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Getting a green card is one of the first step in the path to citizenship for most people. The following information should be useful to determine whether you or someone you know might be eligible for a green card. US immigration law provides various narrow pathways to status, and a person can only receive a green card if they qualify for one of these paths.  

Getting a green card is one of the first step in the path to citizenship for most people. The following information should be useful to determine whether you or someone you know might be eligible for a green card. US immigration law provides various narrow pathways to status, and a person can only receive a green card if they qualify for one of these paths.  

Upon reading this guide, if you believe you or someone you know qualifies for a permanent residency card, please have them reach out to us at 630-324-6666 to speak with an experienced immigration attorney. If you are undocumented, we also invite you to read this article. If you want to know more about applying for a green card while inside the United States, please read this article.

Are you engaged or in a serious relationship to a US citizen and you are going to marry each other?

People engaged to a US citizen may be eligible to enter the US with a K1 visa. They are able to bring some of their dependents (i.e. the future stepchildren of the US citizen) under K2 status. Please note, that it is a term of the K1 visa to marry the US citizen within 90 days of admission. Marriages outside of that 90 day window may put your status at risk. Furthermore, if the marriage does not go through, you may need to leave the country to avoid gathering overstay time. A K1 cannot adjust status with a marriage outside of the petitioning fiancé(e). As such, if the marriage were to fall through, we would recommend leaving the country prior to the 90 day mark.

Is your spouse, or child(ren) over 21, citizens of the United States?

An immediate relative, just as a US citizen spouse or a US citizen child over 21 years of age, can petition USCIS or the Department of State for their relative without any wait time. This does not mean that the process is automatic; it means that the relative will not have to wait for a green card to be available to them for them to be able to come into the country. There is always a green card available for immediate relatives. More information can be found here. These individuals can ask for their foreign relatives and have a green card immediately available for them. Unless there are grounds of inadmissibility or other issues that need to be addressed, these kinds of relatives only need to wait for their application to be approved so that they can enter the country. For instance, if a person entered into the Country without being admitted or paroled, it may be difficult to adjust status inside the Country. However, they would have to go through consular processing. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to call 630-324-6666 for a consultation.

There are many ways to get citizenship. For purposes of getting a green card through a spouse or their children, the way a person becomes a citizen does not matter. A person can be a citizen at birth, or could apply for citizenship, or they could derive citizenship from their parent’s application.

Are you under 21 years of age and one of your parents is a US citizen?

An immediate relative, such as an US Citizen Parent or step parent petitioning for their child who is 21 years of age or younger and unmarried, can petition USCIS or the Department of State for their relative without any wait time. This does not mean that the process is automatic; it means that the relative will not have to wait for a green card to be available to them for them to be able to come into the country. There is always a green card available for immediate relatives. More information can be found here. These individuals can ask for their foreign relatives and have a green card immediately available for them. Unless there are grounds of inadmissibility or other issues that need to be addressed, these kinds of relatives only need to wait for their application to be approved so that they can enter the country. Please note, that for a valid step parent relationship to be established, the matrimony leading to this relationship should happen before the child turns 18.

There are many ways to get citizenship. For purposes of getting a green card through parents, the way a person becomes a citizen does not matter. A person can be a citizen at birth, or could apply for citizenship, or they could derive citizenship from their parent’s application.

If you are over 21 years of age, are your parents or siblings US Citizens?

A US Citizen can petition a lot of family members. Some of these family members are their children above the age of 21, their married children, their married children over the age of 21, and their siblings. These are called “family categories” and there are different immigrant visa (AKA green card) limits per category. The country of birth of the individual being petitioned also matters. For instance, as of May 2021, siblings of Mexican origin need to have an approved I130 in between August 08 1998 and May 08 1998; meanwhile, siblings from unnamed countries can apply if their I130 have been approved from between 08 Nov 2006 and 10 Oct 2007. This is because there are visa limits per green card outside of the immediate relative petitions. In these categories, a country cannot receive 7% or more of the visas designated each year for family based categories. If they do, they start lagging behind the general populace. Right now, the countries that are subject to limits are mainland China, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, India, Philippines and Vietnam.

You can find more information about the categories and visa bulletin here.

If you are unmarried, are your parents at least Legal Permanent Residents?

Another preference category is that of unmarried children of legal permanent residents. To qualify for this category, the children need to be 21 year or younger. This is category is F2A in the visa bulletin. Most countries are current for this preference line. Married children of LPR’s and those who are 21 years or older are ineligible for this preference category. Their parents will need to become citizens before they are able to petition them.

If you are married, is your spouse a legal permanent resident?

Another preference category is that of spouses of LPR’s. This is also category F2A in the visa bulletin, and it is current for all countries.

Do you have a job offer from a US employer?

Depending on the type of visa that you were brought in, your employer may be willing and able to hire you and give you a green card. This is done through an I140 petition. However, most employers will choose to not go this route due to visa limits, and because they need to show that there are no workers inside the US that have the qualifications to take this job. If your employer is willing to sponsor you, you may be eligible to get a green card for yourself and your family (spouse and children under 21) this way.

Do you have 1.8 million US dollars to invest in the creation of a business, or $900,000 if you are willing to invest in economically depressed rural areas?

US treaty investors have access to the EB5 category. This kind of visa is given to those investors who put in $1’800,000 into the US economy and create jobs. This requirement is reduced to 900,000 if the investor is willing to put the money in an economically depressed area of the US. USCIS and the Department of State need to see your business incorporation paperwork, proof that you have moved the money into the US and that your business has started (or at least proof that you have the funds), that you are taking steps to start the business (i.e. applying for licenses), among other things.

Are you a refugee who has resided in the US for more than 1 year?

People who have been granted refugee status outside of the country are eligible to become US Residents within 1 year of admission into the US. A person can only become a refugee if they were granted this status through a UNCHR camp outside of the country. Time spent as a refugee also counts as time towards US Citizenship, so US Refugees do not have to become US Residents right away. If they do wish to become citizens though, they do need to apply and become US Residents first.

Are you an asylee who has resided in the US with a grant of asylum for more than 1 year?

People who have been granted asylum status inside of the country are eligible to become US Residents within 1 year of receiving this status. An asylum application can be defensive or affirmative, depending on when and where the person applied for asylum. A person can only become a refugee if they were granted this status through a UNCHR camp outside of the country. Time spent as a refugee also counts as time towards US Citizenship, so US Refugees do not have to become US Residents right away. If they do wish to become citizens though, they do need to apply and become US Residents first.

Are you in charge of a child who came to the US by themselves as their parent of guardian, the child is under the age of 18, and at least one of the parents of the child abandoned the child?

Children who enter the US by themselves, either because they were abandoned by their parents or one of their parents, may be eligible to apply to receive special immigrant status. Special immigrant juveniles, as they are called, have access to a green card if they are declared wards of their state of residence. However, they need to be declared wards of their state prior to them turning 18. Additionally, these children will be unable to petition for their parents, since they are declared abandoned for purposes of immigration, so there is a potential severing of the parent/child relationship for immigration purposes.  

Have you lived in the US Continuously since January of 1972?

People who have been inside the US since prior to January of 1972 are eligible to adjust status to that of a legal permanent resident because of the registry. Registry is a section of immigration law that enables certain individuals who have been present in the United States since Jan. 1, 1972, the ability to apply for a Green Card (permanent residence), even if they are currently in the United States unlawfully. You can learn more about the registry here.

You said no to all of the above, what now?

You could still have a pathway to status. You may need to speak to an attorney to see if you qualify for any sort of immigration status. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us to 630-324-6666 to speak with an experienced immigration attorney.

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