Permanent residence enables people to live and work in the United States indefinitely as long as they do not abandon their status or engage in conduct which renders them “inadmissible.” An immigrant visa (green card) is proof of permanent resident status in the United States and, usually after three or five years, a permanent resident may apply to naturalize and become a citizen of the United States. Permanent immigrants to the U.S. are divided generally into four general categories:
Family Based Green Cards
- Green Card for an immediate relative: Spouse, unmarried child under 21, parent
- Green Card for a family member of a U.S. citizen: unmarried children over 21, married child of any age, siblings
- Green Card for a family member of a U.S. permanent resident: Spouse, unmarried child
Employment Green Cards
- EB-1: Extraordinary ability workers. Examples include immigrants who can demonstrate exceptional skill in a particular area, including academics (professors, researchers), business (executives, managers), arts, sciences, and athletics, among others
- EB-2: Professionals. Examples include immigrants with advanced degrees (Masters or higher, in most cases), those who can demonstrate “exceptional ability” in a certain professional field, and in some cases, entrepreneurs.
- EB-3: Skilled or professional workers. Often, prospective immigrants who don’t qualify for EB-1 or EB-2 visas may for an EB-3, as the requirements are less stringent. As such, the backlog for the EB-3 visa is considerably longer. EB-3 visas require a sponsoring employer.
- EB-4: Religious workers/special immigrants. To qualify as a religious worker, an immigrant must have worked in a particular religious field or denomination in their home country, as well as have the intention to pursue employment in the U.S. in their particular religious field.
- EB-5: Immigrant investor. This applies to foreign nationals who invest large sums of money in the U.S., especially in areas of particular economic need.
Diversity Visa Lottery
The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program makes 50,000 diversity visas available annually, drawn from random selection among entries of individuals who are from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.
If you were admitted to the United States as a refugee or as a qualifying family member of an asylee, you are eligible to apply for permanent residence (a green card) 1 year after your entry into the United States. If you were granted asylum in the United States, you are eligible to apply for permanent residence 1 year after the grant of your asylum status.