Updated on 02/13/2022
When we think of something that is the color of green and has value in the United States, we often think of the United States dollar. Another item that is the color of green and has value in the United States is the United States green card.
A green card is an immigration benefit that entitles a green card holder to many rights in the United States. On the scale of immigration status, a green card offers more benefits than a nonimmigrant visa, although less than U.S. citizenship.
What Is A Green Card?
A green card is a United States immigration identification document.
Its official name is a permanent resident card, and green card holders are known as lawful permanent residents. A green card received its more commonly used name because of the green color of the document.
There are many benefits to having a green card, including as follows:
- You have the legal right to reside in the United States on a permanent basis;
- You have the legal right to work in the United States on a permanent basis;
- You can apply for government-sponsored financial assistance for education;
- You can qualify for in-state or resident tuition rates at certain universities and colleges;
- You can freely travel anywhere within the United States;
- You can be eligible for Social Security and Medicare benefits;
- You can sponsor other family members for a green card; and
- You can have a green card in the United States and still maintain your foreign citizenship in another country.
While there are many benefits associated with green cards, it is important to be aware of two negative issues.
First, green card holders are not U.S. citizens. As a result, certain rights available to U.S. citizens, including voting, qualifying for a U.S. passport, and avoiding deportation, do not apply to green card holders.
Second, green card holders are subject to U.S. taxation on their worldwide income, even if the income is sourced from outside of the United States.
Types of Green Cards
There are many different types of green cards. It is helpful to divide green cards into four categories – immediate relative, family preference, employment, and other.
Immediate relative green cards are available to the following relatives:
- The spouse of a U.S. citizen;
- The unmarried child of a U.S. citizen if the unmarried child is under 21 years of age; and
- The parent of a U.S. citizen if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age or older.
Immediate relative green cards are viewed as the most advantageous type of green card. There are an unlimited number of immediate relative green cards that are available; they are not subject to any quota that can delay issuance of the green card. As such, you generally can obtain an immediate relative green card faster than the below-described family preference green card.
Family preference green cards are available for different types of family relationships than immediate relative green cards. Specifically, family preference green cards can be obtained by the following relatives:
- The unmarried son or daughter of a U.S. citizen if the unmarried son or daughter is 21 years of age or older (classified as “first preference (F1)”);
- The spouse of a green card holder, and the unmarried child of a green card holder if the unmarried child is under 21 years of age (classified as “second preference (F2A)”);
- The unmarried son or daughter of a green card holder if the unmarried son or daughter is 21 years of age or older (classified as “second preference (F2B)”);
- The married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen (classified as “third preference (F3)”); and
- The brother or sister of a U.S. citizen if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age or older (classified as “fourth preference(F4)”).
Family preference green cards can be subject to both numerical and country (based on the country of origin (country of birth) of the person seeking a green card) quotas. As a result, there are generally longer green card wait times to obtain a family preference green card than an immediate relative green card.
At DYgreencard.com, you can free check eligibility to figure out whether you can sponsor a green card for your alien spouse, parent, child, sibling if you are a U.S. citizen, or spouse/child if you are a lawful permanent resident.
Green cards are not only obtainable for family reasons. They also can be obtained based on employment.
There are five principal categories of employment-based green cards:
- Workers who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, are an outstanding professor or researcher, or are a multinational manager or executive and meet certain criteria, are classified as “first preference (EB-1)”;
- Workers who are a member of a profession holding an advanced degree, have exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, or are seeking a national interest waiver, are classified as “second preference (EB-2)”;
- Workers who are a skilled worker (meaning your job requires a minimum of two years training or work experience), are a professional (meaning your job requires at least a U.S. bachelor’s degree or a foreign equivalent degree and you are a member of the profession), or are an unskilled worker (meaning you will perform unskilled labor requiring less than two years training, education, or experience), are classified as “third preference (EB-3)”;
- Certain miscellaneous workers, including ministers and non-ministers in religious vocations and occupations, members of the U.S. armed forces, and Afghan or Iraqi translators or interpreters, are classified as “fourth preference (EB-4)”; and
- Investors who invest at least $1,800,000 (or $900,000 in a targeted employment area) in a new commercial enterprise in the United States that will create full-time positions for at least 10 qualifying employees, are classified as “fifth preference (EB-5)”.
