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What is the Process for Getting a Green Card?

What is the Process for Getting a Green Card

An experienced immigration lawyer can help clients to better understand the specific green card process that applies to them. A lawyer also can help clients to ensure they correctly file for a green card and fully support their filings with the necessary information.

There are no guarantees that even a fully qualified applicant with a well-supported filing will gain final approval. But a properly supported and submitted application always stands the best chance for producing the desired outcome for the applicant.

Overview of General Filing Requirements

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processes and makes final decisions regarding all petitions for lawful entry and work in the United States. Virtually anyone who works in a field that is underrepresented and has a qualifying sponsor could obtain federal approval to lawfully live and work inside the United States.

The process to obtain a green card to legally work and reside in the United States generally takes four steps to complete. Those four steps are as follows:

  • Find a sponsor.
  • Complete and submit the petition along with supporting evidence.
  • Provide fingerprints, signature, and photos.
  • Attend a USCIS interview.

After completing the initial four steps, the petitioner needs to await a decision by USCIS. If approved, the petitioner can remain in the United States and continue working lawfully. If denied, an appeals process generally enables petitioners to challenge incorrect decisions and provide additional supporting evidence that might earn a final approval from USCIS.

Eligibility for Green Card Petitioners

A successful filing for a green card starts with making sure the petitioner meets the qualifications to obtain a green card. Although many people think of a green card as applying to workers, it does more than enable petitioners to legally work and live in the United States. Many cases are approved with no employment component required. Ultimately, it comes down to a particular petitioner’s eligibility and whether they properly support their filing with sufficient evidence.

Petitioners commonly gain approval for a green card if they are:

  • Sponsored by an employer or family member in the United States.
  • Eligible for political asylum or is a refugee.
  • Victims of human trafficking or abuse.

USCIS also has a range of other categories that in some cases automatically grant green cards for special cases. Examples include anyone from Cuba, foreign diplomats who cannot return home, and Lautenberg parolees.

Special Immigrant Status

USCIS reserves special consideration for immigrants who possess special skills, attained high levels of education, or won significant awards for achievements in the field. A leading scientist in a field that is underrepresented in the United States would stand a very good chance of winning a green card.

The EB1A visa is an example of a special immigrant category that more popularly is known as the Einstein visa. Leading scientist Albert Einstein gained permanent legal residency in the United States through the EB1A visa process for immigrants who possess exceptional ability and accomplishments.

Although that is an extreme example of a special immigrant category, there are lesser ones that still apply. Virtually anyone with a graduate degree likely stands a good chance of earning a green card as a special immigrant. The same goes for petitioners who have specialized skills in a field that is undeserved and in need of more qualified individuals.

Two Separate Processes

While USCIS has a general process for petitioners to follow to gain legal permission to live and work in the United States, the federal agency has two specific pathways to obtaining a green card. One pathway is for those who already are located within the United States. The other pathway is for those who are located outside of the United States. The following information helps to better illustrate the two pathways and how they work.

Process for applicants within the U.S. Petitioners who already are located within the United States and want to gain permanent legal residency can file an I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residents or Adjust Status. The form enables aliens to obtain a green card because of a job offer, through asylum or as a refugee, or as a relative of a U.S. citizen. A spouse of a U.S. citizen could qualify for a green card in this manner.

It also is possible to obtain a green card through registry. The USCIS registry enables aliens who have worked and lived in the United States for many years to gain lawful permanent residency. The filing process for petitioners who already are located within the United States generally concludes faster than for those who are in another nation.

Process for applicants outside of the U.S. Petitioners who are located outside of the United States must go through the consular process to apply for and obtain a green card. The first step of the consular process is to determine whether the individual is eligible for a green card. The eligibility criteria are the same as those for petitioners who are located within the United States and are listed above.

Most successful cases that go through the consular process involve those petitioners who either have an employer within the United States who acts as a sponsor or have a family member. In such instances, either the family member or the employer files the petition for a green card via the consular process. Because the petition already affirms the applicant has either a job or a relative located in the United States, the consular process could be more of a formality, so long as the individual in question has no other issues that might stop lawful entry.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at MC Law Group, LLC, Help Clients File Successful Petitions

The USCIS has separate but generally similar pathways of obtaining a green card for lawful permanent residency in the United States. One pathway is for eligible petitioners who already are located inside the United States. The other pathway is for eligible petitioners who are in another nation. Properly supported and filed petitions stand the best chance of getting approved. The Philadelphia immigration lawyers at MC Law Group LLC, can help clients file successful petitions whenever possible. Call us at 215-496-0690 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout the tri-state area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.

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