Each year over 732,000 green cards are issued. A green card can provide various advantages, such as making travel easier, providing legal protection, and allowing you to live anywhere in the US. However, to get these perks, what steps do you have to take?
Don't worry! We've investigated everything you need to know about the green card application. That way, you can become a legal permanent resident of the United States in no time.
Now, are you ready to get started? Here's an in-depth look at the green card approval process:
Step 1: Choose Your Qualification Method
To begin, you must determine the type of qualification method that suits your needs and lifestyle. There are three ways to qualify for a green card. We've broken down each method below:
You can qualify for a green card through your job. This process tends to take longer than other methods, but it's an effective way to earn money while establishing yourself as a legal permanent resident. To earn a green card through your employment, you must file an employment petition and an I-140 form.
You can qualify for a green card based on your family. For example, if you have a close relative who is a US citizen or current green card holder, you can qualify for a family-based green card.
A close relative is defined as an immediate family member. Family members that qualify as close relatives include spouses, parents, children, and siblings. Extended family, like cousins, aunts, and uncles, do not qualify you for a family-based green card.
However, widows and widowers who were married to a US citizen are eligible. However, like spouses of living US citizens, widows and widowers must prove that the marriage was lawful in order to receive a green card.
- Humanitarian Resources
Individuals seeking refuge and asylum can apply for their green card after one year of living in the United States. Human trafficking victims can apply for a green card only after they have physically lived in the US, either under a T-visa or for the duration of the trafficking investigation. Crime victims qualify for a green card once they've physically lived in the US for at least three years under a U-visa.
Step 2: Choose a Visa Category
This step is only required for employment-based green card recipients. Before you can move forward, you need to determine which visa category best fits you. Below we've listed all the visa categories and their associated requirements:
- EB-1A: for professionals leading their field, PERM not required
- EB-1B: for teachers and researchers; PERM not required
- EB-1C: for multinational executives and business managers; PERM not required
- EB-2 NIW: for individuals with national important work; PERM not required
- EB-2 PERM: for individuals with bachelor or graduate degrees; PERM required
- EB-3: for skilled, unskilled, and professional workers; PERM required
- EB-4: for special workers; PERM not required
- EB-5: for individuals in the immigrant investor program; PERM not required
Step 3: Get Your PERM Labor Certification
You only have to complete the PERM labor certification if you are in EB-2 PERM or EB-3 categories. If you're not in one of those two categories, you can skip to preparing a permit.
The PERM's purpose is to show the Department of Labor that you are not taking away jobs from any US workers. The process is mainly executed through your sponsor employer. The process itself can take approximately six to eighteen months.
Throughout those 18 months, there are three steps your employer must complete
- Wage request
- Recruitment process
- Submission of ETA-9089
To complete the first step, your employer must obtain the average wages paid for your specific occupation from the DOL. It usually only takes one to two weeks to accomplish this step.
Moving on to the second, your employer must work together with the DOL to show beyond a doubt that there isn't a better US candidate. This step often takes several months to complete.
Once the two steps are finished, your employer must fill out and send an ETA-9089 application to the DOL. This application grants you permanent work approval. Since this last step is complex, completing it often takes six to twelve months.
Step 4: Prepare the Petition
During this step, the immigrant petition is prepared and submitted. For employment-based petitions, individuals should file form I-140 with thorough supporting documents and evidence. For family-based petitions, individuals should file form I-130 along with evidence-based documents.
Depending on your immigration attorney, preparing a petition with the correct documents, witness testimony, and other requirements can take several months. Then, once it's sent, it can take up to 60 to 90 days to be reviewed.
Step 5: Green Card Approval
Once your petition has been reviewed and approved, you'll need to file form I-485. The form registers you as a permanent legal resident. If approved, you'll be handed your green card. While the process to get here is time-consuming and, sometimes, a bit frustrating, it's all worth it for the benefits of a green card.
Apply for a Green Card Today
Receiving a green card approval isn't as easy as one, two, or three. It's a process that takes time, patience, and filling out multiple forms showcasing your work history, educational history, and family ties.
It will likely take up to three years before you're approved for a green card. Guarantee that each question on every form is answered correctly and thoroughly. Errors will only delay your approval and slow down the process.
To learn more about becoming a legal permanent resident, visit our blog today.