15 Ways to Get a Green Card
If you are looking for a permanent path to live in the United States, consider these 15 options to get a green card:
This option applies to spouses of US citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders). It is important to note that at the time the marriage was entered into, the parties intended to build a joint life together and should NOT have been entered into for purposes of obtaining immigration benefits.
The process begins with the US citizen or LPR spouse filing an I-130 Petition for Immediate Relatives with USCIS. For spouses of US citizens who are in the United States, they can also apply for the I-485 Adjustment of Status concurrently with the I-130. Spouses of LPRs who are in the United States can also apply for the I-485 concurrently with the I-130 if the F2A category shows Current (C) on the Visa Bulletin. For foreign spouses that are outside the United States, an I-485 cannot be filed concurrently with the I-130. Rather, once USCIS approves the I-130, the case is sent to the National Visa Center and the process for the green card is completed with them.
2. Fiancé/Fiancée-based Green Card:
This option is only for fiancés of US citizens who have met their fiancé in person within the last two years and the foreign fiancé is not currently in the United States. The US citizen petitioner will file an I-129F with USCIS in the United States. Once approved, the case is sent to the National Visa Center and the process for the fiancé visa is completed with them. The foreign fiancé, once the case is approved, will enter the United States with a K1 visa and the couple will have 90 days to marry. After the marriage, the foreign spouse can apply for the I-485 to adjust status and get a green card.
3. Parent or a US Citizen-based Green Card:
To petition to bring your parents to the United States as a green card holder, the petitioning child must be a US citizen that is at least 21 years old. The process is similar to the marriage-based visa above: the petitioner will file an I-130 with USCIS. If it is approved and the parent is outside the United States, he or she will finish the process with their local US consulate. If the parent is currently in the United States, they can file the I-485 application to adjust status concurrently with the I-130, as immediate relatives of US citizens.
4. Child of a US citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident-based Green Card:
To petition to bring your child to the United States as a green card holder, you can petition as either a US citizen or as a Lawful Permanent Resident. As a US citizen, you can apply for children (unmarried and under 21), unmarried sons and daughters who are 21 or over (including their children), and married sons and daughters of any age (including their spouse and children). As an LPR, you can petition for children (unmarried and under 21) or unmarried sons and daughters who are 21 and over.
5. Sibling of a US Citizen-based Green Card:
To petition to bring your sibling to the United States as a green card holder, the petitioning sibling must be a US citizen who is at least 21 years old. Petitioning for your sibling, child, or parents will always begin with filing the I-130 with USCIS. They can then either finish the process with consular processing abroad, or with filing an I-485 with USCIS if they are in the United States when a visa becomes available for them.
6. Self-petitioned EB-1A Green Cards:
The EB-1A green card is for individuals who have an extraordinary ability. This means that you can show you have an extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim. EB-1(A) visas are self-petitioned, meaning no job offer or green card sponsor is required. You apply for yourself by filing a Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker.
7. Employer-Sponsored EB-1B and EB-1C Green Cards:
EB1(B) green cards are for outstanding professors and researchers. Outstanding professors and researchers must demonstrate international recognition for outstanding achievements in a particular academic field, including at least 3 years of experience teaching or researching in that academic area. EB1(C) green cards are for multinational managers and executives. Multinational managers and executives must have been employed outside the United States for at least 1 year in the 3 years preceding the petition or the most recent lawful nonimmigrant admission if you are already working for the US petitioning employer. The application process for outstanding professors or researchers and multinational managers and executives requires a US employer to file an I-140 and demonstrate their ability to pay the offered wage.
8. Employer-Sponsored EB2 and EB3 Green Cards:
To be eligible for the EB2 green card, you must have an advanced degree or its equivalent, which is a bachelor’s degree plus five years of progressive work experience in the field. To be eligible for an EB3 green card, you must be a skilled worker, professional, or other worker/unskilled workers. “Skilled workers” encompasses people who have jobs that require 2 years of training or experience. “Professionals” encompasses people whose job requires at least a US baccalaureate or foreign equivalent degree and are a member of the professions. “Other workers” encompasses people who perform unskilled labor that requires less than 2 years of training, education, or experience. These applications require a US employer to file an I-140 and show they can pay the offered wage. Once the I-140 is approved, your spouse and unmarried children under 21 may be eligible to apply for admission to the United States under E34, EW4, or E35.