Similar to family preference green cards, and unlike immediate relative green cards, employment green cards can be subject to both numerical and country quotas. Thus, it will usually take more time to receive an employment green card than an immediate relative green card.
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In addition to immediate relative green cards, family preference green cards, and employment green cards, there are various other types of green cards, including for persons granted asylum status who have been physically present in the United States for at least one year after being granted asylum, persons admitted as refugees who have been physically present in the United States for at least one year, victims of human trafficking who currently have a T nonimmigrant visa, victims of a crime who currently have a U nonimmigrant visa, and juveniles who need the protection of a juvenile court because they have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent.
Steps to Obtain A Green Card
There are two paths to obtain a green card – consular processing or adjustment of status.
If the green card applicant is outside of the United States, the path to follow to obtain a green card is known as consular processing.
The first step to obtain a green card under consular processing is to file an appropriate immigration petition. The specific immigration petition that must be filed will vary based on the type of green card that is being pursued.
For family-based green cards (immediate relative green cards or family preference green cards), Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, must be filed. Form I-130 will be filed by the U.S. citizen or green card holder who is related to the green card applicant. In most cases, Form I-130 is filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”).
Form I-130 will ask for various information about both the related U.S. citizen or green card holder and the green card applicant, including the nature of the relationship between the related U.S. citizen or green card holder and the green card applicant, address history, marital information, information about parents and other family members, employment history, biographic information, and entry information.
With the Form I-130, various documents and other evidence must be submitted, including concerning the U.S. citizenship or green card status of the relative filing the Form I-130 and the family relationship between such relative and the green card applicant.The specific documents and other evidence that must be submitted with the Form I-130 will vary based on the specific family relationship that is being established. Click here to learn more.
For employment green cards, Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, generally must be filed. Form I-140 will be filed with USCIS by the U.S. employer who is connected to the green card applicant. As two exceptions to Form I-140, certain EB-4 applicants will file Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, and EB-5 applicants will file Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur.
If Form I-140 is applicable, it will ask for various information about the U.S. employer filing Form I-140 and the green card applicant, including the basis for the employment green card, information about the green card applicant’s last arrival in the United States, information about the proposed employment, and information about the green card applicant’s spouse and children. Form I-140 also requires that certain documents and other evidence must be submitted, which will vary based on the specific basis for the employment green card. Click here to learn more.
If the immigration petition is approved by USCIS, the next step under consular processing is for USCIS to send the approved petition to the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center (“NVC”). The approved petition then will be on hold until a visa number is available for the green card applicant. As described above, this “hold” issue will not delay immediate relative green cards; however, because of possible numerical and country quotas, family preference green cards and employment green cards may be delayed.
Once a visa number is available, the next step under consular processing is that the green card applicant will need to complete and submit Form DS-260, Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration, Form I-864, Affidavit of Support (applicable to all family-based immigration and certain employment-based immigration), and various supporting documents to NVC, schedule and complete a medical examination with an authorized physician after receiving an immigrant visa interview notice, and attend an interview (as described below) at the designated U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where the green card applicant has permanent residence. You can learn more about consular processing in our article Apply for Green Card through Consular Processing.
Adjustment of Status
If the green card applicant is present in the United States, the path to follow to obtain a green card is known as adjustment of status.
The first step to obtain a green card under adjustment of status is similar to under consular processing – file an appropriate immigration petition.Thus, depending on the specific type of green card that is being pursued, as described above, Form I-130, Form I-140, Form I-360, or Form I-526 may be filed.
The next step to obtain a green card under adjustment of status is to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Form I-485 will be filed with USCIS by the green card applicant.
Form I-485 requires various information about the green card applicant, including recent immigration history, address history, employment history, information about parents, information about marital history, information about children, biographic information,and information concerning general eligibility and inadmissibility grounds.
