Our Tennessee immigration attorney explains the categories for receiving a green card and other requirements.
A green card, otherwise known as a permanent residency card, allows people born in other countries to live and work permanently in the United States. It is often one of the first steps on the pathway toward citizenship, but obtaining a green card can be a long and complicated process. One of the initial challenges is determining eligibility. Our Tennessee immigration attorneys explain common categories that may entitle you to a green card, as well as other basic requirements.
Green Card Categories That Determine Eligibility
Green cards are issued through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). These entitle you to live, work, and move freely throughout the country and, after five years (or less, depending on the circumstances), allow you to apply for U.S. citizenship. There are numerous categories under which you may be eligible to get a green card. These include:
- Family eligibility: You may be eligible for a green card if you have a spouse, child, sibling, or parent who is a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident;
- Work eligibility: You may be entitled to obtain a green card as a skilled or unskilled immigrant worker or an investor. One misconception is that only highly skilled workers with degrees can obtain permanent residence from work, but that is not true. Persons without degrees may also qualify for permanent residence through an employer.
- Refugee, asylum, U visa, or T visa status: You may be entitled to apply for a green card if you are a refugee from certain countries, seeking political asylum, or a victim of crime or human trafficking.
- Children abandoned, neglected, or abused by at least one parent: Children granted “Special Immigrant Juvenile Status” are eligible to apply for permanent residence. These children must have been abandoned, abused, or neglected by one or both parents, and a judge must determine that it is not in the child’s best interests to return to his or her country of origin.
- Special category status: Religious workers, international broadcasters, employees of international organizations and their family members, and people who fall under other specialized categories may be eligible for a green card. Furthermore, an immigration judge can grant a person permanent residency in court if the person under risk of deportation meets certain requirements and has a U.S.-citizen or permanent resident family member who would suffer extreme hardship.
There are also situations in which people have been living and working in the U.S. for decades without legal status can apply for permanent residence. Persons may be eligible for residence through the “registry” if they have been continuously present in the United States since January 1972.
Other Green Card Eligibility Requirements
Falling under one of the above eligibility categories is just the first step toward obtaining a green card. Persons eligible for adjustment of status (obtaining their permanent residence inside the United States) apply on Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Requirements as part of this process include:
- Submit a birth certificate, two passport photos, proof of your green card category, and supporting documents demonstrating eligibility for permanent residence;
- Undergo fingerprinting and pass a criminal background check or submit a Waiver of Admissibility, asking USCIS to forgive offenses or other crimes that impact eligibility;
- Pass an immigration interview, during which you are asked questions about your background and your reasons for wanting to come to the U.S.;
- Pass a mental and physical exam, certifying you do not suffer any conditions that could make you ineligible for a green card; and
- Have a financial sponsor, if required by the category of application
While it is more convenient to obtain permanent residency through adjustment of status, inside the United States, not all applicants for permanent residency are legally eligible to obtain their permanent residence through adjustment of status. Instead, those immigrants must obtain their “immigrant visa” through consular processing, by undergoing an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the United States. Then, after those persons approved at their interviews are admitted to the United States, their green cards arrive by mail. An experienced immigration attorney with knowledge of the Immigration and Nationality Act can determine whether an immigrant is eligible for adjustment of status or should apply for an immigrant visa through the consular process.
Contact Our Tennessee Immigration Lawyer
There are numerous eligibility requirements you must meet to obtain a green card. To get the trusted legal help you need throughout the application process, reach out to Ozment Law PLC. Call or contact us online and request a consultation with our Tennessee immigration lawyer today.