Am I Eligible for a Green Card?
If you have already read my homepage, you know that I focus my immigration law practice on helping United States citizens obtain a Green Card for their foreign born loved ones.
This page will focus on whether or not your foreign born loved one is eligible for a Green Card. There are other ways for foreign nationals to obtain a Green Card, such as through employment, lottery or as a special immigrant, but I do not generally assist in those types of cases. If you are seeking information about Green Card eligibility for a foreign born loved one than I encourage you to keep reading.
It is important to understand that a Green Card is merely symbolic. In that sense it is very similar to a driver’s license. It is just a piece of plastic, but it represents something very important.
When a foreign born loved one holds a Green Card, it gives that person permission to enter, exit, live and work in the United States much like a driver’s license allows its holder to drive a car. Green Card holders are more correctly identified as Lawful Permanent Residents of the United States.
Immediate Relatives of a United States Citizen
As explained elsewhere in this site, being an Immediate Relative of a United States Citizen provides HUGE immigration advantages over Preference Family Members.
Immediate Relatives of a United States citizen is defined as:
1. Spouses of a United States citizen, including new widows and widowers
2. Unmarried people under the age of twenty one (21) years old who have at least one (1) parent who is a United States citizen,
3. The parents of a United States citizen only if the United States citizen child is over twenty one (21) years of age,
4. Stepchildren and stepparents if the marriage that created the relationship occurred before the stepchild’s eighteenth (18th) birthday, and
5. Parents and children related through adoption only if the adoption occurred before the child reached sixteen (16) years of age.
If your foreign born loved one fits into one of these categories, then you are more than halfway to achieving your goal. This is because of the HUGE immigration advantages I previously mentioned. Essentially, if you are the United States citizen, your Immediate Relative is immediately Green Card eligible (subject to the Green Card Visa application process) and gets to skip to the front of the line. There’s no wait. Candidly, it never looks better than this.
Preference Family Members
If your foreign born loved one does not qualify as an Immediate Relative as defined above, do not worry because he or she may still be eligible for a Green Card, it is just that their journey will not be as fast.
Foreign born loved ones of a United States citizen who are not Immediate Relatives fall into what are called Preference Categories. Unlike Immediate Relatives, where there is no limit on the number of Green Card Visas available each year, there is a definite limit on the number of Green Card Visas for Preference Family Members.
In fact, there are only four hundred and eighty thousand (480,000) Green Card Visas available each year. And I promise, there are far more people applying for these Green Card Visas than there are available Visas. This means there will be a wait and they will have to go through Consular Processing.
But how long is the wait?
The answer to that depends upon several factors, including which Preference Category your family member falls into and, to a lesser extent, their country of origin, especially if their country of origin is China, India or the Philippines. Family members from these countries generally have to wait much longer than family members from other countries.
So, please see the list below to identify which Preference Category your family member falls into. Generally speaking, the closer the relationship, the higher the Preference Category.
1. Family First Preference: These are adults who have to be both unmarried and at least twenty one (21) years of age who have at least one (1) parent who is a United States citizen.
2. Family Second Preference: This Preference Category is broken down into two (2) sections. Section A includes spouses and unmarried children of a Green Card holder only if the unmarried child is younger than twenty one (21) years of age. Section B includes the unmarried children of a Green Card holder if the child is older than twenty one (21) years of age.
3. Family Third Preference: This Preference Category includes people who are married who have at least one (1) parent who is a United States citizen. Unlike Family First Preference and Family Second Preference, age does not matter in the Family Third Preference category.
4. Family Fourth Preference: This category includes the siblings of a United States citizen, as long as the United States citizen is at least twenty one (21) years old.