Our world is overrun with plastic cards—some more desirable than others. For many Americans, the black card—Centurion by American Express—probably tops the list among the color-coded card. For immigrants, that spot is held by the “green card.” We know that much from the movies.
If you were old enough at the time or do not mind watching a “grainy old movie,” you may have seen the 1990 comedy of the same name with Gerard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell.
Those, whose memory does not stretch into the 1990s, will perhaps recall The Proposal. Interestingly enough, while we all know that it exists, not everyone knows what benefits a green card provides and how people go about obtaining one.
What is a green card?
It is best to start with what we know. A green card is indeed a regular ID-sized card. The current version of the document is also more or less green, although the card has gone through many color variations over time. In fact, for a majority of its existence, there was nothing green about it.
The card is issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and its boring, official name—the “Permanent Resident Card”—probably would not have made a very good movie title.
As its “real” name suggests, the card evidences that an immigrant was granted lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. It is this status, not the addition of yet another card into one’s already bursting wallet, that so many foreigners seem to be after.
It is what this status does provide, however, that is important. Permanent residents can work for almost any employer in the U.S. and as long as they abide by the law, they can remain in the U.S. indefinitely. This is a huge step up from the other available options—visas.
Visas come with an expiration date. They also contain many limitations. A tourist visa, for example, allows you to stay for only a couple of months. A work visa (H1-B) ties you to a particular employer. A student visa (F-1), for the most part, does not allow you to work full time while in school. The list goes on.
How do you get a green card?
Anyone who has seen the above-mentioned movies knows that getting a green card is no easy feat. If it were, undocumented immigration would probably not be the subject of presidential debates. Currently, there are three major ways of becoming a permanent resident:
(1) Green card through family
A family member who is a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident may petition for a foreigner to be admitted to the U.S. as a permanent resident. As with everything, the process comes with limitations. While spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents of U.S. citizen petitioners 21 or older may gain a green card practically immediately, others are subject to often lengthy wait times. For example, citizens of the Philippines must currently wait over 24 years before they become eligible for a green card though their adult U.S. citizen siblings.
(2) Green card through a job
A foreigner who finds a job in the U.S. may have his or her employer petition the USCIC for a green card. Those with enough assets may obtain a green card through investing a million dollars, or half-a-million dollars in a high unemployment or a rural area, into the U.S. economy (EB-5). Individuals of extraordinary ability can petition for themselves. (EB-1). According to the USCIS, examples of those who hold an extraordinary ability include Nobel Prize winners, notable athletes, and others who have achieved great successes in their field.
(3) Green card through a lottery
Every year, the U.S. government conducts a lottery (DV Lottery) in which it awards a limited number of green cards. Most recently, the number of green cards available in the lottery was 50,000. The lottery is intended to increase diversity by bringing individuals from countries with historically low rates of immigration. As such, this process is not open to citizens of certain countries, such as Canada, China (mainland-born), India, Mexico, Philippines, or the United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland).
It is important to note that there are other, less frequent ways of obtaining a green card, such as through asylum. What is evident, however, is that it is not an easy process. If you are interested in becoming a permanent resident and would like to have your case evaluated, call 1-844-HOLBORN and one of our immigration attorneys will be happy to assist you.
Disclaimer: This post is meant for general informational purposes only, and it is not to be construed as legal advice. As with any laws, the information in this blog post may change at any time and may apply differently in different jurisdictions. The post may constitute Attorney Advertising as defined by the rules of professional responsibility of some jurisdictions. Holborn Law is based in Orange County and Riverside. The attorneys of Holborn Law APC are active members of the State Bar of California and licensed to practice law in California. All services relating to immigration and naturalization provided by Holborn Law APC are provided by active members of the State Bar of California or by a person under the supervision of an active member of the State Bar of California.