If you're considering becoming a U.S. lawful permanent resident, let me tell you about the numerous benefits that come with it. This status grants foreign nationals the wonderful opportunity to enter, exit, work, and reside in the United States for their entire lifetime, should they choose to do so (of course, as long as they don't engage in any deportable actions). This special privilege is often associated with the famous "green card," which serves as proof of their status. And that's not all – with time and dedication, they can even apply for naturalized U.S. citizenship, the highest status available in the realm of U.S. immigration law.
Before you get excited and start the application process for U.S. permanent residence, it's crucial to ensure you fall into one of the specific eligibility categories laid out in the U.S. federal immigration law at 8 U.S.C. § 1153. Let me briefly outline some of the most commonly used green card categories, including the number of slots available for individuals from all around the world.
However, let's take a moment to be cautious here. Meeting the eligibility criteria for a green card is one aspect, but remember that there are potential roadblocks to consider. Factors like health, criminal history, financial status, and security concerns could still prevent you from entering the U.S. So it's essential to tread carefully and be aware of the inadmissibility grounds.
Additionally, it's worth noting that our discussion doesn't encompass the various temporary, "nonimmigrant" visas that cater to individuals visiting, working, studying, or participating in exchange programs within the United States. For more information on those types of visas and who qualifies, check out the comprehensive guide on Types of Nonimmigrant (Temporary) Visas.
So, are you considering applying for your green card? Well, it might just be the right time. Let's delve into the eligibility requirements for green card applicants.
To apply for a green card, you must hold lawful permanent resident status in the United States, commonly known as being a green card holder.
With Job Offers From U.S. Companies
Each year, there are 140,000 green cards up for grabs for individuals with job skills needed in the U.S. market. The catch is that most of the time, you'll need a job offer from a U.S. employer to be eligible. The U.S. employer also has to prove to the government that they've made extensive efforts to recruit for the position, held interviews, and couldn't find any qualified U.S. workers willing to take the job. (For more details, check out "Will Finding a Job in the U.S. Get You a Green Card?")
Since the demand for green cards is high, this falls under the "preference category" in U.S. immigration law. As a result, some applicants might have to wait for years before they can get their green card. Patience is key!
Here are the different subcategories for employment-based green cards:
Employment First Preference (EB-1): This is for priority workers, including individuals with extraordinary abilities in arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics. It also covers outstanding professors, researchers, and managers/executives of multinational companies.
Employment Second Preference (EB-2): If you're a professional with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities, this one's for you.
Employment Third Preference (EB-3): This category is for professionals and skilled or unskilled workers. There's a place for everyone!
Employment Fourth Preference (EB-4): Religious workers and other "special immigrants" can find their path through this category.
Employment Fifth Preference (EB-5): Investors willing to put $1 million into a U.S. business (or $500,000 in economically depressed areas) can be eligible for this green card. Remember, the business must employ at least ten U.S. workers.
Your green card should either be expired or nearing expiration.
Seeking Refuge and Asylum: A Path to Safety in the U.S.
In an effort to offer sanctuary to those who fear or have endured persecution in their homeland, the U.S. government provides refuge and asylum.
For individuals located outside the United States, the process begins by applying to the U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees as a refugee. While they may not specifically request to come to the United States, any family ties are taken into consideration during the evaluation.
On the other hand, individuals already at the U.S. border or within the country have the option to apply for asylum. This involves completing USCIS Form I-589 and submitting it within one year of their arrival in the United States, with a few exceptions. In certain cases where a foreign national is arrested by U.S. immigration authorities and faces deportation, they can still submit an asylum application as a defense to deportation.
When filing Form I-90, you need to be physically present in the United States.
It's important not to have abandoned your U.S. residence. This means you should have lived in the U.S. continuously without spending extended periods of time outside the country. Did you know that there's a provision in the law that allows certain individuals who have been living in the U.S. unlawfully (often referred to as "illegally") for over ten years to apply for permanent residence when facing immigration court proceedings? It's called "cancellation of removal," but you might have heard people call it the "ten-year green card."
Green Card Renewal
While Permanent Resident status itself doesn't expire, Green Cards (the official documentation of Permanent Resident status) must be renewed every 10 years. Neglecting to renew your Green Card can make international travel difficult and hinder your ability to prove eligibility for employment in the U.S.
Permanent Residents renew their Green Cards every 10 years by submitting the Form I-90, known as the Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card. This form can also be used to replace a non-expired Green Card.
When to file Green Card replacement application?
You should file Form I-90 within six months of the expiration date listed on your Green Card. It cannot be filed more than six months in advance. If your Green Card has already expired, it's important to file Form I-90 immediately. In case you possess an older version of a Green Card without an expiration date, the USCIS strongly recommends applying for a replacement using Form I-90.
Government fees for Green Card renewal
Here is a breakdown of the typical government fees associated with Form I-90:
USCIS filing fee: $455
Biometrics fee: $85
What if I am a Conditional Permanent Resident?
Conditional Permanent Residents receive a Green Card that is valid for only two years. Form I-90 should NOT be used to renew the status of a Conditional Permanent Resident.
Within 90 days of the two-year expiration date, Conditional Permanent Residents must file a petition to "remove the conditions" from their Green Card. If your conditional status was based on marriage, you must submit Form I-751, the Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. If your conditional status was based on being an investor, you must file Form I-829, the Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status.
Upon approval of your petition, you will receive a new Green Card that is valid for 10 years. After that, the typical renewal process (including Form I-90) should be followed.
Replacing your Green Card using Form I-90
Apart from renewals, Form I-90 can also be utilized to replace a current Green Card in the following situations:
- Loss or theft of your card
- Damage or destruction of your card
- Errors on your card (such as spelling mistakes)
- Non-receipt of your card
- Name change
- If you became a Permanent Resident before turning 14 years old, you are required to replace your card after your 14th birthday.