Do You Qualify For A Green Card?

In order to live and work in the United States without adhering to time restrictions, you need to obtain your green card. A green card identifies you as a permanent resident of the US. In addition to allowing you to live and work in the US full time, a green card allows you to travel to and from the US as frequently as you wish and eventually apply for US citizenship. Unfortunately, green cards aren't just handed out to family members of US citizens. You have to qualify for a green card before you apply. Learn whether or not you qualify for a green card.

Immediate Family Members of US Citizens

Immediate family members of US citizens are eligible to apply for a green card. This includes:

  • Spouses — even same-sex spouses, as long as the marriage is legal in the state or country in which it took place.
  • Widows
  • Children under the age of 21 — only one parent has to be a US citizen.
  • Stepchildren — as long as the marriage that created the stepchild/parent relationship took place before the child's 18th birthday.
  • Adopted children — as long as the child was adopted before his or her 16th birthday and meets all other legal requirements.
  • Parents and stepparents of US citizens who are at least 21 years old.

Other Members of the Family

Other family members of US citizens are allowed to apply for a green card. However, other family members are categorized into preferred categories — they aren't eligible for green cards right away. Only 480,000 green cards are given to non-immediate family members of US citizens each year. Additionally, the order of the preferred categories isn't the only thing that determines the wait time for these green cards. The type of visa you want, your home country, and the amount of other people from your country who are requesting the same type of visa are all taken into consideration.

Other Options

If you don't have a family member that is a US citizen who's willing to sponsor you, you do have a few other options. Each year, a specific number of green cards are given to people who qualify for:

  • Employment-based green cards
  • Green cards for special immigrants
  • Investment-based green cards

Keep in mind, there are only specific amounts of these green cards issued each year. To be eligible for one, you have to meet very specific qualifications. Additionally, 50,000 green cards per year are awarded as part of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery, also known as the Green Card Lottery. These cards are allocated to people from areas that have sent the fewest numbers of immigrants to the US over the previous five years.

If you are unsure whether or not you qualify to apply for a green card, you should discuss your options with an immigration lawyer. If you don't qualify for a green card, talk to your immigration lawyer to determine what other type of visa would fit your needs.