A green card is a permanent residence card that identifies its holder as a permanent resident of the United States. It grants them the right to enter, exit, work, and live in the United States for the rest of their lives -and eventually obtain naturalized citizenship. Before deciding to apply for permanent residence in the U.S., make sure that you’re eligible under one of the following categories;
1. Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens:
When it comes to getting a U.S. green card and qualifying for it quickly, immediate relatives are at the top of the list. Immediate relatives include:
- The spouses of U.S. citizens, including newly widowed or widowed individuals and same-sex spouses, are legally married as per the laws and rules of the state or country.
- Spouse, Unmarried
- Child (under 21) & Parent of a U.S. Citizen.
- Children have 21 years old age.
- Unless the marriage creating the stepparent/stepchild relationship took place before the child reached his 18th birthday, stepparents and stepchildren of U.S. citizens.
- A child adopted from another country is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, provided that the adoption occurred before the child reached age 16 and other conditions are met.
Green cards are available to an unlimited number of relatives of U.S. citizens whose relatives submitted petitions on their behalf — applicants can receive their green cards immediately after completing the necessary paperwork and application process.
2. Other Family Members of U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents:
Green cards can also be obtained by family members of citizens or permanent residents of the United States, but it takes time. Only a certain number of them (480,000 in total) will qualify for green cards each year because they fall into the “preference immigrant” categories listed below;
1. Family First Preference (F1):
- A U.S. citizen’s parents and unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age and older) of U.S. citizens.
2. Family Second Preference (F2):
- F2A: Lawful permanent residents’ spouses and children (unmarried and under 21 years of age).
- F2B: Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age and older) of lawful permanent residents.
3. Family Third Preference (F3):
- Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
4. Family Fourth Preference (F4):
- Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age and older).
Applicants’ “priority date” determines when an immigrant can apply for a green card – the sooner an immigrant submits form I-130, the sooner the immigrant can apply for a green card.
Wait times are, however, impossible to predict. Waiting times may vary depending on the type of visa you’re applying for, your country of origin, how many other people in your country are applying for the same visa category, and the intensity of workload at the immigration agencies.
Families of U.S. citizens who are citizens of the Philippines can get visa approvals within a short period (as is sometimes the case for spouses and minor children of permanent residents) or in 20 years (especially for siblings of Filipino citizens who are U.S. citizens).
Note: Chinese, Indian, Mexican, and Philippine citizens tend to have the longest waits due to high demand.
How to apply for Family-Based Green Card?
The process of applying for a green card may differ depending on what category you fall into. A green card application will be processed within a specific timeframe based on the USCIS processing center or agency handling the application and the specific green card type you applied for.
Green Cards can be applied in various ways under U.S. immigration laws. Depending on the immigration category you apply for, eligibility requirements might differ. Coronavirus (covid) pandemics could prolong this period. Green cards are typically granted based on the following general process;
Step 1: Sponsor submits petition:
The sponsor typically applies for a green card on behalf of the beneficiary (green card applicant). Family-based and employment-based green cards generally require longer processing times.
It is important to prove that they qualify for a green card due to their familial relationship or occupation with a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or employer.
A green card applicant must have maintained their status in the United States for at least five years to qualify for a green card based on a family relationship or career with a U.S. citizen.
The applicants must ensure that they meet the requirements for receiving a green card in the United States by considering the qualifying factors.
Resources for doing so are abundant, though it is not always easy. Suppose your ineligibility is based on family relationships or employment. In that case, the USCIS also has other options to establish that you have maintained your status in the United States over those five years and should be considered eligible for a green card.
Step 2: Beneficiary submits the application:
Green card applicants can now submit their green card applications after USCIS receives and approves the green card sponsor’s petition. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that some applicants will now be able to submit their green card applications after being approved by the sponsor for a green card.
Now, the employer or consular officer will no longer need to approve the application before submitting a green card application. The change will facilitate the process of getting a green card for immigrants already in the United States with a work or family-based petition that has been approved.
If you are applying from within the United States, you will submit an adjustment of status application, and if you are applying outside, you will submit a consular application. U.S. laws and procedures make applying for adjustment of status complicated. With this guide, the process can be simplified.
You must submit an adjustment of status application to USCIS if you apply from within the United States. In addition to identifying your current immigration status, you must specify your desired immigration status on the application for adjustment of status. After submitting the application and paying the appropriate fees, USCIS will review the request.
You will get notice I-797 with your approval number and other important details about your case if your adjustment of status application has been approved. Asylum applicants motivated by religious or political beliefs are automatically eligible for asylum, even if they have never entered the U.S. However, they must still be granted parole before applying for asylum.
You may need to wait for a visa number before applying for a green card if the United States government has a quota for the green card type, you’re applying for. The State Department’s website currently publishes a visa bulletin that includes the available visas. In addition to your green card application forms, you will need to submit supporting documents like your tax returns and birth certificates, etc., to apply for a green card.
Step 3: Biometrics appointment:
After successfully submitting the green card application, you’ll be scheduled for a biometrics appointment, where your fingerprints, photographs, and a signature will be collected.
As part of the U.S. government’s record checking process, the FBI runs your biometric information through their database before entering into the government’s record checking system to ensure that you don’t have any criminal history.
They also scan your fingerprints, facial images, and iris scans with their system to secure your identity. They will inform you via email and letter if they find anything wrong with the current version of your biometric data.
Moreover, after successfully processing biometric information, the FBI will send the confirmation letter. Eight years ago, the U.S. government launched and operated a program called “Rap Back” to protect its citizens from those who might be using other people’s identities to make money or commit other illegal acts. You may be disqualified from receiving a green card if you have committed a crime.
Step 4: Green card interview:
Green card interview is one of the most important steps in the complete application process in which USCIS will conduct the green card interview either in person or by telephone.
If the applicant resides outside the United States, you need to contact the nearest American embassy or consulate for a green card interview.
While, if you live within the United States, you can arrange an interview with your local USCIS office to get a green card, or you can schedule it on the phone if the USCIS office is not available.
For green card interview, the following procedure will be followed;
- USCIS is notified that the application has been submitted successfully.
- An interview appointment scheduler is provided to the applicant.
- The candidate must reach the interview location well before the time.
- Interviews are conducted as per schedule.
Step 5: Receive decision regarding green card application:
The U.S. government will either approve or deny your application for a green card. The decision is usually communicated during or shortly after your green card interview. A summary of your case status can also be found on USCIS’ website.