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What is a Green Card?

In order to answer this question, it is important to distinguish between Non-Immigrant Visas and Permanent Visas. Non-Immigrant Visas typically cover any type of visa that is granted on a temporary basis, such as student visas, work visas, or visitor visas. A Permanent Immigrant Visa refers to a Green Card, which can be either family based or employment based, which will be further discussed later. There are many advantages to possessing a Green Card. To start with, it gives you permanent residence status, which further allows you travel freely outside the United States. Also, you may seek any type of employment that you desire in the U.S., and you can attend any school you want. You can even invest in and start up your own business without having to seek government approval. After you have had a Green Card for a certain period of time, you will be eligible for American Citizenship.

How do you obtain a Green Card?

There are different methods for obtaining Green Cards; however the most common ways in which Green Cards are obtained are either through an employer or through a family member.

Employer based Green Card

If an employer wishes to immigrate an employee to the United States on a permanent basis, he may sponsor and apply for a Green Card on behalf of his employee. The employer based Green Card is further divided into sub categories, based on the type of employment skills required for the job. These categories are EB1, EB2, EB3, & EB4. The EB1 category was designed for people with exceptional ability in the area of arts, science, education, business, or athletics, which must be proven by the person having achieved national or international acclaim, and whose achievements have been recognized in the field of expertise through elaborate and extensive documentation. An example of this would be obtaining a Nobel Prize. The EB2 category covers a class of people who are members of a specific profession that hold highly advanced degrees in the areas of science, art, or business. The category evolved out of a desire to immigrate such professionals to the United States to enhance the country's economy, cultural and educational interests, and the general welfare of the U.S. The EB3 category includes people who have at least two years of experience as a "skilled worker"; professionals that hold a baccalaureate degree; or "other workers" that have less than two years experience but can perform labor where qualified workers are not available in the U.S. Even though this classification does not appear to be overly stringent with regards to the requirements which must be met, there is a long backlog for visas in this category, especially for the individuals who are applying as "other workers". Lastly, the EB4 category was specifically designed for the immigration of religious workers into the United States. The person must have been a member of a religious denomination that has a non-profit counter part in the United States, and also must have been a member of his or her religious denomination for at least two years prior to coming to the United States.

Once the employer has made the decision to sponsor his employee for a Green Card, there is a process that the employer must go through, with regards to filing paper work, and acquiring necessary documentation to prove that the employee is qualified for the position. This first step involves filing labor certification, which must be filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, by the employer, which I will further explain later in this discussion. Secondly, the employer has to file a petition called a "Petition for Immigrant Worker" on behalf of the employee. Third, the employer will have to file for what is called an "Adjustment of Status" if the employee is already in the United States, under a temporary status, or the employee will have to file for something called "Consular Processing" in his or her country at a U.S. Consulate office. After the Green Card process is approved, the only thing left to happen is for the passport to be stamped, and for the employee will receive a plastic card.

What is Labor Certification?

The Department of Labor (DOL) issues a Labor Certification, which is a preliminary document that the employer needs to obtain before filing for the Green Card on behalf of an employee. The reason that the U.S. Department of Labor gets involved in the process is because they want to ensure that there is not a U.S. worker that is equally qualified for the position. Thus when applying to the DOL, the employer will have to prove that in the process of filling the position in question, that there was no suitable U.S. candidate. There are also guidelines that the employer must follow with respect to specific advertising and recruiting.

When will I get my Labor Certification?

As with most other immigration applications, it is hard to put a time frame on when you can expect to receive the Labor Certification. There are many factors to consider, such as what state you are in, what position the Labor Certification is for, and whether there was additional information required by the DOL. The process could take anywhere from six months to 3 years.

Petition for Immigrant Worker

After the employer has received the Labor Certification, the next thing he or she has to do is file the I-140 petition on behalf of the employee, which is called a "Petition for Immigrant Worker". During the filing of this petition, the employer is required to submit specific documentation, such as financial statements, corporate income tax returns, etc. The USCIS wants to see that the employer has the financial stability to pay the advertised salary to the employee. In addition to these documents, the employer will also have to provide further documentation, such as the approved Labor Certification, the filing fee made out to USCIS, letters from previous employers that reflect level of experience, and any professional certificates or degrees. Further when submitting the petition, the Petitioner should also specify whether the employee will be applying for an Adjustment of Status (which would imply the potential employee is already in the United States), or whether the Petitioner will be filing for something called "Consular Processing" which is done at an American Consulate office in the foreign country where the candidate is from.

The object of filing an I-140 petition is to receive an Approval Notice. Once the USCIS accepts the petition, generally an Approval Notice will be issued. Generally, it will take approximately 3 months for an Approval notice to be issued, although, the time may vary from case to case.

Adjustment of Status (I-485)

The final step in the Green Card process is filing something called an Adjustment of Status or I-185. When the I-185 is completed and filed, the applicant will become a permanent resident of the United States. As with filing the I-110, there are a couple of different methods or ways to file and there is documentation necessary which needs submitted with the application:

Different Methods of Filing:

  1. Filing the actual I-185 form while remaining in the country; or,
  2. Filing for adjustment of status at the US Consular's office in his/or her home country.

