Green Card (Lawful Permanent Residents)

What is a Green Card?

A green card allows someone who is not a U.S. citizen to have legal permanent residency in the United States. With a green card, you can live and work anywhere in the U.S. and continue the pathway to citizenship. To apply for a permanent residence within the U.S., you must submit Form I-485.

Once you gain legal permanent residence in the United States, you essentially have lifetime legal status in the country. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires you to renew your green card every 10 years. To renew your card, you must file Form I-90. However, unlike with citizenship, there are ways you may lose your legal residency status if you:

  • Stay outside the United States for over 364 days and you do not have approval;
  • Become a U.S. citizen;
  • Give up your status by choice and fill out the correct forms;
  • Commit a crime or violate immigration law and are ordered removed by an immigration judge.

Who is Eligible For a Green Card?

There a number of ways you may apply for a green card. Your eligibility depends on qualifying under the appropriate immigrant category. You may apply under several categories:

  • Family and Marriage Based
  • Employment Based
  • Green Card as a Special Immigrant
  • Refugee or Asylee Status
  • Human Trafficking and Crime Victims
  • Victims of Abuse
  • Registry
  • Other Category

Family Based Green Cards

The most common way individuals obtain a green card is through immediate family. Foreign nationals in the United States may apply for lawful permanent resident status based on a family preference category. There are options to apply whether you are in the United States or outside. This is called “adjustment of status.”

Immediate relatives have different rules and immediate visas available upon filing. This includes a U.S. citizen spouse, parents of citizens (if the U.S. citizen is over 21 years of age), or children of citizens (under the age of 21 and unmarried). Other family members are also eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence. They include:

  • First Preference (F1) – unmarried sons and daughters, 21 years of age and older, of U.S. citizens;
  • Second Preference (F2A) – spouses and children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of lawful permanent residents;
  • Second Preference (F2B) – unmarried sons and daughters, 21 years of age and older, of lawful permanent residents;
  • Third Preference (F3) – married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; and
  • Fourth Preference (F4) – brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age and older).

Read more about marriage and fiancée visas here.

Employment-Based Green Cards

Multiple subcategories of workers are eligible to apply for permanent residence. Read more about green cards through employment here.

Humanitarian Green Cards

Refugees and Asylees

For information on asylum and refugee green cards see here

Human Trafficking Victims (T Visa)

As part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Act, Congress created the T Nonimmigrant Status (T Visa). This status enables certain victims of a “severe form” of human trafficking to remain in the United States for up to four years if they assisted law enforcement in an investigation of prosecution of human trafficking. Some family members of human trafficking victims are also eligible for benefits. Some recipients of T visas are eligible to apply for a green card.

According to federal law, “severe form of trafficking” includes:

  • Sex trafficking: When someone recruits, harbors, transports, provides, solicits, patronizes, or obtains a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, where the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or the person being induced to perform such act is under 18 years of age; or
  • Labor trafficking: When someone recruits, harbors, transports, provides, or obtains a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

Crime Victims (U Visa)

The U Nonimmigrant Visa allows foreign nationals who are victims of certain crimes to become permanent residents in the United States.

If you are the victim of certain crimes where you suffered substantial physical or mental abuse, and are helpful to the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity, you may be eligible after you meet certain requirements.

Abuse victims

If you are a battered spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen, you may be eligible for a green card. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), you may file a petition for an immigrant visa petition.

To self-petition, you must complete the Form I-360, submit evidence of the abuse and proof the abuser is a U.S. citizen, and file the form at the correct facility. If you have questions about eligibility, contact our office for a consultation.

Diversity Lottery Green Cards

Each year, the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program) creates up to 50,000 visas for immigrants and drawn by random selection. The individuals in the lottery are from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The U.S. Department of State (DOS) administers the program.

Green Card through Registry

U.S. immigration law allows certain individuals the ability to apply for permanent residence if they have been in the country since January 1, 1972, even if unlawfully. If you qualify, you must file Form I-485. While your application is processing, you may apply for authorization to work in the United States.

The eligibility criteria are:

  • You entered the United States prior to Jan. 1, 1972
  • You have resided in the United States continuously since Jan. 1, 1972
  • You are a person of good moral character
  • You are not ineligible for naturalization (citizenship)
  • You are not removable (deportable) under Section 237(a)(4)(B) the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). You are not inadmissible under Section 212(a)(3)(E) of the INA or as a criminal, procurer, other immoral person, subversive, violator of the narcotics laws or alien smuggler

Ask Henry Lim
Speak to a green card immigration lawyer at Lim Law today and schedule a free consultation. Do not hesitate if you have any questions regarding asylum in the US. We offer the first consultation for free. Call 407-897-8870 to schedule your consultation today. For over 20 years, immigration lawyer Henry Lim has helped more than 10,000 families with their immigration issues. You can Ask Henry a question at [email protected] or submit a video question by sending a link to one of our channels.