January 13, 2022. 
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Green Card Process: Everything You Need To Know

The U.S. Green card process has its own rules and regulations. The main principles of the U.S. immigration law are family reunification, boosting the economy, bringing skilled workers to the U.S., protecting refugees, and diversifying the population. This being said, millions of people all around the world wish to travel to the U.S. and permanently settle there.

If you’re one of those people, you may be curious to learn more about the rules and requirements, as well as your options. It’s a lot easier to go through the process when you’re well-informed about each step.

In this blog post, we tried to cover the main aspects of the immigration process: types of green cards, where you can apply, and the length of the process. In case you have additional questions, feel free to reach out—we’ll be happy to help.

General information

A green card, also known as a permanent resident card, is a document issued by USCIS that allows you to permanently live and work in the United States. Once you obtain it, you get a status of a lawful permanent resident, and after three or five years of being a green card holder, you may qualify for U.S. citizenship.

If you come across the term conditional permanent resident—don’t panic! A conditional permanent resident status carries the same benefits as a lawful permanent resident status. However, there is a slight difference. The conditional permanent residency expires after two years. Afterwards, the immigrant will have to apply for permanent status.

The conditional permanent resident status is given to those applicants who want to obtain their green card through marriage and have only been married for two years. Another scenario is when a person wants to make a financial investment in the U.S. for which the USCIS grants them a status of a conditional permanent resident. In any other case, green card applicants receive a lawful permanent resident status.

If you obtained your green card through marriage, you can apply for U.S. citizenship after three years. In other cases, you can apply for U.S. citizenship five years after obtaining a green card.

If you’re outside of the United States and you wish to go through the U.S. Green Card process, you’ll have to apply for an immigrant visa first. In other words, the visa you apply for determines the type of Green Card you’ll receive. Below, you can read more about the ways you can obtain a green card.

Types of U.S. Green Cards

The U.S. Green card process states that there are two main ways to obtain a green card: through family-based immigration and employment-based immigration.

1. Family-based immigration

Immediate relative:

  1. IR-1: Spouse of a U.S. citizen;
  2. IR-2: An unmarried child under 21 years of age of a U.S. citizen;
  3. IR-3: Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen;
  4. IR-4: Orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen;
  5. IR-5: Parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old.

Family preference:

  1. F1 (Family first preference): Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age and older) of U.S. citizens;
  2. F2A (Family second preference): Spouses and children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of lawful permanent residents;
  3. F2B (Family second preference): Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age or older) of lawful permanent residents;
  4. F3 (Family third preference): Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens;
  5. F4 (Family fourth preference): Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age or older).
2. Employment-based immigration

When it comes to employment-based immigration, there are five categories:

  1. EB-1: Priority workers;
  2. EB-2: Professionals and Persons of Exceptional Ability;
  3. EB-3: Skilled and Unskilled Workers and Professionals;
  4. EB-4: Certain special immigrants;
  5. EB-5: Immigrant investors.

Additionally, you can apply for a U.S. green card through Diversity Visa Program or with a returning resident immigrant visa.

Diversity Immigrant Visa Program

Diversity Immigrant Visa Program or Diversity Program (DV), also known as a Green Card lottery, is an annual event that usually takes place in October. DV Program is an opportunity for thousands of people around the world to travel to the United States and settle there. It’s completely free of charge and you can easily apply online.

Returning Immigrant 

A green card holder, also known as a lawful permanent resident can stay outside of the United States for a maximum of one year. In case they surpass that limit, the green card holder can apply for a returning immigrant visa (SB-1 visa). In some cases, staying outside of the U.S. for only six months may also raise a red flag, so be prepared to answer questions. The U.S. Green card process is quite strict.

Leaving the U.S. for more than one year may jeopardize your U.S. Green card process. Fortunately, there are ways to maintain your status, even if you’re leaving the U.S. for a prolonged period.

If you have a job overseas and you know that you’ll stay abroad for more than a year, you can apply to the USCIS for special benefits. In this way, you may prevent losing your permanent resident status.

Where to apply and the length of the process

You can apply for a Green Card either outside of the United States or from the United States. When you apply outside of the U.S., your petition goes through consular processing, whereas applying from the U.S. means that you will go through the Adjustment of status. Namely, these two processes differ in their duration and the steps you need to take.

The length of the process depends on the type of green card you’re applying for (family-based or employment-based). Additionally, it depends on location, and, if it’s family-based immigration, it depends on the type of relationship between the petitioner and beneficiary.

We hope that this information will be useful for you and that we managed to resolve at least some of your doubts. The Green card process doesn’t have to be puzzling. With clear guidance, you can navigate the process with ease. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us, we’re here to help!

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