If coming to the United States to live and work has been a dream of yours, you may be confused about how to obtain lawful permanent residency status in this country. It is true that the process of immigrating to the U.S. is complex and carries no guarantees. In fact, in some cases, it may take years of waiting before a foreign national obtains permission to reside permanently in the U.S.
As complicated and carefully protected as the immigration system is, the government offers numerous options so that people from many walks of life have the opportunity to enjoy life in this country. For the most positive and efficient experience immigrating to the U.S., it is important to find the method of obtaining a Permanent Resident Card (commonly referred to as a "Green Card") that best suits your circumstances.
Holding a Green Card means you are a lawful resident, and you have many, though not all, of the privileges a U.S. citizen holds. The fastest and surest way of getting your Green Card is through the sponsorship of a family member who is already a U.S. citizen. Your immediate family members, such as your spouse, your parents if you are unmarried and under 21, or your adult children, can petition for you to become a permanent resident.
While the U.S. places no annual limit on the number of immigrants who get Green Cards through the sponsorship of citizen family members, you may have to wait if your relative is only a Green Card holder. The government does restrict the number of cards distributed in this way.
If you don't have a family member in the U.S., you may be able to find sponsorship through a U.S. employer if you have certain skills that are in high demand. Some rules for obtaining an employment-based Green Card include these:
- You must have a college degree and special skills.
- You must have a job waiting for you in the U.S.
- Your employer must agree to file the petitions in your name and pay your legal fees.
If you do not have an employer willing to sponsor you, the government may quickly approve your request for permanent residency if you invest at least $1 million in a new or existing U.S. business.
Depending on the country from which you are petitioning, you may qualify for the Green Card lottery if you have exhausted all other avenues. Each year, the lottery issues 50,000 cards to those who petition from eligible countries, which are typically those underrepresented in the immigration system.
While this information may seem overwhelming, you can seek guidance and advice from an attorney who can answer your questions and explain the options best suited to your circumstances.