Green Card Guide

Having a green card – also known as a permanent resident card – enables you to live and work permanently and without restriction in the United States. A green card is an essential step on the path to U.S. citizenship, as well.

What is a Green Card?

Not everyone is eligible for a green card. In fact, you must meet very specific criteria to qualify for lawful permanent residency in the United States.

When you have a green card, you’re free to:

  • Travel outside the U.S., provided that you intend to return and don’t stay out of the country for so long that the U.S. government thinks you are abandoning your permanent residency status
  • Live anywhere you’d like in the country
  • Work for any company, for any length of time, quit your job and find a new job without the hassle of asking permission to remain in the U.S.

How Can I Get a Green Card?

There are several ways to get a green card in the United States. The most common is through marriage, but many people obtain green cards through employment and other means, as well.

Green Card Through Marriage

If you’re married to a U.S. citizen, you immediately qualify to apply for a green card. Specifically, your spouse applies on your behalf and you are the beneficiary.

You cannot marry someone for the purpose of obtaining an immigration benefit, though. Doing so is against the law, and when (not if) the U.S. government finds out, you’ll be deported. You may also be barred from coming back to the United States, even if you have children or other family members here.

Green Card Through Employment

You may be eligible to obtain a green card through employment if you are:

  • A certain type of immigrant worker, such as a person of extraordinary ability in the science, arts, education, business or athletics
  • A physician
  • An immigrant investor

If you’re not sure whether you would qualify for a green card based on your employment, you may want to contact a Baton Rouge immigration attorney who can explain your options.

What if You Don’t Agree With the BIA’s Immigration Appeal Decision?

Some – but not all – BIA decisions can be appealed in the U.S. Court of Appeals. However, you should certainly talk to your lawyer about your options if you intend to appeal a BIA decision. U.S. immigration laws are very complex, and because appeals follow very strict rules, you must be extremely careful about the way you approach a higher court.

Other Ways to Get a Green Card

There are a number of ways you can get a green card in the United States, even if you’re not currently employed by a U.S. employer or married to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. For example, you may be able to ask for a green card based on:

  • Some family members are eligible for a green card through family-based preference categories. Certain family member relationships receive priority such as unmarried children under 21 and parents over the age of 21 while adult or married children and siblings receive a lower priority.
  • Special immigrant status. Special immigrants include religious workers, juveniles who need the protection of a juvenile court, Afghanistan or Iraq nationals who worked as interpreters or translators for the U.S. government or were employed by the International Security Assistance Force, international broadcasters, and employees of international organizations or NATO.
  • Refugee or asylee status. If you are an asylee or refugee who was admitted into the U.S. at least a year prior to your application, you may be eligible for a green card.
  • Human trafficking or crime victim status. If you were a victim of human trafficking and have a T nonimmigrant visa or you were a crime victim and hold a U nonimmigrant visa, you could be eligible to apply for a green card.
  • Victim of abuse. If you are an abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, you may be eligible for a green card without your spouse petitioning for you.

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Obtaining a Green Card?

If you need to talk to an attorney about obtaining a green card for yourself or a family member, we may be able to help you. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation.

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