Immigration Quiz

Eligibility for U.S. Permanent Residency (Green Card)

At Sapochnick Law Firm, we understand the importance and value of securing permanent residence in the United States. A Green Card grants individuals the privilege to call the U.S. home, providing the freedom to enter, work, live, and remain in the country indefinitely. If you are considering applying for a Green Card, it is essential to determine if you fall under one of the recognized eligibility categories.

1. Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens

Immediate family members of U.S. citizens are given top priority and may apply for a Green Card without waiting in line. Qualifying immediate relatives include:

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens, as well as recent widows and widowers
  • Unmarried individuals under the age of 21 with at least one U.S. citizen parent
  • Parents of adult U.S. citizens, provided the citizen child is 21 years of age or older
  • Stepchildren and stepparents of U.S. citizens, given that the marriage creating this relationship occurred before the child attained 18 years
  • Adopted children of U.S. citizens, provided the adoption was finalized before the child turned 16

There are no annual limits on the number of Green Cards available for these immediate relatives. As soon as the necessary paperwork and application process are completed, the Green Card may be issued.

2. Other Family Members

Certain relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents may also qualify for Green Cards, but are subject to annual quotas within "preference categories," capping the number at 480,000 per year:

  • Family First Preference: Unmarried adults aged 21 and older with one U.S. citizen parent
  • Family Second Preference: Spouses and unmarried children under 21 of Green Card holders (2A), and unmarried children 21 or older of Green Card holders (2B)
  • Family Third Preference: Married individuals with at least one U.S. citizen parent
  • Family Fourth Preference: Siblings of U.S. citizens, provided the citizen sibling is at least 21 years old

Waiting periods for these categories vary, sometimes extending up to two decades.

3. Preferred Employees and Workers

The United States offers 140,000 Green Cards annually to workers with specific skills that are needed in the U.S. labor market, subdivided into the following categories:

  • Employment First Preference: Priority workers including extraordinary ability individuals, outstanding academics and researchers, and multinational executives
  • Employment Second Preference: Professionals with advanced degrees or those with exceptional ability
  • Employment Third Preference: Skilled professionals and other workers
  • Employment Fourth Preference: Religious workers and varied special immigrant categories
  • Employment Fifth Preference: Entrepreneurs investing either $1 million or $500,000 in targeted employment areas, providing jobs for at least ten individuals

Applicants must often cope with long waiting periods due to limited availability.

4. Green Card Lottery for Ethnic Diversity

The Diversity Immigrant Visa program allocates 50,000 Green Cards to residents of countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States.

5. Special Immigrants

Certain individuals may apply for Green Cards under special immigrant categories that are periodically created by law, including:

  • Religious workers affiliated with legitimate organizations
  • Foreign medical graduates resident in the U.S. since 1978
  • Former Panama Canal Zone employees
  • Longstanding U.S. government employees from overseas
  • Retired employees from particular international organizations
  • Long-term foreign employees of the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong
  • Foreign minors under the dependency of U.S. juvenile courts
  • International broadcasting employees
  • Certain U.S. Armed Forces members with twelve years of service enrolled overseas
6. Refuge and Political Asylum

Individuals who have suffered or fear persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political views, or membership in a particular social group may apply for refuge or asylum. This does not extend to those fleeing poverty or indiscriminate violence.

7. Amnesty and Special Agricultural Worker Status

Although deadlines have passed, certain amnesty programs have historically offered a Green Card path for those living in the U.S. illegally or those who worked in agriculture during specified periods. The Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) also offered amnesty to individuals from certain regions.

8. Long-Time Residents

Persons who have resided in the U.S. without legal status for over ten years may, under particular circumstances, pursue permanent residency. Additionally, the "registry" permits those who have continuously lived in the U.S. since January 1, 1972, to apply for a Green Card. Applicants must demonstrate good moral character and admissibility.

9. Special Cases

In extraordinary situations, individual U.S. Congress members have occasionally interceded on humanitarian grounds to assist someone in obtaining permanent residence, notwithstanding legal constraints.

At Sapochnick Law Firm, we recognize the complexity and importance of Green Card applications. Our dedicated team is available to guide you through the eligibility criteria and application process. For personalized legal advice, contact us at 619.819.9204 and let us assist you in achieving your American dream.

Client Reviews
Great immigration lawyer, very professional, knowledgeable and experienced. Jacob always answered my questions, e-mails and calls; great customer service from him and everybody at his office. I highly recommend Jacob, probably the best immigration lawyer out there. Plinio Franca
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