In addition, with Form I-485, you need to submit various documents and other evidence, including two color passport-style photos, a copy of a government-issued identity document with photo, a copy of a birth certificate, documentation of the green card applicant’s immigrant category, evidence of the green card applicant continuously maintaining a lawful status since arrival in the U.S. (for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, only need evidence to prove legal entry for the last entry to the U.S.), Form I-864, Affidavit of Support (applicable to all family-based immigration and certain employment-based immigration), Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, and certain certified police and court records if the green card applicant has any criminal history.
There are two points to remember about Form I-485. First, Form I-485 generally cannot be filed unless a visa number is available for the green card applicant. Thus, just as with consular processing, immediate relative green cards (always available) generally can be obtained more quickly than family preference or employment green cards (subject to numerical and country quotas) under adjustment of status. Second, certain green card applicants (including for immediate relative green cards, F2A green cards, and for most employment green cards when such employment visa number would then be available) can file Form I-485 concurrently with the applicable immigrant petition.
After Form I-485 is filed, the final steps under adjustment of statusis for the green card applicant to attend a biometrics service appointment, to be fingerprinted and photographed. Most marriage-based green card applicants will need to be interviewed at a USCIS local office while other types of green card applicants will be waived an interview.
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Green Card Interviews
Both the consular processing and adjustment of status paths to obtaining a green card generally will end with a green card interview. The examiner at the green card interview generally will play a critical role in deciding whether the green card application will be approved.
The following are some helpful tips for green card interviews:
- Thoroughly know and understand your immigration petition, Form DS-260, Form I-485, and all documents and other evidence that you have submitted;
- Practice your answers to likely green card interview questions before the interview. An attorney or immigration consultant can help you come up with the best answers to any controversial questions;
- Advise the examiner of any changed facts from when you submitted your green card documents;
- Be honest during the interview; and
- Be respectful toward the examiner and in speaking about the green card process.
Through DYgreencard.com, you will have a skilled immigration lawyer who can give you a green card interview training/practice. Moreover, the lawyer will advise you how to well prepared your green card interview. Learn more today!
Green Card Processing Times
A commonly asked question is how long does it take to get a green card. Green card processing times will vary based on the type of green card that is being pursued.
For immediate relative green cards, the average processing time is approximately 10 to 18 months (6 to 24 months if adjustment of status applies).
For family preference green cards, the average processing time is approximately 24 to 36 months for the spouses and unmarried minor (under age 21) children of green card holders (longer if the spouse or child is from certain countries), and much longer for the unmarried adult (age 21 or over) children of U.S. citizens or green card holders (seven to nine years, and even longer if the child is from certain countries), the married children of U.S. citizens (13 to 14 years, and even longer if the child is from certain countries), and the siblings of U.S. citizens (14 to 16 years, and even longer if the sibling is from certain countries).
For employment green cards, processing times vary greatly based on the specific factual circumstances, but typically will be in the range of 14 months to three years (longer for green card applicants from certain countries).
Please keep in mind that green card processing times change over time. You should check USCIS’s website or consult with an attorney to determine the current green card processing time in your specific situation.
Fees to Obtain A Green Card
It is not free to obtain a green card. The following is a summary of certain of the key required government filing fees to obtain a green card:
- Form I-130 – $535;
- Form I-140 –$700;
- Form I-360 –$435;
- Form I-526 – $3,675;
- Form I-485 – $1,140;
- Form DS-260 – $445 (consisting of a Visa Application Processing fee of $325 and an Form I-864, Affidavit of Support fee of $120 if applicable); and
- Biometrics servicesfee – $85.
It is important to remember that obtaining a green card is not a simple matter. It is usually necessary to retain an attorney or immigration consultant to assist with the green card process. The cost of hiring such attorney or immigration consultant also should be considered in determining green card fees.
Green cards can provide immigrants with agolden opportunity to live and work in the United States.
While the “bad news” is that there are time delays and costs involved in obtaining a green card, the “good news” is that there are many different paths that one can follow to receive a green card.
If you or someone you know wants to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis, you should investigate which green card path is right in your situation and start the green card process today. Try DYgreencard.com’s first-time free consultation today!
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