocumented or non-citizens placed in immigration court removal proceedings may qualify for cancellation of removal as a non-resident and be granted permanent resident or green card provided that has been present in the United States for a continuous period of at least ten years prior to placement in removal proceedings, been a person of good moral character for the ten years, is not disqualified due to having certain criminal convictions, and establishes that removal would result in ‘exceptional and extremely unusual hardships to his/her U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouse, child or parent.
- Investor (EB-5) Visa: may result in an entrepreneur to become eligible for green card. Generally, the investor shall make necessary investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States, and plan to create or preserve ten (10) permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers. Therefore, qualification for green card generally requires establishing that the entrepreneur’s investment will stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment.
- Employment I-140, Petition for Alien Worker: A U.S. employer that wants to fill a job vacancy with a foreign worker can use the immigration laws and procedures to qualify the foreign worker for an immigrant visa, which in most instances, is a temporary nonimmigrant work visa such as the H, L, E, or O visa but the employer now wishes to place the foreign worker in the position on a permanent or indefinite basis rather than for only a temporary period. U.S. immigration laws provide for several employment-based immigrant visa classifications, most of which have built-in protections for the U.S. labor market. Although there are exceptions, generally, the employment-based green card process requires a showing that there are no able, willing, and qualified United States workers available to fill the U.S. employer’s position offered. After the petition is approved and visa becomes available the employee may apply for permanent resident status or green card.
- Self Petition: some immigrant categories allow self-petition, which is generally limited option available for either “Aliens of Extraordinary Ability” or certain individuals granted a National Interest Waiver.
- Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJ): immigrant granted SIJ status qualifies for permanent resident or green card status if paroled and admitted and otherwise eligible for SIJ status.
- S, T and U Visa: immigrant granted S, T or U Visa qualifies for permanent resident status or green card if meets the respective visa’s requisite criteria for obtaining green card status.
- Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA): an immigrant granted VAWA qualifies for permanent resident status or green card through USCIS or Immigration Court Judge if meets the requisite criteria for obtaining green card status.