Permanent Residence (Green Card)

Generally, foreign nationals may obtain U.S. permanent residence or a green card through a family or employment relationship or based upon humanitarian grounds.  U.S. legal permanent residents/green card holders are authorized, based on their status, to live and work in the U.S. In addition, maintaining permanent residence status for certain specified periods may render a legal permanent resident/green card holder eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship provided all other requirements are satisfied.

Family-Based Permanent Residence (Green Card)

U.S. citizens and green card holders are eligible to sponsor their close foreign relatives for permanent residence in the United States.  The family-based immigration system is separated into distinct categories based upon the foreign relative’s relationship to the U.S. citizen or permanent resident.  Parents, spouses and unmarried children (under the age of 21) of U.S. citizens are classified as “Immediate Relatives,” while other relatives classified into four preference categories.

For immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, immigrant visa numbers are always available, which means that their family members do not need to wait in line to be eligible to file their applications for permanent residence.

Preference categories include family relationships that are not classified as “Immediate Relatives” and thus are subject have annual numerical limits. An immigrant visa becomes available to a preference category when the priority date (the date the Form I-130 was filed) becomes current. To follow are preference categories:

Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens (adult means 21 or older.)
Second 2(A):   
Spouses of green card holders, unmarried children (under 21) of permanent residents
Second (2B): Unmarried adult sons and daughters of permanent residents
Third: Married sons and daughters (any age) of U.S. citizens
Fourth: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens

The priority dates that are current are published on a monthly basis on the Department of State website in the "Visa Bulletin."

Employment-Based Permanent Residence (Green Card)

Generally, employment-based green card applications are predicated on the foreign worker obtaining a bona-fide job offer from a U.S. employer that is willing to sponsor them. In order to initiate the green card application through a job offer, most employment-based immigrant visa categories require a certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).  The certification from the DOL will show that there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available in the geographic area where the immigrant is to be employed, and that no American workers are being displaced by foreign workers. However, in other cases, highly skilled workers, those with extraordinary ability in certain professions, and investors/entrepreneurs are given priority to immigrate through several immigrant categories. In all cases, the process involves several steps.

To follow are the employment-based immigrant visa preference categories:

First: Priority Workers
Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of  Exceptional Ability      
Third: Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers
Fourth: Certain Special Immigrants
Fifth: Employment Creation

The priority dates that are current are published on a monthly basis on the Department of State website in the "Visa Bulletin."

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

VAWA provides battered spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents (green card holders) to file a petition for themselves without the abusers’ knowledge.  Among other requirements applicants seeking protection under VAWA must establish the requisite relationship to the U.S. relative; prove that their U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse abused them; and show that they are persons of good moral character.

Despite its name VAWA applies equally to men and women who were abused by a qualified U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative.


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