permanent resident card in the USA

How do I get a Green Card in the United States? (Part 1a)

If you are here, you may have questions regarding how to obtain a Green Card, or how to become a lawful permanent resident. Across a series of multiple blog posts, we explain who is eligible to obtain a Green Card, the timeframe it may take to obtain one, any potential benefits, and how to apply for one. First, we will discuss who is eligible to apply for a Green Card through family and through employment.

Who is eligible for a Green Card?

Green Card Through Family

Immediate Relative of A U.S. Citizen

The first eligibility category to obtain a Green Card is through family. Individuals may be eligible to obtain a Green Card and become a lawful permanent resident if they are the immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. An immediate relative is one who is the spouse of a U.S. citizen, the unmarried child under 21 years of age of a U.S. citizen, or the parent of a U.S. citizen (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age or older).

Other relative of a U.S citizen or relative of lawful permanent resident under the family based preference category

Eligibility to apply for a Green Card is possible under other relative of a U.S. citizen or relative of a lawful permanent resident under the family based preference categories. You would fit this criteria if you are:

  • A family member of a U.S citizen, meaning that you are the:
    • Son or daughter (unmarried) of a U.S. citizen and 21 years of age or older
    • Married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen
    • Brother or sister of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years of age
  • A family member of a lawful permanent resident, in other words you are the:
    • Spouse of a lawful permanent resident
    • Child (unmarried) of a lawful permanent resident under 21 years of age
    • Son or daughter (unmarried) of a lawful permanent resident older than 21 years of age

Fiancé of a U.S. citizen or the fiancée’s child

You could be eligible to apply as a fiancé of a U.S. citizen or the fiancée’s child if you:

  • Are admitted to the U.S. as a fiancé of a U.S. citizen (K-1 nonimmigrant)
  • Are admitted to the U.S. as the child of a fiancé of a U.S. citizen (K-2 nonimmigrant)

A U.S. citizen can petition for their fiancé to obtain a K-1 nonimmigrant visa. If admitted as a K-1 nonimmigrant, the alien has 90 days to marry the U.S. citizen, who should to file a I-129 form on the fiancé’s behalf. Additional details and instructions to file the I-129 form can be found here. Following K-1 nonimmigrant admission and marriage, the alien should apply to become a lawful permanent resident in the United States.

Widow of a U.S. citizen

You might be eligible to file for a Green Card as a widow of a U.S. citizen if you were legally married at time of death. You will need to provide legal proof of marriage in good faith. If you would like additional information, it can be found in this link. You will need to fill out an I-360 form if you are eligible under this eligibility criteria.

VAWA self-petitioner – victim of battery or extreme cruelty

The final option to apply through family is under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) as a victim of battery or extreme cruelty if you are the:

  • Abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
  • Child (under 21 years of age and unmarried) of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who has been abused
  • Abused parent of a U.S. citizen

The VAWA self-petitioner will need to file an I-360 form. For additional information regarding the I-360 form, visit this link. The instructions on how to fill out the I-360 form can be found here.

Green Card through Employment

The second eligibility criteria to obtain a Green Card is through employment, including immigrant workers, physicians who meet the national interest waiver criteria, and immigrant investors.

Immigrant worker

Individuals are eligible to apply for a Green Card as an immigrant worker if they are a:

  • First preference immigrant worker, in other words:
    • Have extraordinary ability in science, art, education, business, or athletics
    • Are an outstanding researcher or professor
    • Are a multinational manager/executive who meets specific criteria
  • Second preference immigrant worker, in other words:
    • Are a member of a profession requiring an advanced degree
    • Have exceptional ability in science, art, or business
    • Are seeking a national interest waiver
  • Third preference immigrant worker, in other words is a:
    • Skilled worker (job requires at least 2 years of training/work experience)
    • Professional (job requires at least a U.S. bachelor’s degree or foreign equivalent)
    • Unskilled worker (perform unskilled labor requiring less than 2 years of training)

Physician National Interest Waiver

You could possibly be eligible to apply as a physician seeking a national interest waiver, under the second preference immigrant worker category above. Physicians are required to meet the following:

  • Agree to work full-time in a clinical practice in a designated underserved area for a specific period of time
  • Work in a primary care setting or be a specialty physician (general practitioners, family practice practitioners, general internists, pediatricians, obstetricians/gynecologists, or psychiatrists)
  • Must serve in a Health Professional Shortage Area, Mental Health Professional Area (for psychiatrists only), a Medically Underserved Area, a Veterans Affairs Facility, or in a Physician Scarcity Area
  • Obtain and provide statement from a federal agency or state department of health indicating qualifications

Immigrant investor

Lastly, you might be eligible to apply for a Green Card as an immigrant investor. To be eligible, you must have invested or currently in the process of investing at least $1 million in a new commercial enterprise or $500,000 in a targeted employment area in the United States. Additionally, a minimum of 10 full-time jobs for qualifying employees must be created. Individuals in this category will need to fill out the I-485 form, with instructions found here.

How long does it take to get a Green Card?

This question will be covered in an upcoming future post. Stay tuned!

What are the benefits of getting a Green Card?

This question will be covered in an upcoming future post. Stay tuned!

Where and How do I apply for a Green Card?

This question will be covered in an upcoming future post. Stay tuned!

Helpful Links:

  1. USCIS Green Card
  2. Eligibility Categories
  3. Green Card Processes and Procedures
  4. How to apply for a Green Card
  5. I-485 Form and instructions

This blog does not intend to answer all questions as each individual case is unique. We recommend you visit the USCIS website for up to date information regarding permanent residence in the United States, or seek professional help. If you need assistance with the process of obtaining a Green Card in the United States, call the Law Offices of Jesus Martinez today to schedule a consultation at (559) 777-6587.

Scroll to Top