“When you enlisted into the armed forces you swore to support and defend a Constitution that did not yet fully apply to you. You chose to endure the same sacrifices as your fellow comrades in arms to preserve the freedom of a land that was not yet fully yours. You accepted that you might have to pay the ultimate price on behalf of a nation to which you did not fully belong. Now, you will officially become citizens of the United States, a country to which each of you has already borne true faith and allegiance in your hearts and your deeds.”
— General David Petraeus addressing a naturalization ceremony at Camp Victory, Iraq, on Independence Day, 2007

Green Card ( Legal Permanent Residents )

There are different types of US Green Cards depending on your situation and how you will obtain it. There are basically six general categories of Green Cards, each one with their separate visas and requirements:

  • Family Sponsored Green Card-his Green Card is given to you if you have close family in the U.S and you want to reunite with them. This type of Green Card is given only to immediate family, such as spouses, children, siblings, or parents of a U.S citizen or a U.S permanent resident.

  • Employment Sponsored Green Card-this Green Card is given to you if you have found a job in the U.S from your home country. Your employer will pay for the forms and application procedure and will sponsor you to stay in the U.S. With an employment sponsored Green Card you are bound to that employer and you must work for that company until your contract expires. Only after your sponsorship conditions are completed, you can find a different job with a different employer.

  • Returning Resident Green Card-this Green Card is for those who previously had a Green Card but traveled outside of the U.S and did not come back for more than one year for reasons beyond their control. Reasons beyond your control are if you have been detained in another country or are not being allowed to come back for family or cultural reasons. You must prove that you had no opportunity to come back through various documents to be granted this visa.

  • Diversity Visa Green Card-every year the U.S holds a visa lottery for citizens of countries with low immigration rates to the U.S. If you apply for this lottery and get a diversity visa, then you are on your way to getting a Green Card.

  • Special Immigrants- Occasionally, laws are passed making green cards available to people in special situations, such as young people who are under the care of a juvenile court, international broadcasters, and retired employees of the U.S. government abroad.

  • Refuge and Asylum -The U.S. government offers refuge to people who fear, or who have experienced, persecution in their home country. A person still outside the U.S. would apply to be a refugee; a person already at the U.S. border or (better yet) inside the U.S. would apply for asylum.

In order to obtain permanent residence (i.e. a “green card”) in the United States, an individual must first have an immigrant visa number available to him or her. Under the family-based immigration system, U.S. citizens and permanent residents are able to sponsor certain family members for permanent residence.

Family-sponsored visas are divided into two main categories: immediate relatives and preference immigrants, as detailed below. Immediate Relatives (IR) do not have to wait for a visa number to become available because there are an unlimited number. The Immediate Relative (IR-1) classification includes:

  • Spouse of a U.S. Citizen (IR-1)

  • Unmarried Child Under 21 Years of Age of a U.S. Citizen (IR-2)

  • Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. Citizen (IR-3)

  • Orphan to be adopted in the United States by a U.S. Citizen (IR-4)

  • Parent of a U.S. Citizen who is at least 21 years old (IR-5)

However, Congress has determined that only a certain number of people per category per year can obtain green cards through the family preference system, creating extremely lengthy backlogs.

  • Family First Preference (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their children, if any (23,400 per year).

  • Family Second Preference (F2): Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (over age 20) of lawful permanent residents (114,200 per year).

  • Family Third Preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and children (23,400 per year).

  • Family Fourth Preference (F4): Brothers and sisters of United States citizens, and their spouses and children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years of age (65,000 per year).

The filing of the I-130 petition sets the “priority date” for the individual, which determines when the person can apply for permanent residence, either by applying for an immigrant visa or for adjustment of status. If an individual is in the United States, has always maintained valid status, and an immigrant visa number is currently available, he or she may file Form I-485 concurrently with the I-130 immigrant visa petition.

The U.S. State Department publishes a Visa Bulletin each month which lists the priority dates that are current in each preference category. If an individual’s priority date is earlier than the date listed for his/her category and country, he or she is eligible to apply for permanent residence.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss you or your family’s immigration matter with you. Please contact our office at 530-265-0186 to schedule a confidential no charge consultation or email us with any questions you may have.