“How do I get a green card?”  This is the most common immigration legal question, I am asked in my law practice. Obtaining a green card under the US immigration laws, is your path to becoming a permanent resident, which allows you to permanently live and work legally in the US, and eventually become a US citizen. Your green card will allow you to live in the United States and also to work in the United States. The process is long and involved, and although you do not need the services of an attorney to file for your change of status, it is highly recommended, especially at this time of legal and political changes, that you do employ the services of an experienced immigration attorney to obtain your green card. There are a number of different methods in which you may use to immigrate to the US and become a permanent resident, green card holder.

The first and easiest way to obtain your green card, would be with family-based immigration. This is the process in which you have a family member file a petition with US immigration and once the process is complete you will have become a US permanent resident or green card holder. Although not all relatives are allowed to petition US immigration on your behalf, it depends upon their relationship to you and also their age. There is also two different categories of family-based immigration depending on if the relative that is sponsoring you is either of US citizen or a green card holder. Family-based US immigration, with the petitioning relatives is a US citizen are as follow: Spouse (husband or wife), Unmarried child (under the age of 21),  Unmarried stepchild (under the age of 21), Adopted child (under the age of 18),  Parent or stepparent, Unmarried son or daughter (over the age of 21), Married son or daughter (any age),  and finally Brother or Sister.  As stated before, the other family-based method of US immigration, can be those relatives who are legal permanent residents, or otherwise known as green card holders, this list is shorter: Spouse, Unmarried child (under the age of 21), Unmarried stepchild (under the age of 21), Adopted child (under the age of 18) or  Unmarried son or daughter (over the age of 21). Family-based immigration is by far the easiest and quickest way to obtain your Permanent Legal Residents Status. Although, the Process Is Very Complicated and Lengthy and It Is Also Not Automatic. There are certain considerations that will be taken into account, that may affect your ability to become a legal permanent resident or green card holder. As your family-based immigration is because of a spouse, USCIS will certainly be looking into the validity of that marriage and if they find that the marriage is not a valid marriage your application will be denied and you may also be facing criminal penalties. I have seen numerous cases where people have paid a US citizen to marry them in order to get a green card, I highly advise never to do this. There are serious civil and legal ramifications for doing this. Most people do not realize that ICE can and most likely will perform an investigation and show up at your house, when you least expect it and search the premises to determine if the marriage is valid. In almost every situation I’ve seen this happen, they find the marriage is invalid, the applying immigrant is deported and the US resident faces civil and criminal penalties.  Also, your financial status and ability to support the immigrating applicant is taking into effect. This is based on your income, which must be a certain level based on the national average. Although if you do not make enough money, you could also get a cosponsor for the person you’re petitioning for and to gather if the amount that you pass the threshold, then your application will be accepted. It is very important for the people who are sponsoring immigrants to understand, that you will be held responsible for them financially. Meaning if they were to get sick in their medical expenses those medical expenses are placed upon you, not the person who is immigrating; so the person who sponsors the immigrants will become financially responsible for that person.

The next most common way of obtaining your green card is through employment-based immigration.  Each year the US government allows a total of 140,000 green cards for employment-based immigration. These green cards are only given to people who have certain skills or exceptional abilities that are not found within the United States. In fact an employer must prove that they attempted to find someone who was willing able and qualified to do the work and lived in the United States. Which this means is the employer must demonstrate to the government that they actively searched for the type of employee that was needed, this can be accomplished by demonstrating different job postings and interviewing different people for the position and the employer must demonstrate that they could not find anyone in the US workforce that was able to handle the desired job.  Also under employment-based immigration, just as in obtaining an employment based visa, there are different categories of jobs which take preference over other categories. To exaggerate the examples it’s much easier for a doctor to obtain a green card through employment than it is for someone who does landscaping, because of the preferential categories. The most desirable category would be first preference employees which include persons of extraordinary ability in arts, science, education, business, athletics, professors, researchers, and executives of multinational corporations. The next preferential categories would be those with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities, this would include but not limited to doctors, lawyers, surgeons, engineers and other persons with advanced degrees. The third preferential category would include professional, skilled and unskilled laborers. The fourth preferential categories would include those religious workers, miscellaneous workers and other special circumstances which would allow workers in this particular preferential categories to immigrate to the United States. Special immigrants, are generally religious workers, foreign medical graduates or green hard holders who have left the US and state outside the US for more than 12 months. Within this employment-based categories there are also special preferences for those who invest substantially in the US economy. This special class of applicants are usually business people who have invested $500,000 or more in some type of business in the United States that will help the US economy and create at the very least five full-time paying jobs, which are located within the United States. There is also a subcategory for those who have invested $1 million or more and will create 10 or more full-time jobs which will be located within the US marketplace.

Finally the last category is the green card lottery, which is based on ethnic diversity. US CIS offers approximately 50,000 green cards in the lottery, which are available to countries that actually send the least amount of people immigrating to the United States so countries that have high amounts of immigration to United States such as China, India, and Mexico will most likely not be able to take advantage of this group of potential green cards to foreign nationals.

When should determined that your particular situation fits into one of the established categories for US immigration, your next step would be to initiate the immigration process and file your application. As stated earlier, we highly suggest you employing the services of an experienced immigration lawyer to handle your application, as there are many pitfalls that are not listed in your Google search and are only known to those who have been practicing immigration law for years, and have run into numerous problems over the years and already know how to deal with them or more importantly how to avoid them altogether. Also there are other considerations which many do not know, and that’s how you get the ability to work legally in the US while you are filing for your permanent residency and waiting for your green card. There are numerous distant different circumstances within immigration law and considering how important the subject matter is, it’s always best to get it immigration attorney.

Joseph F. Botelho, Esq.

Attorneys At Law

901 Eastern Ave. 
Unit 2
Fall River, MA 02723 
Office:  888-269-0688