In the U.S., a green card signifies that the holder is a lawful and permanent resident of the United States. For individuals who are still citizens of foreign countries but who have established a new life in the United States, getting a green card is usually a good idea because of all the benefits that it will allow the foreign citizen to enjoy. Holders of green cards are able to leave and enter the country without the risk of being denied entry by an immigration official at a port of entry, and are able to enjoy certain government sponsored benefits, like educational financial aid from the federal government and certain forms of financial assistance from state and local governments.
Green card holders will also usually have more opportunities for economic advancement while in the country since they would be allowed to legally seek employment, form a business entity, and apply for jobs that may require security clearances, which are only issued to full fledged U.S. citizens and lawful and permanent residents / current holders of green cards. As far as constitutional rights, green card holders enjoy all of the same legal rights as U.S. citizens, except for the right to vote – they can, however, make contributions to political campaigns and causes, if they wish.
According to our immigration lawyers, there are six ways that a person can earn a green card:
Foreign citizens currently in the U.S. on a work visa can apply for an upgrade from visa to green card status. This type of upgrade requires the employer to file a Form I-140, which is also known as a Petition for Alien Worker. Once the I-140 is approved, a Form I-485 must be completed which is the form used to register permanent residence or adjust the status of a foreign citizen already in the country.
By Family Relation
By using Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, current U.S. citizens and permanent residents can sponsor foreign citizen family members for green cards of their own. Assuming the foreign citizen family member is already in the United States legally, then a Form I-485 can be filled out to begin the green card process. If the foreign citizen family member is outside of the United States at the time of sponsorship, then the family member may be required to complete his or her portion of the application process at a U.S. consulate or embassy.
If they have been admitted to the country as a seeker of asylum or as a refugee, the person can apply for a green card after one year in the U.S. Form I-485 will need to be filled out in order to process the upgrade in immigration status.
Registry provisions of immigration law allow foreign nationals in the United States continuously since January 1st, 1972, either legally or illegally, to apply for a green card by using Form I-485 to complete the process.
Playing the Lottery
The green card lottery allows the federal government to issue a total of 50,000 green cards to individuals who qualify for admission to the U.S. The program is designed for foreign citizens from countries that are considered under-represented in the U.S., which is why this program is also referred to as the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.
By an Act of Congress
While rare, an official act of Congress can allow individuals previously ineligible for green card status to apply for a green card.
For more information, speak to our immigration attorneys today.