Requirements for Permanent Residence

Foreigners may be eligible for permanent residence based on their respective circumstances. Commonly, a green card can be obtained through employment-based immigration (through work) or family-based immigration (a family member sponsors them). However, there are other categories of eligibility for a green card.

Below you will find a detailed list of the requirements, the application process, and different categories for which you can apply for permanent residence. If you have specific questions, you can contact an immigration attorney to help you through the entire process.

Immigration Through Family Member Sponsorship

Follow the instructions exactly on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) forms. If all requested information is not provided, there could be significant delays in your eligibility process. Marriage status, being over or under age 21, and the individual country can affect wait times for your petition. You may be eligible for permanent residence in the following situations.

Immediate Family Member of U.S. Citizen

You may be eligible if you are an immediate family member of U.S. citizens and meet the following requirements:

  • You are married to an American citizen
  • You are an unmarried child under the age of 21 of an American citizen
  • You are the parent of an American citizen who is at least 21 years old

Relation to a U.S. Citizen

You may be eligible if you are related to an American citizen or legal resident. This is based on different family-based preferences, and you must meet the following requirements:

  • You are a direct relative of an American citizen. This includes a married or unmarried child who is over or under 21 years old.
  • You are a direct relative of a permanent resident. This includes a legal spouse, unmarried child under 21 years of age, or an unmarried child 21 years of age or older.
  • You are the fiancé of an American citizen. You must have been admitted to the United States as a fiancé and possess a K-1 nonimmigrant visa.
  • You are the child of a fiancé to an American citizen. You must have been admitted to the U.S. as a child of a fiancé and possess a K-2 nonimmigrant visa.
  • You are the widower of an American citizen. You must be able to prove that you were married to a U.S. citizen at the time of death.

Victim of Cruelty or Abuse

You may be eligible if you are a VAWA self-petitioner (victim of extreme cruelty or abuse). This could apply if you are:

  • The spouse who suffered abuse by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • An abused child (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • An abused parent of a U.S. citizen

Immigration Through Job Sponsorship

You may be eligible for a green card if you are a foreign worker and meet specific requirements.

A worker classified as “first preference” means:

  • You have extraordinary abilities in science, arts, education, business, or sports
  • An outstanding professor or researcher
  • A manager or executive of a multinational company and you meet some additional criteria

A worker classified as “second preference” means:

  • You are a member of a profession that requires an advanced degree (postgraduate)
  • You have extraordinary ability in science, arts, or business
  • You want a national interest exemption

You could also be a worker classified as “third preference,” which means:

  • You are an experienced worker (meaning your employment requires a minimum of two years of training or work experience)
  • You are a professional (which means that your employment requires at least a U.S. baccalaureate degree or its equivalent abroad, and you are a member of that profession)
  • You are a non-experienced worker (which means you will be doing unskilled jobs that require less than two years of training or experience.

Immigration for Doctors

Some specialty positions also qualify. A doctor with “privilege in the national interest” qualifies if they:

  • Agree to work full-time in clinical practice
  • Work in an area of limited medical access
  • Work for a specified time
  • Meets other eligibility requirements

Immigration for Investors

Lastly, an immigrant investor can qualify if they:

  • Invested (or are in the active process of investing) at least $1,000,000 (or $500,000 in target employment areas)
  • Invested in a new business venture in the U.S. that will create full-time job positions for at least 10 qualified employees

Special Immigration Options

You may be eligible for a permanent resident card in the following cases:

  • You are a religious worker who will be coming to the U.S. to work for a religious non-profit organization
  • You are a minor who has been abused, abandoned, or neglected by your parents and has SIJ (Special Immigrant Youth) status
  • You are a representative of international media coming to work in the United States as a member of a media company

Afghan or Iraqi Nationality

You may be eligible if you are a national of Iraq or Afghanistan and meet the following specifications:

  • Served as an Afghan or Iraqi translator or interpreter for the U.S. government
  • If Iraqi, employed with the U.S. government in Iraq on or after March 20, 2003, for at least 12 months
  • If Afghani, employed by the U.S. government or International Security Assistance Force

Employees of International Organizations

You may be eligible if you are employed by certain international organizations such as:

  • Embassies
  • Consulates
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
  • International Telecommunications Organization

Immigration Through Refugee or Asylum Status

You may be eligible for permanent residence in the following cases:

  • If you were granted asylum status at least one year ago
  • You were admitted as a refugee in the country at least one year ago

Immigration for Victims of Human Trafficking and Other Crimes

You may be eligible for permanent residence in the following cases:

  • If you were a victim of human trafficking and have a T Nonimmigrant Status visa
  • If you were the victim of a crime against you and have a U Nonimmigrant visa

Immigrations for Victims of Abuse

You may be eligible for permanent residence in the following cases:

  • You are a VAWA self-petitioner (victim of extreme cruelty or abuse). This can be a spouse who suffered some type of abuse by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. It can also be an abused child (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Lastly, the abused parent(s) of a U.S. citizen can also be eligible.
  • You are a minor who has been abused, abandoned, or neglected by your parents and has SIJ (Special Immigrant Youth) status.
  • You are the abused spouse or child of a Cuban citizen who applies under the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA).
  • You are the abused spouse or child of a lawful permanent resident who has received their Green Card under the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA)

Immigration Through Other Categories or Options

You may be eligible for permanent residence in the following cases:

  • You were selected in the State Department visa lottery to obtain a diversity visa
  • You were granted entry to the United States as a Lautenberg parolee.
  • If you have 50% or more American Indian blood and were born in Canada
  • You are the child of a foreign diplomatic official who was working in the United States when you were born

Immigrants from Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos

You may be eligible for permanent residence in the U.S. if you are:

  • A natural or citizen of Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos who was granted an entry permit to the U.S. on or before October 1, 1997
  • From Vietnam under the Orderly Departure Program
  • From a refugee camp in East Asia
  • A displaced person from a UNHCR-run camp in Thailand

Cuban Immigrants

You might be eligible for permanent residents following the Cuban adjustment law. This applies if you are:

  • A Cuban citizen or natural
  • The spouse or child of a Cuban citizen or natural

Immigration of Liberian Refugees

Following the law of fairness in the immigration of Liberian refugees, you may be eligible for immigration if you are:

  • A Liberian national who has been continuously physically present in the United States since November 20, 2014
  • You are the spouse, unmarried child under 21 years of age, or unmarried child 21 years of age or older of an eligible Liberian national

Immigration Through Registration

You may be eligible to apply for permanent residence if you have continuously lived in the United States before January 1, 1972.

Speak to an Experienced Immigration Attorney Today

When it comes to immigration and whether you can live and work where you want, every detail matters. When the slightest paperwork error or missed deadline can mean years of delays, it is essential to do things right the first time. An experienced immigration lawyer can address your particular needs with green card, and put you in the best position for a positive outcome. Take the first step now and contact a local immigration attorney to discuss your rights and specific situation.

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