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A closer look at the process of securing a Green Card

It can be a dream come true when the federal government grants a person authorization to both work and live here in the U.S. on a permanent basis, a reality evidenced by the issuing of a permanent resident card, or, as it is more commonly known, a Green Card.

As exciting as the prospect of someday holding a Green Card can be, however, it's important to understand that the process of getting there is by no means easy thanks in large part to a rather complex set of eligibility requirements mandated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

In today's post, the first in an ongoing series, we'll begin filling in some of the blanks as they relate to these eligibility requirements for permanent residence.

An overview

At the outset, anyone looking to secure a Green Card should know that there are four eligibility requirements that must be satisfied, including:

  1. Eligibility under an immigrant category set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act, including family, employment, refugee/asylum and other special categories
  2. Filing and approval of a qualifying immigrant petition
  3. Availability of a visa
  4. Admissibility to the U.S.

Immigrant category eligibility: Family

Those seeking to secure a Green Card may be sponsored by a relative who has secured either citizenship or permanent residency here in the U.S.

In fact, those who qualify as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens -- including spouses, unmarried children under 21 and parents -- will not be required to wait for a visa, as Congress has placed no limit on the number of these visas issued in a given year, and can file their application for a Green Card immediately.

As for those family members who don't qualify as immediate relatives, a relative who has secured either citizenship or permanent residency here in the U.S. can still sponsor them. However, these relatives will have to wait for a visa to first become available before they can file their Green Card application.

We'll continue exploring Green Card eligibility requirements in our next post, including the visa preferences assigned to non-immediate family members.

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