How Do I Get a Green Card: How Can I Get a Green Card?

There are basically five ways to get a green card; below is an overview of the five categories and their subcategories.

Green Card Through Employment or Employment-Based Green Card

A person can get a green card through employment upon meeting the requirement necessary for this type of green card. Please note that applying for a green card under the employment category requires a person to be in a lawful status because the mere application for a green card through employment status does not grant any legal status.

Employment-Based Green Card Category:

There are five preferences for employment-based immigration:

  • 1st preference EB1: There are three types of people who qualify for the 1st preference EB1 category and they are:
    • People with extraordinary ability in science, art, education, business, or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim.
    • Multi-national executive or manager
    • Outstanding professors and researchers
  • 2nd Preference EB2: People in a job that requires a Master's Degree or higher. This category requires advertising through labor certification also known as PERM process. Nonetheless, the labor certification process is sometimes waived under the NIV program explained below. This category differs from the first preference because it requires people with “exceptional ability” in science, art, or business and it also does not expressly include abilities in the field of athletics or education. The difference between EB1 and EB2 second preference is that first preference EB1 requires people with “extraordinary ability” while the second preference EB2 requires people with “exceptional ability”.
  • 3rd Preference EB3: The third preference is for professional and skilled workers. It requires a four-year degree or its equivalent. This category has the longest wait time because it includes skilled workers and other workers increasing the number of applicants applying for a very limited supply of visas.
  • 4th Preference: The fourth preference is for Special Immigrants which includes religious workers and certain government workers. It also includes juvenile court dependent also known as Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). 

EB2 Exception to PERM or Labor Certification

National Interest Waivers (NIV): An employer is exempt from the PERM process if it will be contrary to the National Interest of the United States for the employer to go through the PERM process. You or your employer can petition for you for a NIV which allows you to skip the labor department PERM application process.

Requirement for National Interest Waiver: To be exempt from the PERM process you must show that going through the process will be contrary to national interest. An example would be someone working on a cure for cancer or special weapons for the United States who can show that stopping the process and finding someone minimally qualified would be contrary to the nation’s interest. Physicians working in an underserved area can qualify for a National interest waiver (NIV). For more on national interest waiver see “Do I qualify for National Interest Waiver?”

EB-5 Investment Preference: This category requires a minimum of million dollars in investment in a new commercial enterprise. It also requires the creation or preservation of at least 10 full-time jobs for qualifying U.S. workers within two years of admission of the immigrant investor as a conditional permanent resident. Although the Eb-5 investment requires a million dollar investment, a person can invest 500 thousand dollars investment if the location of the business is in a place designated as a regional center. A regional center is a place involved with the promotion of economic growth, job creation, and improved regional productivity. Note that the EB-5 investment category is different for the E-2 investor Treaty visa which is limited to only the nationals of treaty countries with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation. For more information please see the article titled “U.S. Green Card for a Million Dollar” and “E2 Investor Visa and EB-5: What is the Difference?”

Family-Based green card petition: A United States citizen can petition for a family member and get a green card. This petition is subject to a numerical constraint except for people who are considered “immediate relatives” of the U.S. citizen. Immediate relatives are usually parents of a U.S. citizen or spouses of a U.S. citizen. A visa for someone engaged to a U.S. citizen is handled under a different non-immigrant visa category known as the Fiancé visa.

There are 5 preferences for Family-Based Immigration

  • 1st preference: This preference is given to unmarried sons and daughters of United States citizens: A son or daughter is someone 21 years or older
  • 2nd preference: This is for a relative of a green card holder (child or spouse)
  • 3rd preference: Unmarried sons or daughters of green card holders fall under the third preference
  • 4th preference is for a married son or daughter of a US citizen (including children under 21)
  • 5th preference is the final preference which is for the brother or sister of a US citizen (including spouse and children under the age of 21)

Diversity or Immigrant Visa lottery (this is also known as the green card lottery): This program is designed to bring people into the United States. The green card lottery is an effort by the U.S. Congress to diversify the admission of immigrants into the United States of America. In order to ensure that admission of immigrants is not limited to only a few countries congress has taken many steps such as setting per-country limits to ensure that admission of immigrants is diverse. Despite these efforts by Congress immigrants are never admitted in equal numbers from all parts of the world. Therefore Congress enacted a permanent immigrant preference based on diversity and admits up to 50,000 “diversity immigrants” each year. Applicants of the green card are selected in a lottery and must meet strict but simple eligibility requirements. For details on the green card lottery see the article titled “The Green Card Lottery: How I Became a U.S. Citizen”.

Asylum / Refugee cases: This is for people who have fled their country due to fear of persecution in their country. This is a humanitarian way in which a green card is granted. Refugee and Asylum is a humanitarian provision that protects foreign nationals who can show that have been persecuted or have a fear that they will suffer persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Refugee seekers are usually people outside the United States seeking protection from the United States because they have a genuine fear of persecution. Asylum seekers are usually already in the United States and are unable to go back to their country due to a genuine fear of persecution if they return.

Green Card through Investment: EB-5 Investment: This is the visa that requires a person to invest one million U.S. dollars or 500, 000 if investing in an approved region center and hire 10 U.S. workers. This is discussed above under employment-based immigration.

Legal Notice: The information on this website does not replace legal advice and our firm is not responsible for changes in the law. Every case is unique and different, therefore past outcome is not a guarantee of future cases' outcome. Free consultation by phone must be scheduled and any telephonic contact with the attorney does not establish an attorney-client relationship unless it was previously established in writing.