How to get a green card

Do you want to fulfill your dream of taking the green card and living in the United States? So you are in the right place because in this article I will explain the different ways of getting this important document for immigrants.

How to get a green card

Here you will learn what the requirements are for taking the green card.

My family and I got the permanent residence card through the L1A visa process and can assure you that it was something that really paid off.

Understanding what the Green Card Is

Before start talking about how to take the green card, let's understand exactly what this document is and what the benefits it will provide you.

The green card's official name is a permanent residence card, meaning it is directly linked to your authorization to reside in the United States.

Department of Homeland Security

With this document, you can live, study and work in the U.S. for a certain period of time that depends on the rules of the immigration services.

How long is a green card valid for?

Usually, the green card is valid for 10 years, but then can change according to the immigration services new laws, so it's not a set in stone rule.

In 2016, we got our green card, it came with this 10-year expiration time.

At the time you are applying for your green card, it is important to hire an immigration attorney or visit the US Immigration Service website to verify the information. Here is the link to the USCIS.

Do not confuse green card with visa or citizenship (this is very important)

To enter the United States you must have at least a visa that matches what you intend to do in the country. Before traveling the U.S. you need to take a visa for tourist, student, worker or other that is right for you.

From to Visa to the Citizenship

What is a Visa?

The visa is a document that is attached to your passport and must be presented to the US immigration agent upon arrival in the country. The visa has absolutely nothing to do with the green card.

What is a Green Card?

The green card is a document that is beyond the visa, after you have your work visa for example, you can apply for the process of obtaining the green card. But that depends on several factors.

What is Citizenship?

The next possible step after taking your green card is to obtain citizenship that will guarantee you various rights as an American citizen, which includes voting for president of the United States.

What is the best visa to get a green card ?

There's no perfect answer to this question, however, some Visas allow to easily apply for a green card. The L1A Visa for, example, is one of them. 

In fact, I got my Green Card applying from an L1A Visa.

Job-related visas are best suited for those who want to go further and take the next step in obtaining the right to live in the United States.

A fiance (K-1) visa also allows for the application for a permanent resident card provided that one of the parties is an American citizen.

Job-related visas are best suited for those who want to go further and take the next step in obtaining the right to live in the United States.

Each Visa has its own specific rules for the green card application, so if you are considering to apply for a green card someday, I recommend you to start thinking one step back by looking for the best Visa you can apply for.

There are a lot of different Visas out there and the better approach is to hire an immigration lawyer to help you decide which one is the best for your case.

To learn more about the types of Visas, read the article: USA Visa Types.

Ways to get a green card

There are different ways to get a green card, I will list some of them, but the immigration process may vary and new forms of application arise.

I suggest you consult with an immigration lawyer to evaluate your case.

See the list below with 7 different ways you can apply for the green card:

  1. Through a work visa
  2. Through an exchange visa
  3. Through a refugee visa
  4. By marriage to an American citizen
  5. Through a relative with U.S. citizenship
  6. Through the green card lottery
  7. Through investment

Let's take look at which one of them

1. Through a work visa

Having a work visa allows you to stay in the country for a certain period of time as long as you are sponsored and hired by a company or institution. 

As a work visa holder, if you meet the conditions for applying for the green card, you can do so with the help of an immigration lawyer.

L1A Visa

With this visa, it is possible to live and work in the United States while employed by the company that supported you to obtain the document.

To apply for a green card from this Visa, the company must participate as a "sponsor" in the process that must be conducted by an immigration lawyer.

To begin the process with this visa it is necessary that the company you work for file the form I-140 (petition for immigrant workers) and the form I-485 (Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status).

To learn more about the L1A Visa, read the article where I tell my true story on obtaining this document:  How to get the L1 visa to work in the USA.

L1B Visa

If you have this type of visa to apply for a green card you must go through a labor certification process known as PERM that takes on average 8 months to be approved, but sometimes it can take up to a couple of years.

The PERM is a process to prove that there's no worker in the U.S. that qualifies for the position you are applying to.

A recruitment process must be put in place to guarantee that nobody in America will show up with the necessary qualifications for the job.

The idea is not to give a foreign worker a permanent resident card based on a  job that could be done by an American citizen.

After getting the PERM approved it is necessary to file the I-140 (petition for immigrant workers) and I-485 (Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) form.

2. Through an exchange visa

Another option to apply for your green card is through the exchange visa (J1). It is not something simple and fast, but it can work.

If you come to the United States for example through an exchange supported by an institution such as a university that needs to do research, you can use a valid exchange visa for 2 years and then request a waiver that will extend the period and apply for the green card.

As in other cases, it is necessary to file the I-140 (petition for immigrant workers) and I-485 (Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) form.

3. Through a refugee visa

People who are refugees from some countries can apply to get the green card after living for at least 1 year in the United States. 

You must consult an immigration lawyer to make sure you meet the requirements to get a refugee visa that can lead you to a green card.

If you meet the requirements it is necessary to file the I-485 (Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) form to apply for the green card.

4. By marriage to an American citizen

Fiance visa (K-1) holders can come to the U.S. to get married within 90 days. 

After the wedding, is necessary to file the I-130 form and along with other documents, start the process to obtain the green card.

The next step is to file the I-485 (Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) form to apply for the green card.

5. Through a relative with U.S. citizenship

If you have the U.S. citizenship status (one step beyond the green card) it is possible to initiate a process to bring your parents to live in the U.S.

American citizens are at least 21 years old can file a petition to bring the parents to live in the United States as green card holders.

For petition is necessary to file the I-130 form and along with other documents, start the process to obtain the green card.

6. Through the green card lottery

The US government has a lottery to reward people with the green card. 

Although it is something difficult to win, there is always a chance. 

I have a Colombian friend that won the green card lottery and he is living here in the U.S. with his family for years.

Consult an immigration lawyer to make sure you live in a country that is allowed to participate in the green card lottery and if you meet the requirements. You could be the next winner!

7. Through investment

Investors can get a green card through the EB-5 Visa.

Is necessary to invest $1 million dollars in the U.S.  or $500,000 in areas that can create at least 10 full-time jobs for qualified employees in the country.

If you have such amount of money to invest in the U.S. consult an immigration lawyer to file the necessary documents to get your green card.

Final considerations

Become a permanent resident is the dream of thousands or perhaps millions of people around the world and probably you are one of them.

It's possible to get a green card to live in the U.S. just like I did.

Just be patient, hire a qualified professional (or team of professionals) expend some money and work hard towards this goal.

I recommend not giving up on your dream, but I can assure you that is necessary to plan and execute accordingly and it's not an overnight process.

Don't go after "shinning objects" or shortcuts, you can plan for 5 years head to fulfill your dream and I guarantee you it worth the effort.

Good luck and please share this content with your friends.

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