General Questions about the Permanent Residency (“Green Card”) process

How can I obtain a Green Card?

  1. Family-based sponsorship
  2. Employment-based sponsorship
  3. Diversity Visa Lottery
  4. Refugee or Asylum
  5. Cancellation of Removal
  6. Self Petition
  7. VAWA

Individuals may obtain a Green Card (officially known as lawful permanent resident status) through a number of avenues available under U.S. immigration laws.

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1. Family-based sponsorship:

Family-based immigration permits U.S. citizens (and in some cases, legal permanent residents) to sponsor foreign born family members for immigration to the U.S. The eligibility requirements and required wait times depend on both the sponsor’s (or petitioner) status and the qualifying relationship on which the petition is premised. Family-based sponsorship may be processed through the Citizenship and Immigration Service or Consulate abroad depending on the location in which the beneficiary is physically present at the time the visa becomes available.

Qualifying spouses and unmarried minor children (under 21) of the sponsored family member are eligible to immigrate with the qualifying relative either as “accompanying” dependents or as dependents “following to join.” Such dependents may require their won sponsorship at the I-130 stage depending on the sponsor’s status and qualifying relationship. All dependents will require their own adjustment of status or consular processing applications as separate from those of the principal beneficiary.

For a description of the different family based preference categories, please visit our listing under General Questions about the Visa Bulletin in the FAQ section. This categorical listing of family-based classifications can also be found in the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin at [LINK] or on the USCIS’ website.

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2. Employment:

Employment-based immigration permits U.S. based employers to sponsor foreign born workers for immigration to the U.S. (and in some cases, permits foreign born workers to self-petition for permanent residency based on strict qualification standards based on extraordinary ability or national interest). Immigration laws and regulations recognize a number of distinct employment preference categories and subcategories each of which encompass varying skill levels and evidentiary requirements. Some categories require the employer to file a Labor Certification with the Department of Labor, and other categories enable a qualified individual to skip this step.

For a summary of the different employment preference categories, please visit our Immigrant Visas Overview section for a brief overview of the criteria and evidentiary requirements necessary to qualify for each employment based immigrant visa category. In addition, the USCIS website also has detailed information on employment-based immigration available at the following website.

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3. Visa Lottery:

The Diversity Visa Program, commonly referred to as the "Diversity Visa Lottery", makes available 55,000 permanent resident visas each year to individuals meeting the eligibility requirements. Applicants are chosen at random through a computer generated drawing from among countries designate by the Department of State as low immigration countries. The diversity visa program is intended to provide immigration visas for individuals from countries from which U.S. immigration rates tend to be low (i.e., countries other than the primary source countries for immigration to the United States). The list of countries that qualify for participation in the diversity visa program is subject to change from year to year based on the previous year’s respective immigration rates. For latest information and eligible countries, please click here.

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4. Refugee or Asylum:

Persons granted Refugee or Asylee status are eligible to apply for permanent residency, subject to strict timing and eligibility requirements. The primary difference between refugee and asylee status is based on whether the individual is physically present outside or inside the U.S. at the time such designation is sought. Both designations require a showing of past persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion as granted by either a USCIS Asylum Officer or Immigration Judge. Once granted status as refugee or asylee, one may subsequently apply for permanent resident status subject to strict timing requirements.

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5. Cancellation of Removal (formerly called Suspension of Deportation):

An individual who is in the United States and is in Removal Proceedings (Deportation) may be eligible for Cancellation of Removal and subsequently for permanent residence. The Immigration Judge may grant cancellation of removal to an individual who has been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of not less than ten years immediately preceding the date of such application; is a person of good moral character during such period; has not been convicted of certain offenses; and can establish that removal would result in extreme and unusual hardship to the foreign born applicant's qualifying relative (e.g., U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, parent, or child).

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6. Self Petition:

Coming soon…

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7. Violence Against Women Act (VAWA):

Coming soon…

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