One of the more common questions posed to immigration attorneys is “I have been in the U.S., working, for years now. Can I apply for a green card? If so, how?”
The answer to that, unfortunately, is based on a large number of factors that are specific to each individual applicant. Upon hearing that, many people then ask “OK, so how do I personally go about obtaining a green card?”
As one of the most intricate and complex areas of immigration law, answering that question will requires in-depth study and analysis of an individual’s situation and everything that goes with it, such as education and work history, information on the company the employee currently works for, family situation, and many other categories.
Here is the basic idea, however.
When it comes to applying for a green card, there are 3 popular methods: Through employment, family members, and the green card lottery. The focus of this post will be employment, but here are synopses of the other 2 methods.
To obtain a green card through a family member, you will need to be sponsored by a family member who is a current U.S. citizen. Most commonly, this process gets started by an individual marrying a U.S. citizen. The relative that sponsors you must be very close, and the nature of your relationship will determine how long the wait for a green card will be.
For the green card lottery, there are certain countries that are eligible, and if you are in one, you should apply for the green card lottery every year. Usually the application period starts in the fall.
As for employment, which as mentioned before will be the focus of this post, the most often used method of green card application is through what is known as the PERM-based process. It is generally recommended to avoid this process, however, as it is not only expensive, but also time consuming and rather difficult.
Luckily, there are several alternatives to the PERM-based system, such as intracompany manager, extraordinary person, and “national interest waiver.”
If you were employed for no less than 1 year at a company outside of the United States, and were subsequently transferred into the U.S. to work as a manager of a company related to your previous foreign employer, you may be eligible to receive the intracompany manager green card.
If you are a prominent figure in your field, and are able to prove so, then you may be eligible for the extraordinary person green card. You must not only be successful, but must be one of the forefront authorities in your field. Business, arts, and science professionals are all eligible.
Finally, if you are a professional who has obtained at least a masters degree, and would be beneficial to the United States as a whole, you could qualify for a special green card. For example, if you are working on a project developing spacecraft for future missions, or are currently researching a cure for cancer, you could qualify. This is a green card that is rather hard to obtain, but as always, it never hurts to try.
In the next entry, we will go over the basic steps of the PERM process, so if these alternative methods do not apply to you, please stay tuned to future entries, and as always, if you ever have any questions or concerns about immigration, contact an experienced immigration attorney immediately.