Many people who want to immigrate to another country first think of moving to the United States. It is a country which provides many opportunities for working and settling down. Its economic well-being attracts people from all corners of the world as visitors and potential immigrants. They are all asking themselves how to get a Green Card?
This article will go through what a Green Card is, which one can you apply for, what the requirements are, and how to get a Green Card.
What is a Green Card?
The Green Card USA is basically a document which allows you to move permanently to the U.S and stay there. With the Green Card you can move to any state in the U.S, find jobs to work and earn income, as well as settle down with your family.
Additionally, you can also travel in and out of the U.S. However, you are not allowed to stay outside of the U.S for more than one year, otherwise your Green Card will expire and you will have to go through the process of applying again.
There are different types of US Green Cards depending on your situation and how you will obtain it. There are basically four categories of Green Cards, each one with their separate visas and requirements:
- Family sponsored Green Cards – this Green Card is given to you if you have close family in the U.S and you want to reunite with them. This type of Green Card is given only to immediate family, such as spouses, children, siblings, or parents of a U.S citizen or a U.S permanent resident.
- Employment sponsored Green Cards – this Green Card is given to you if you have found a job in the U.S from your home country. Your employer will pay for the forms and application procedure and will sponsor you to stay in the U.S. With an employment sponsored Green Card you are bound to that employer and you must work for that company until your contract expires. Only after your sponsorship conditions are completed, you can find a different job with a different employer.
- Returning resident Green Card – this Green Card is for those who previously had a Green Card but travelled outside of the U.S and did not come back for more than one year for reasons beyond their control. Reasons beyond your control are if you have been detained in another country or are not being allowed to come back for family or cultural reasons. You must prove that you had no opportunity to come back through various documents to be granted this visa.
- Diversity Visa Green Card – every year the U.S holds a visa lottery for citizens of countries with low immigration rates to the U.S. If you apply for this lottery and get a diversity visa, then you are on your way to getting a Green Card.
Whereas U.S non-immigrant visas are processed when you apply, the situation for immigrant visas and Green Cards is different. Many immigrant visas have a limit on the number of visas issued each year. For example, the F visa category for families has a limit on the yearly number of visas given to people.
The yearly limits mean that those who apply before it is reached will get processed. But if you apply for the visa once the limit has been reached, your visa will be processed next year. Since there is such a high demand for some types of Green Cards and immigrant visas, you might have to wait for a very long time for the petition or the case to be processed. For some U.S Green Cards, the waiting period can go up to 5 or 10 years. So, if you are planning to apply for a particular Green Card, you must check with the U.S institutions or this article for how long does it take to get a Green Card and apply as soon as possible.
What are the Green Card Requirements?
For whichever USA Green Card you choose to apply, there are various requirements that you must fulfill. Each U.S immigrant visa has its own particular set of conditions that you must fulfill, but there are also a few that you must have for each visa, as detailed below.
- You must live in a foreign country – most people seeking a Green Card must apply from their home country. If you are within the U.S, there are other requirements that you must meet.
- If you are in the U.S, you must have a dual intent visa – a dual intent visa is one that is temporary, but allows you to apply for a Green Card after a certain period of time. An example of a dual intent visa is the H-1B visa.
- For family based Green Cards, you must have a family member living in the U.S – your family member must either be your fiancé/spouse, your child, your sibling, or your biological or adoptive parent. The family member must be a U.S citizen or a U.S permanent resident and willing to sponsor your application forms. Additionally, the family member must prove that they are financially able to support you for the first few months after you move to the U.S, until you find a job.
- The family member must be at least 21 years old and must have a valid U.S address – if your family member is under 21 years old, then they are not allowed to sponsor you for a Green Card. Also, your family member must be currently living in the U.S and present a valid U.S address where you would also be moving once you get the Green Card.
- For employment based Green Cards, you must have a job offer – if you have found a job in the U.S, then you must have proof of it. This includes a signed contract or a signed letter from your employer stating when you will start working after you get your Green Card. Oral agreements are not accepted by any U.S institution when it comes to Green Cards, so make sure that you have a valid document which proves you have a job in the U.S.
- Your employer must meet minimum conditions on financial stability – even if you have a job, you must make sure that your employer has enough money to pay your salary. The U.S institutions responsible for Green Cards and immigrant visas will request financial statements from the company sponsoring your visa. If the financial statements show that the employer does not have enough money to pay your salary, then you will not get an approved Green Card.
- If you were in the U.S in the past, you must have respected all laws and regulations and not overstayed your visa
- You must not have a criminal past
How to Apply for a Green Card?
After you have gone through the types of U.S immigrant visas, reviewed the requirements and decided which one you can apply for, you must start the Green Card process. For most Green Card applications, there are a few steps you must take, as follows:
- Your sponsor must petition on your behalf – this petition can be from a family member, or employer. The form for family sponsored petitions is Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relatives, while the form for employment based petitions is Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. The petition must be filed with the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Green Card fee must be paid.
- If the petition is approved, NVC will send you a package – USCIS will go through the petition and will decide whether you qualify. If they approve your petition, your documents will go to the National Visa Center (NVC), which will send you a package to your country of residence. The package will contain all instructions and forms which you must fill out for your application. NVC will not send this package until your priority date is current.
- You must apply for the visa at a U.S Embassy – following the instructions from the NVC package, you will pay all necessary application fees and apply at a U.S Embassy in your country of residence. You will submit supporting documents as well as have your visa interview.
- If your visa is approved, you must travel to the U.S with your arrival package – if after you have completed all the steps, your visa is approved, the U.S Embassy will give you an arrival package. You cannot open the arrival package, but must bring it with you when you first travel to the U.S. Only a U.S immigrations official at a port of entry is allowed to open it and decide whether you are allowed to enter the U.S or not. Remember that even if you have a visa, it does not guarantee that you will be allowed to enter the U.S. The immigration officials at any U.S port of entry have the authority to decide.
- Once in the U.S, you must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status to USCIS. This form is the one which will get you the permanent residence card. After USCIS processes your request for one to four weeks, you will get your Green Card in the mail.
Travelling Abroad as a Green Card Holder
As a green card holder, you will have a restricted period within which you can remain outside the US. The standard period you can travel abroad is limited to one year. Though the duration of this period depends a lot whether you intend to become a naturalized citizen or not.
Holding a green card, will make it possible for you to visit the following countries visa-free:
- Costa Rica
- British Virgin Islands
- Dominican Republic
- Caribbean part of Netherlands
On the other hand, whether you can enter in other countries visa free or not it all depends on your nationality, and the visa policy between your home country and destination country. I.e. if you are planning to visit the Schengen countries in Europe, your nationality will determine whether you will have to apply for a Schengen Visa from the US or not.