The intricate immigration regulations, policies and laws behind obtaining a green card can be complicated and at times overwhelming to decipher. The most common question amongst foreign nationals is: How can I obtain my green card? Instead of going into the intricacies of the law, this article is designed to explain the basic avenues to obtain a green card (i.e. Lawful Permanent Residency) in the U.S.

There are TWO main paths to the attainment of lawful permanent resident status: Family and Employment based petitions. The first step is to determine in which category an individual would fall under. If an individual has a family member such as a spouse, son or daughter or parent with lawful permanent status or U.S citizenship that can file an immigrant petition, certainly Family based immigration is the best alternative.

Family Based Immigration

Family petitions are divided into two types; immediate relatives and those subject to the visa bulletin waiting system. Simply stated, immediate relatives are the U.S citizen spouses, children and parents of children over 21 years of age, who have a green card instantly available to them. Any other family basedimmigrant category will be subject to the waiting periods of the visa bulletin. Qualifying for a family based petition does not automatically offer an individual eligibility for a green card. Determining eligibility is the second step. No one should attempt to file an adjustment of status (green card) application without the assistance of an immigration attorney. If an individual fits the mold of a family based petition, our experienced attorneys can then determine how to obtain a green card specifically tailored to the distinct facts surrounding the case.

Employment Based Immigration

An employment based category is no exception. Navigating on your own through the fields of employment based petitions can prove challenging given the specific categorization and strict requirements involved. Where an individual is abroad or is present in the U.S with some type of lawful status and an employer is interested in sponsoring the individual within their particular field of employment, consider immigrating through an employment based category. Foreign students pursuing degrees in the U.S should be particularly attentive to this option. An employment based category can also be based on investing capital for employment creation in the U.S (EB-5). Additionally, not all employment categories require an employer sponsorship and some require a labor certification by the Department of Labor and the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). Our immigration attorneys can help you navigate through the specifics under the law.

Asylum Seekers

Other immigrant channels exist that create a path to adjust the status of a foreign national. Of particular utility for those individuals who are out of status or who have entered without inspection are applications based on humanitarian grounds. These include options such as asylum for those individuals persecuted in their country of nationality, U-Visas for victims of qualifying crimes, T-visas for victims of trafficking and relief under the Violence Against Women Act. Such programs have succeeded in protecting the interest of the most vulnerable immigrant populations in this country while establishing a path to lawful permanent residency.

Other Options

There are many other avenues under the immigration laws to obtain a green card in the U.S. For example, The Registry program is a useful yet highly underused and often forgotten program to adjust status to that of a lawful permanent resident. Registry requires physical presence from January 1, 1972, however remains subject to admissibility and deportability bars that must be carefully scrutinized by an attorney. Other legalization methods include country specific Adjustments such as the Cuban Adjustment Act, Certain Nicaraguans and Central Americans (NACARA), certain Haitians (HRIFA), Iraqi’s who assisted to U.S government, Syrian asylees and Refugees, amongst others.

When assessing avenues to obtain a green card, many individuals who face the threat of deportation by being placed in removal proceedings before an immigration judge may also obtain lawful permanent residency. For some, immigration court may be the only pathway available to obtain a green card. For others the end result is a removal order by the judge back to their country of birth. Either way, under certain circumstances, an immigration court may grant U.S permanent residency.

A foreign national may pursue a green card through many other channels such as private immigration bills, the green card lottery, adoption, amnesty and many others. Electing to pursue lawful permanent status in our immigration system involves complex processes and complicated laws, policies and often working with different agencies at the same time. Any incomplete applications and mistakes can have serious consequences such as the denial of your application or even the threat of deportation from the U.S. For this reason, this process must be done right the first time.

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