November 10, 2011

Immigration Q&A: How can someone obtain a Green Card?


A: Obtaining a Green Card, otherwise known as Permanent Residency, means a foreigner has the ability to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. There are basically three primary ways one can get a Green Card. The first way is through a “lottery” system.

Most nations have arrangements or treaties with the United States that allow a fixed number of their citizens to immigrate to America as Permanent Residents each year.  This is not a very practical method for most people because of the competitive nature of the lottery system and the limits on the annual quota.   Depending on the country, typically there are significantly more applications for Permanent Residency than there are the number of Green Cards granted.  In some countries, there is a several year wait list just to apply for the lottery.

The remaining two methods involve sponsorship.  A U.S. business may sponsor a foreign worker for a Green Card.  This is done through an employment-based I-140 sponsorship.  There are several criteria the business must meet before they are allowed to sponsor a fo  reigner for employment, and the potential foreign employee must also meet very stringent qualifications in order to be eligible for sponsorship.  In a simplified nutshell, a foreign worker is not eligible for sponsorship if the job for which they are being considered can be readily done by a similarly qualified or educated U.S. citizen.  The federal government doesn’t want U.S. citizens to lose out on a job to a foreigner if all things are equal between them, especially in this tough economy.  But if a business has a specific position that cannot be readily fulfilled by an American, but there is a foreigner who has the unique qualification to meet the needs of that specific position, then they could be eligible for sponsorship without taking a job away from a U.S. citizen.

 The final method for obtaining a Green Card is the most common method, and that is the family-based I-130 sponsorship.  If a foreigner has a relative who is either a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, then he or she is eligible to be sponsored by their family member.  Processing times are much faster for a sponsor who is a citizen as opposed to a sponsor who is only a permanent resident.  Processing times are affected by how close the family relationship is as well.  Parent to child under 21 years of age, adult child to parent, and husband/wife relationships are considered the closest family relationships and are processed the fastest.