Green cards are the most sought-after nonimmigrant visa. U.S. law allows 675,000 green cards to be issued each year, but demand is far higher than that limit, so many people who would like to stay permanently in the United States cannot get green cards. The process of applying for a green card can take years, which is why it makes sense to begin the process of getting legal status as soon as possible. If you’re eligible, here are some ways that you may be able to get a green card in 2021:
1. Family-Sponsored Immigration
If you have a spouse or other immediate family member who is a U.S. citizen, you may be eligible to apply for a green card through family-sponsored immigration based on their status as a citizen. On the other hand, if your family member is a permanent resident, you may still be able to get a green card through them, but that will depend on visa availability and whether they have enough income to sponsor your application. In either case, this process can take up to three years from the time of applying before your priority date becomes current. You can learn more about how these processes work in our guide to family-sponsored immigration. In addition, keep in mind that you can also get a green card through your family member’s spouse, child, or sibling. If you’re in this situation, it may be possible to apply for a green card sooner. (See our guide to family-sponsored immigration for more details .)
2. Employment-Based Immigration
If you have an employer that is willing to sponsor you, then you may be able to get a green card based on employment. The sponsoring employer must file Form I-140 and prove that there is no American worker capable and willing of doing the work before they file for immigrant status on your behalf. US Citizenship and Immigration Services only makes 10, 000 immigrant visas available through this process each year, so if you qualify under “priority workers”, you may be able to receive your green card more quickly. This process can typically take between two and six years, depending on where the priority date lies within backlogs.
3. Lottery Green Cards
Lottery visas are given out annually through a random selection process. The lottery is conducted by the US State Department, which determines how many individuals from each country can qualify for a visa. To increase their chances of winning, applicants must have a high school education or equivalent and work experience in an occupation that is considered “highly skilled” or ” managerial “. Applicants must also meet certain health requirements. In 2018, 50,000 of these visas will be available. Keep in mind that this process does not require sponsorship from an employer or family member, but it does mean that you may have to wait several years.
4. Asylum or Refugee Status
If you are applying for asylum or refugee status due to experiencing persecution in your home country, then you will likely be able to receive a work permit and green card much sooner than other immigrants. These types of immigration petitions involve intense scrutiny, however, so this process is not appropriate for everyone. To learn more about the requirements for these processes, please see our guides on asylum and refugee status.
Out of all the nonimmigrant visa categories available, only three offer the possibility of obtaining permanent resident status (a “green card”) without any waiting period at all: family-based immigration, employment-based immigration, and DACA / TPS. The other categories usually require you to remain outside of the U.S. for a while before being able to apply for a green card while on a nonimmigrant visa, but if you qualify under any of the three options above, then you may be able to get your green card sooner than that.
Before choosing one over the other, however, it is important that you understand how each process works so that you can determine which would be best for you. You can find information about these processes in our articles about employment-based immigration, family-sponsored immigration, and DACA / TPS.
As explained above, there are four main ways to immigrate to the United States. They include Family-Based Immigration, Employment-Based (Employer-sponsored) Immigration, Lottery Green cards, and Asylum /Refugee Status. The key difference between these categories is how soon you can get a green card after applying for your nonimmigrant visa without any waiting period at all.
The fastest way to get a green card is through family-based immigration (spouse, children, or parents who are U.S citizens), employment-based immigration (H1B work visas or an employer willing to sponsor you), lottery green cards, or if you have been granted with asylum status. If you qualify under one of the categories above, you will likely be able to get your green card sooner than those who do not.
The most common way to immigrate to the United States is through a family member. Specifically, over 50% of all U.S immigrants are admitted on either a family-based visa or asylee/refugee status which allows for an immediate relative (spouse, children, or parents) to petition for them as a permanent resident as long as there is no history of criminal activity and they meet certain health standards. Of course, the other half have taken the pain to carry out obituary search(s) and other historical data to prove their refugee status. Family-based visas can be split into two categories: Immediate relatives and preference relatives.
The waiting period for an immediate relative to receive a green card is much shorter than it is for preference relatives, which makes the former category much more popular among potential immigrants.
If you are not eligible for either of these two categories, then one option that may be available to you is employment-based immigration. This process requires that your employer or another family member petition on your behalf, but the wait time for this type of visa will likely be significantly longer than if you had applied for an immediate relative immigrant visa.
If you need help making this decision, we encourage you to find a licensed immigration lawyer for help. An immigration attorney will be able to explain the visa options and requirements in detail and help you choose which option would be best for your unique circumstances.
For more information, you may ask or consult with immigration lawyers in Houston.