Having a green card (also referred to as a permanent visa) means that you are legally qualified to live and work in the United States indefinitely. Under U.S immigration law, there are four major gateways leading to obtaining a green card; through marriage and family, employment, investment, and through the immigration lottery process.
Lets take a look at each.
Green Card Through Marriage - Immediate Family
For purposes of obtaining a green card, the current spouse of a U.S. citizen can legally qualify as an immediate family member and therefore legally qualify under the current marriage and family immigration program. However, the qualification process does not lead to automatic approval nor is the immigration process easy to understand without the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney.
Should the foreign national not yet be in this country or has not yet legally consummated the marriage at the time the petition was presented to immigration services, then it is still possible to obtain what is known as a fiancé visa, also known as a K-1 petition. This allows the foreign spouse to enter the United States for the specific purposes of marrying the U.S. citizen.
Green Card Through U.S. Employment
Another way a foreign national may qualify for a green card is by obtaining full time employment with an American based company. There are approximately 140,000 employment visas issued annually. In order to qualify for one, an application and labor certification must be presented for approval. The process is not automatic.
Our immigration laws make it illegal for a business to hire a foreign national without first receiving approval from the United States Department of Labor. Under federal law, employers must first attempt to fill the job position with an American citizen before offering the job to a foreign national.
The foreign employee, together with the American based employer, must establish that there is a legitimate and important need to hire a foreign national. Usually it must be shown that the foreign applicant offers some exceptional skill or talent that makes the applicant a unique and compelling fit for the U.S. business. The sponsoring employer usually must show that it was unable to find an American employee with like skills, qualifications and experience before being allowed to hire a foreign national.
The immigration form that is used for this purpose is I-I40, also known as the Alien Petition for Alien Worker form. If the employment petition is granted, the incoming spouse and all of his or her unmarried children under the age of 21 generally qualify for the right to apply for citizenship as well. The goal of course is to keep new families together – whether foreign or national born.
Green Card Through The Lottery System
Every twelve months the federal government’s lottery program receives millions of applications from foreign nationals seeking admission to the United States. Of these, only about 50,000 lottery winners are selected for admission to the United States.
Eligibility criteria for admission through the lottery system are mostly determined by the applicant’s place of national origin. The immigration policy attempts to level the playing field among foreign nationals coming from countries that have had historically low immigration rates into the United States. The goal is to foster ethnic diversity and fairness in our immigration practices.
The green card lottery system grants the selected applicant a green card but there are additional immigration forms and documents that must be properly submitted and approved before a green card can be issued. The applicant must also be required to meet the minimum requirements concerning education and employment status.
Green Card Through Investing In The United States
Every year, some 10,000 green cards are issued to foreign investors who make substantial investments in American businesses. The purpose of the investment program is to spur economic growth in certain industries and select regions of the United States through job creation, capital expenditures and commercial investment.
The foreign investor must establish that his or her investment qualifies under current immigration laws. This usually means that the investment must be made in a business that is located within an approved region of the country and that the investment will create at least ten jobs in the process.
It you are such an investor, it is strongly advised that you consider retaining an experienced immigration attorney to prepare your application and to present your case to immigration services.
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