Documents Necessary for Filing:

  • Form I-485 - Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status.
  • Birth Certificate
  • Copy of Passport page with Nonimmigrant Visa
  • Two Color Photographs as per new guidelines
  • Fingerprints (USCIS will notify when and where to get fingerprinting done)
  • Form G-325A, Biographic Information
  • Employment Letter - on employer's letterhead. This letter should confirm that the job on which the visa petition is based is available to the alien and it should mention the salary/wages to be paid.
  • Copy of the person's I-797 Notice of Action, showing that his/her I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, has been received or approved by INS.
  • Form I-693, Medical Examination of Aliens Seeking Adjustment of Status. (This must be completed by the USCIS authorized physician)
  • Form G-28 Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative. This will enable a lawyer to represent the alien's interests
  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization or EAD (Optional. If the person wishes to be employed while the case is pending)
  • Form I-131, Application for Travel Document (Optional. If the person wants a Travel document in case he/she may have to travel out of USA while the case is pending)

Other then the above mentioned documents, there may be additional documents required depending on each on individual case. Advice from the Houston Immigration Attorneys at Garg & Associates PC can be well worth the time.

Family Based Green Card

A lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder) is a foreign national who has been granted the privilege of permanently living and working in the United States. One of the requirements of applying for US citizenship is to be a permanent resident for a continuous five years. If a person wants to become a lawful permanent resident based on the fact that he/she has a relative who is a citizen of the United States, or a relative who is a lawful permanent resident, the person must go through a multi-step process.

A Green Card holder can travel freely outside of the US. A passport from the country of citizenship is normally all that is needed. To reenter the US, a Permanent Resident normally needs to present the Green Card (Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551) for readmission. A re-entry permit is needed for re-entry for trips greater than one year but less than two years in duration.

Green Card Expiration

The Permanent Resident Card currently is issued with 10-year validity. Status as a Permanent Resident does not expire with the 10-year validity; only the card expires. The card must be renewed before it expires.

There is also a conditional permanent resident card, which expires in 2 years and the holder will be deported if action is not taken. If the Green Card was received by marriage which was issued to the person when the marriage was less than 2 years old then the person most likely will have a conditional permanent resident card.

Conditional Permanent Status

After your marriage, your new spouse will initially receive conditional permanent residence status for two years. Conditional permanent residency is granted when the marriage is less than two years old at the time of adjustment to permanent residence status. The difference between a conditional and an unconditioned permanent resident is that permanent resident status will expire in two years from when it was given, unless the person successfully petitions to have the condition removed. As a new couple, Form I-751 must be filed during the 90-day period immediately before the second anniversary of the date the alien spouse was granted conditional permanent residence.

Sponsoring Relatives

A Permanent Resident can petition for relatives, such as his/her spouse and children to join him or her in the United States as immigrants. If the person had a spouse and children when he/she became a Permanent Resident, they may be eligible for permanent residence through the person without filing separate petitions. This depends on how the individual qualified for permanent residence. To determine whether this possible, you should seek the aid of the Huston Immigration Attorneys at Garg & Associates PC.

Sponsor Eligibility (American National)

In order to be eligible to sponsor a relative to immigrate to the United States, the sponsor must meet the following criteria:

  • A sponsor must be a citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States and be able to provide documentation proving status.
  • A sponsor must prove that he/she can support the relative at 125% above the mandated poverty line.
  • If the sponsor is a US Citizen he/she may petition for the following foreign national relatives to immigrate to the United States; however the sponsor must be able to provide proof of the following relationships:
    1. Husband or wife;
    2. Unmarried child under 21 years old;
    3. Unmarried son or daughter over 21 years of age;
    4. Married son or daughter of any age;
    5. Brother or sister, if sponsor is at least 21 years old; or
    6. Parent, if sponsor is at least 21 years old.
    7. If the sponsor is a lawful permanent resident he/she may petition for the following foreign national relatives to immigrate to the United States; however the sponsor must be able to provide proof of the following relationships:
      • Husband or wife; or
      • Unmarried son or daughter of any age.

To be eligible for lawful permanent residence based on a family relationship the applicant must meet the following criteria:

  1. The applicant must have a relative who is a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident that can provide documentation proving their status and is willing to sponsor the applicant for lawful permanent residency by filing the I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
  2. The relative must be able to prove they can support the applicant by providing documentation that their income is 125% above the mandated poverty line for their family, including the applicant and all other sponsored family members.

If the relative is a US Citizen and they can legally prove the applicant shares one of the following relationships, the applicant may be eligible for lawful permanent residency:

  • Husband or wife;
  • Child under 21 years old;
  • Unmarried son or daughter over 21;
  • Married son or daughter of any age;
  • Brother or sister if applicant is at least 21 years old; or
  • Parents if applicant is at least 21 years old.

If the relative is a lawful permanent resident and they can legally prove the applicant shares one of the following relationships, the applicant may be eligible for lawful permanent residence:

  • Husband or wife; or
  • Unmarried son or daughter of any age.

If you or someone you know is need of family law services, please do not hesitate to call Garg & Associates at 281-362-2865 for a consultation today or use our Contact Form.