© 2012 Farhad Sethna, Attorney
In this column, I will occasionally write a series of articles that I will call the “How do I?” series. A the name suggests, this occasional theme will provide helpful practical immigration tips. The first article in this series is “How do I…obtain permanent residency?”.
There are many ways to obtain permanent residency. Permanent residency, or obtaining a “green card” is the same as approval of an immigrant visa.
Permanent residency (PR) can be obtained through a family relationship or through a job with an employer. Others obtain PR through asylum or refugee status. Others may obtain PR as religious workers or as “special immigrants”. If you have over U.S. $500,000 and are willing to invest it to create at least 10 full time US worker jobs, then you can obtain PR through the “investor” visa. You may also obtain PR if you are one of the lucky winners of the “visa lottery”. If you have been in the USA since before January 1, 1972, you can apply for “registry”. Others may qualify under one of the amnesty programs.
PR through a family member can be a long process especially for family members who are in the Phillippines or in Mexico. The US Congress limits the number of immigrant visas (green cards) per year. Therefore, there is a long wait for family or employment-based immigrant visas. The easiest and fastest category of immigration is as an immediate relative of a US citizen. To qualify, your U.S. citizen relative must be your son, daughter, spouse, or parent. Your U.S. citizen son or daughter must be over 21 years old to sponsor you. A sponsor must show enough income to support the immigrant and their family, if any.
A person who obtains PR through marriage to a US citizen will usually receive only a conditional green card which is valid for two years. Before the green card expires, the couple must apply for a new “permanent” green card.
Employment-based immigrant visas are quite complex. There are several categories. PR may be approved for aliens of extraordinary ability, or exceptional ability, outstanding professors or researchers, aliens with advanced degrees, professional workers, and unskilled labor. The wait for some immigrant visas can be years, especially for immigrants from India and China.
Each year the US Department of States announces a “visa lottery”. Persons from countries with historically low immigration to the US may apply through the visa lottery. The lottery is online. Certain countries with high immigration cannot apply. These include: Mexico, Colombia, India, and China, among others.
Refugees or asylees who are granted asylum status in the USA can also apply for a green card.
Please be very careful before you file your “green card” application. If you have a criminal record or have committed immigration violations I highly recommend that you seek the advice of a qualified immigration lawyer to make sure that by filing the application you will not be risking deportation.
The permanent residency card is good for upto 10 years. It needs to be renewed unless the permanent resident applies for and is granted US citizenship. We will discuss citizenship in a separate article.
About the author: Attorney Farhad Sethna has practiced law for over 20 years. Since 1996, he has been an adjunct professor of Immigration Law at the University of Akron, School of Law, in Akron, Ohio. His practice is limited to immigration and small business. With offices in Akron and Dover, Ohio, Attorney Sethna represents clients in all types of immigration cases. Our number is: (330)-384-8000. Please send your general immigration questions to AttorneySethna@immigration-america.com. We will try to answer as many questions as possible.
This is only general legal information. Please consult a qualified immigration attorney for advice on your specific case.