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Getting a Green Card and Becoming a Permanent Resident of the United States

Becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States (often referred to as getting a Green Card) allows individuals to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. Having a Green Card also allows an individual to eventually apply for US citizenship or naturalization.

Getting a Green Card can be a complex process that often takes many years to accomplish. One of the attorneys at Saland Law can advise you on what steps to take to get your Green Card as quickly and easily as possible.

The Green Card Process

The Green Card process for becoming a permanent resident of the United States is set forth by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Under the INA, there are two primary methods of getting a Green Card.

The first is through an adjustment of status, which is usually available to those already lawfully in the United States. The second is through consular processing and must be used by individuals applying for a Green Card while located outside the United States.

Despite which method is used, the individual will usually require someone else to file the petition on his or her behalf. Some of the major Green Card categories are:

  • Family-based
  • Job-based
  • Lottery-based (officially known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program)

Most individuals will get a Green Card through a family member or employer filing a petition on their behalf. However, other less common Green Card methods exist, such as special immigrant and humanitarian classes. The latter involves providing Green Cards to those who have obtained refugee or asylum status.

Family-Based Green Card Petitions

Only current United States citizens or Green Card holders may petition for a family member to get a Green Card and become a permanent resident. If you are a US citizen, you (as the sponsor) may petition for the following family members to get a Green Card:

  • Spouse
  • Unmarried children under 21
  • Married children or children over 21
  • Parents, but only if you are 21 or older
  • Siblings, but only if you are 21 or older.

If you are a Green Card holder, you may petition for the following family members to get a Green Card:

  • Spouse
  • Unmarried children under 21
  • Unmarried son or daughter of any age

You, as the sponsor, will begin this petition process by completing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. If your family member is considered an “immediate family member,” they can start applying for permanent residency almost immediately after Form I-130 is approved. An immediate family member includes your spouse, a parent (as long as you are over the age of 21) or an unmarried child under the age of 21.

However, if your family member is not considered an immediate family member, they will be placed on a visa waiting list. The current status of the waiting list can be found in the Visa Bulletin. The waiting list time can vary, but is usually several years long.

Whether your family member is already located in the United States or not will determine the next few steps. If they are already in the United States, your family member will use the adjustment of status Green Card application process and apply for permanent residency by completing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence of Adjust Status. They will also submit biometric information and attend an interview at the appropriate Application Support Center and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office. Then they will wait for the USCIS to make their decision and issue the Green Card.

If your family member is located outside the country, then they will rely on consular processing for applying for their Green Card and wait outside the United States for their name to come to the top of the waiting list. When this occurs, the National Visa Center (NVC) will notify you and your family member. The appropriate consular office will then schedule an interview for your family member. If the US consular officer concludes your family member is eligible for an immigrant visa, they can then travel to the United States, go through necessary arrival procedures, and enter the United States as a permanent resident.

Job-Based Green Card Petition

The path to permanent residency through the job-based method is similar to the family-based method, except it’s an employer that serves as the sponsor, not a US-based family member. And instead of using Form I-130, the employer will use Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.

Lottery-Based Green Card Method

The US Department of State administers the Diversity Immigrant Visa program (DV Program). This program makes available 50,000 immigrant visas each year. Only individuals who are from countries deemed to have low immigrates rates into the United States are eligible for this lottery.

If a lottery winner is already located in the United States, they will use the adjustment of status application process. If they are located outside the United States (most are), they will use the consular processing application method for getting a Green Card.

Possible Green Card Application Refusal

Not every individual who completes all the necessary steps for getting a Green Card will be granted one. Potential reasons for an individual to be deemed inadmissible to the United States include criminal history, security risks and health considerations.

Depending on the reason for the Green Card denial, the individual may be eligible for a waiver by using Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility or Form I-602, Application by Refugee for Waiver of Grounds of Excludability. Form I-602 is what refugees and asylees will use when trying to get a Green Card using the humanitarian Green Card application method.

Criminal and Arrest Records Impacting Green Card Applications

An arrest in New York, or any state in the Union, can derail and certainly delay the process to become a permanent resident or Green Card holder. You need not be convicted of a crime to suffer a significant setback although both misdemeanor and felony convictions can, and often will, put an end to your quest for permanent residence where the crime in question is, for example, an Aggravated Felony or Crime Involving Moral Turpitude.

Very simply, as you will discuss with your criminal lawyer, a one-time gaffe or mistake that leads to an arrest and ultimately a criminal conviction can deprive you of a future, at least one as a legal permanent resident in New York or anywhere in the United States. If it was not clear to you after speaking with your immigration lawyer and criminal defense attorney, it should be overwhelmingly so now. Protect yourself and take the steps to put yourself or a family member in the best place to secure a Green Card and walk away the collateral consequences to your immigration status.

Call the New York immigration lawyers and former New York City prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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