A green card shows that a person has lawful permanent residence in the United States. Every year, the U.S. government grants thousands of these cards to immigrants meeting specific requirements.
Although some green cards have no expiration date, most are valid for ten years. After that, you'll need to apply once again. So, it's imperative to renew your card. For immigrants granted conditional resident status, your green card is valid for only two years.
Eligibility Requirements for a Green Card
To apply for a green card, you must meet eligibility requirements. Those requirements fall under several categories. Regardless of the eligibility category, you can expect an extended wait when applying for a green card. An immigration lawyer or green card lawyer can clarify each green cars category and where you qualify.
First, the government limits the number of green cards available, at least in some categories. As a result, you may have to wait ten years to become eligible for permanent residency.
Second, U.S. Immigration moves slowly, which adds months or years to the application process. COVID-19 made the process even more challenging, owing to office closures to in-person visits.
Green Card Eligibility Categories
Some categories present more options than others concerning qualifying for a green card. Here's an overview of green card categories and eligibility. For more details regarding green card eligibility, you can visit the USCIS website. Our immigration law office can provide additional insights.
Green cards have limits based on a country -- only 7% of worldwide preference visas go to persons from any given country. Even if a country falls short of its 7% green card allotment, an individual may fail to receive a green card if the worldwide quote has been exhausted. In addition, the government awards 50,000 extra green cards through the ethnic diversity visa or lottery category.
You may be eligible if you meet any of these criteria:
- An immediate relative of a U.S. citizen
- Another relative of a U.S. citizen or relative of a lawful permanent resident under the family-based preference categories
- Fiance of a U.S. citizen or the fiance’s child
- Widower of a U.S. citizen
- Victim of battery or extreme cruelty
Note that no limits apply to the number of green cards issued to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.
You may be eligible as an immigrant worker, through a physician national interest waiver, or as an immigrant investor. Employment green cards are limited to 140,000 worldwide.
Special Immigrant Eligibility
Eligibility extends to religious workers, juveniles, international broadcasters, or employees of an international organization or family member or NATO-6 employee or family member. Afghanistan or Iraq nationals may also be eligible under certain conditions.
Refugee or Asylee Eligibility
Eligibility requires asylum status at least one year ago or refugee admission at least one year ago. As with the family category, no limits apply to the number of green cards available.
Human Trafficking and Crime Victim Eligibility
You must have a T nonimmigrant or U nonimmigrant visa.
Victims of Abuse Eligibility
You may be eligible if you're a victim of battery or extreme cruelty. You may also gain eligibility if you are a special immigrant juvenile. Eligibility also extends to an abused spouse or child covered under the Cuban Adjustment Act or Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act (HRIFA).
Although the above represents the main eligibility categories, a host of other green card categories may provide you with eligibility for a green card. Again, visit the USCIS office or talk with an immigrant lawyer near you before applying for a green card.
What Rights Does a Green Card Provide?
A green card gives the holder the right to live and work in the United States permanently. In addition, you'll receive some health, educational, and other benefits.
You can petition for your spouse and unmarried children to receive a green card as well. Unfortunately, they become designated as preference relatives. So, they may have to wait a few years until a visa becomes available.
You retain your native country citizenship but may apply for U.S citizenship after five years. That is unless you are married to and living with a U.S. citizen the entire time. In that case, you can apply after three years.
It's critical to understand a green card isn't entirely secure. You may lose your status if you commit a crime or violate the law. You must also advise the UCSIS of address changes. In the event you leave the U.S. and attempt to return, you may also lose your status under grounds of inadmissibility.
Talk to Our Immigration Law Office
If you’re considering applying for a green card, call our law firm. We have immigration lawyers near you in the Bucks and Montgomery County areas.