9. Self-petitioned EB-2 National Interest Waiver Green Card:
To be eligible for this green card, you must first qualify under the EB2 category, meaning you either are an advanced degree professional or you can demonstrate exceptional ability. The EB2 National Interest Waiver allows the Labor Certification to be waived because it is considered in the interest of the United States. To be eligible for the National Interest Waiver green card, you must show that the proposed work has both substantial merit and national importance, you are well positioned to advance the proposed work, and it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirements of a job offer. The application process requires the filing, and receiving the approval of, an I-140 and an I-485. These two forms can only be filed concurrently if your EB2 priority date is current. Otherwise, you will have to file the I-140 first and wait for your priority date to be current to file the I-485.
10. Self-petitioned EB5 Investor Green Card:
EB5 investor green cards allow someone to invest in the US and create jobs for US workers. Generally, a large investment is required: $800,000 at a minimum. The jobs that the investor creates must benefit the US economy. The process begins with filing an I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor. You can file for your spouse and unmarried children under 21 at the same time. Once approved, you will fill out a DS-260 with the US Department of State and then an I-485 once within the United States. Within the 90-day period immediately before the second anniversary of your admission to the United States, you will file I-829, Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status. Thereafter, you will have a ten-year green card.
11. Diversity Visa Lottery Green Card:
The Diversity Visa Lottery green card is an option that the US government created because of its policy interest in ensuring that the United States remains open to countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The DV Program makes up to 50,000 immigrant visas available annually, and they are drawn randomly. To enter the lottery, you fill out a form on the State Department’s website while it is available, which is from early October through early November. You will save your confirmation number to check the status of the application beginning in early May of the next year. If selected and you live outside of the United States, you will apply for your green card with Form DS-260 and the National Visa Center. If you’re in the United States when selected, you can apply for a green card with an I-485 with USCIS as soon as a visa becomes available.
12. Victims of Abuse Green Card:
For certain victims of violence, a green card is available through VAWA, the Violence Against Women Act. Despite its name, it applies to men and women. To be eligible for a green card through this path, you must have suffered abuse from a US citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident spouse, be the child of an abusive US citizen or LPR, or the parent of an abusive US citizen or LPR. To be eligible, you must show that the required relationship existed and that you suffered abuse. The form used to apply is the I-360.
13. Victims of Human Trafficking Green Card:
For victims of human trafficking, the US offers a path to a green card through the T-Visa. This visa gives protection to victims of sex or labor trafficking and provides employment authorization. To be eligible, you must comply with any reasonable request from a law enforcement agency for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking (unless you were under the age of 18 at the time of trafficking). To apply, use Form I-914.
14. Physical or Mental Abuse Green Card:
Victims of certain crimes in the US are eligible for the U-Visa, which is a path to a green card. The U-Visa is for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. Qualifying crimes include the following: abduction, abusive sexual contact, blackmail, domestic violence, extortion, false imprisonment, female genital mutilation, felonious assault, fraud in foreign labor contracting, hostage, incest, involuntary servitude, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, obstruction of justice, peonage, perjury, prostitution, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, slave trade, stalking, torture, trafficking, witness tampering, unlawful criminal restraint, and other related crimes. To apply, you must fill out an I-918 and include an I-918 Supplement B, signed by an authorized official of a law enforcement agency.
15. EB4 Religious Worker Green Card:
The EB4 green card is for special immigrant religious workers, such as ministers and non-ministers in religious vocations and occupations. To be eligible, you must have been a member of a religious denomination that has a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the US for at least 2 years immediately before filing a petition for this status. To apply, a US employer, or you on your own behalf, must file form I-360.
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Michael Ashoori, Esq.
U.S. Immigration Lawyer
I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.
Since starting my law firm, I’ve helped hundreds of people from all over the world with their immigration needs. I’m very passionate, hard-working, and committed to my clients.
Got a question? Send me an email.