Green Card Application Overview
Acquiring a green card through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is one of the most well-known pathways to citizenship. Green card holders have the right to live permanently in the U.S. and work at any job that does not have a security restriction against green card holders. Having a green card also grants you protection by all laws at every level of government in the U.S.
Because green cards are in high demand and there are so many limitations on the application process, if your application is rejected due to errors or incomplete information, you may have a long wait before your next application is chosen for review. Having an attorney guide you through the process helps ensure that your application will not be rejected.
Family-Based Green Card Eligibility
There is no limit on the number of visas issued for the immediate family members (children under 21, parents and spouses) of U.S. citizens. Once the family member of a U.S. citizen has a visa, they apply for an “Adjustment of Status.” If the adjustment of status is approved, a green card is granted.
Applicants for family-based green cards who fall outside of the immediate family category are prioritized based on preferences:
- First Preference (F1): the unmarried sons and daughters, 21 years of age and older, of a U.S. citizen
- Second Preference (F2A): the spouses and unmarried children under age 21 of a lawful permanent resident
- Second Preference (F2B): the unmarried adult sons and daughters age 21 and older of a lawful permanent resident
- Third Preference (F3): married sons and daughters of a U.S. citizen
- Fourth Preference (F4): the brothers and sisters of an adult U.S. citizen at least 21 years old
USCIS places a limit on the annual number of visas granted under the system of preferences. Family members who successfully complete the application process must still wait for a visa to become available.
Employment-Based Green Card Eligibility
The USCIS issues employment-based green cards based on knowledge and job skills considered to be of long-term benefit to the U.S. job market. Preferred immigrant workers are categorized under the following preferences:
- First preference immigrant worker: workers who possess “extraordinary ability” in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics; notable professors or researchers; or multinational managers or executives meeting a list of government criteria
- Second preference immigrant worker: transferring executives or managers of multinational companies
- Third preference immigrant worker: skilled workers whose jobs would require a minimum of two years’ training or work experience
- Fourth preference immigrant worker: unskilled workers who would require less than two years’ training or experience — not including temporary or seasonal workers
Like nonimmediate family members, there are annual quotas on the number of green cards granted to immigrant workers. A single country’s applicants cannot exceed 7% of the total number of green cards issued.
Asylum-Based Green Card Eligibility
The main eligibility requirements for a green card after establishing asylum status are fairly straightforward. An applicant for an asylum-based green card must wait until at least one year after being granted asylum and be able to prove they were physically present in the U.S. during that time. The grant of asylum must be active, the applicant must still meet the legal definition of a refugee and must be physically present in the U.S. when filing for the green card.
Visit our Asylum page for information on what asylum is and who may be eligible.