How to Get a US Green Card. Ways to Get a Green Card. What's the Easiest Way to Get a US Green Card. How do I apply for the Green Card Lottery

A Green Card holder (permanent resident) is someone who has been granted authorization to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. As proof of that status, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants a person a permanent resident card, commonly called a "Green Card."

Get a Green Card. You can become a permanent resident several different ways. Most individuals are sponsored by a family member or employer in the United States. Other individuals may become permanent residents through refugee or asylee status or other humanitarian programs. In some cases, you may be eligible to file for yourself.

A green card lasts ten years even though it says “permanent” on the actual card. (AP Photo/Khue Bui)

When most Brits first visit the US, they are content to sign the visa waiver form handed out on the airplane. Work visas are enough for thousands of others sent to America by their UK employers – or tempted across by US firms or universities.

But for those with longer ambitions, the holy grail is the Green Card, which you keep even if you lose your American job. It's the size of a credit card, off-white on the front and with no more than a green tinge on the back, carrying a photo of the holder and routine information such as name, date of birth – and renewal date. Like a credit card, it has a band on the back containing computer-coded information.

Although their holders are known as Lawful Permanent Residents, Green Cards are not forever. They are renewable every ten years, which seems plenty at first, and they can be withdrawn – commonly for committing a serious crime, later discovery that the application was fraudulent or concealed important information, or being out of the US for more than 180 days in a 12-month period. On the last point, you can return if the circumstances were beyond your control.
So when I got the chance, after five years, I upgraded to US citizenship – which is for life, and does not prevent dual UK citizenship. That lets you vote in the US, which Green Cards do not, and you are liable for jury service – not a plus for many people.

But the Green Card is the most a foreigner can obtain at first, and it does make living in the US a comfortable proposition. That is why it is so prized. So how do you obtain one?

Here are ten tips:

1. Be related to a US citizen, as a spouse, unmarried child under 21 or parent if the citizen is over 21. There are also special categories, including a battered spouse or child, being born to a foreign diplomat in the US, or widows and widowers of US citizens. Stepchildren and stepparents may also qualify. Gay and lesbian couples still have difficulties, which are being challenged in the courts.

2. The US holds an annual Green Card lottery, but Brits can forget that unless they have a spouse born in an eligible country, or parents are from an eligible country who were not in the UK at the time of your birth. This is for reasons of diversity, which strangely do not bar those from Ireland, Northern Ireland or the rest of Europe except Poland. Basically, the US authorities reckon enough Brits qualify through family or job.
3. Ask your US employer to put in a good word. They must obtain labor certification and file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. You have to be at management level or equivalent, hold a degree or do work for which no similarly qualified US citizens are available.

4. Bring money. Invest at least $1 million (£645,000), employ ten people or expand an existing business by at least 40%. You can get away with half that investment in designated employment areas. Beware scams. I visited an emigration fair in London offering Green Cards to retired people willing to buy three houses – one for themselves, the other two as a minimal property business. Passive “businesses” like that, particularly owned by those of retirement age, are subject to close investigation.

5. Work in a favored category of employment, such as broadcaster or doctor, or work for an international organization. Religious workers, including priests, rabbis, nuns, monks and deacons, are eligible. All can bring their families.

6. Be a nurse or physiotherapist (known in the US as a physical therapist) with a job offer from a hospital or medical center.

7. Be adopted by US citizens, as long as you are under 16 years old.
8. Be highly talented in science, arts, business or academia. You may then qualify as an Alien of Extraordinary Ability. You have to satisfy at least three of several criteria, and it is a great help to have had written work published. You also need as many letters of recommendation as possible, preferably from high-flown referees such as judges, company directors or college professors. The advantage is that you do not have to have a job, just means of support.

9. Relax. If you do not qualify for any of the above, just jump on a plane. Your visa waiver lasts 90 days and, without breaking the law, you can start looking for a job.Then take it step by step, from employment visa to Green Card. It might take a few years, but persistence takes you a long way in the US

10. Before obtaining a Green Card, do not do anything to upset the authorities, even with a parking ticket. You are liable to be entered on the Department of Homeland Security's computer and could face a disproportionate amount of hassle. The US is surprisingly bureaucratic and intensely suspicious of people who infringe the law.

How to Get a US Green Card. Ways to Get a Green Card. What's the Easiest Way to Get a US Green Card. When people talk about the easiest way to get a “Green Card,” they are usually referring to the fastest means someone can become a permanent resident in the United States. In the modern US immigration framework, the wait for many green card applicants can be as long as ten years or more . For a few lucky persons, however, that wait may be as short as 15 days.

What makes the difference in these cases? A crucial concept called “Immigrant Visa Preference Categories.” US immigration laws create specific preference categories under which foreign nationals might qualify for and be assigned a so-called "immigrant visa number." Immigrant visa numbers are, in essence, spots in the waiting line for a green card. Some categories are “easier” than others in that one category might have no delay in available immigrant visa numbers, while other categories might have a ten to 15 year wait for visa number availability.

If you are confused, don't be. The immigrant visa categories are not difficult to understand. Let's take a look at these categories.
Immigrant Visa Categories and the Visa Bulletin

To understand why the categories matter in making things easier to get a green card, we must take a look at something called theVisa Bulletin . This document is released monthly by the US Department of State, which publishes the most up-to-date availability of immigrant visa numbers.

US immigration law defines specific categories under which immigrant visa numbers can be assigned. The law also limits the total number of immigrant visa numbers that are given out in each category per year. The Visa Bulletin breaks down these categories and their associated numerical caps in a relatively-easy format to understand.
If you look at the Visa Bulletin, you will see that immigrant visa numbers are broken down into two main groupings: Family-Sponsored Preferences and Employment-Based Preferences. The Bulletin also lists a “Diversity Immigrant” category, which we will discuss below. Under each grouping, you will see that there are more specific subcategories.

Family-Sponsored Preference Categories

For the family-based side of immigration, you might notice that spouses, children under 21 years of age, and parents of US citizens are not listed. That is because these specific family members are considered “immediate relatives.” Under current immigration law, immediate relatives are immediately eligible for immigrant visa numbers. More on this in a moment.

The categories listed under Family-Sponsored Preferences are First , Second , Third , and Fourth . Each category is defined in the Visa Bulletin . Unless otherwise noted, the word “Children” refers to unmarried sons or daughters under the age of 21.

After the definitions for each category, the Visa Bulletin has a table listing each family-based preference category along with a series of dates. These dates are called Priority Dates . These dates reflect the filing date of immigrant petitions that are now being processed by US immigration for each preference category.
Let's examine how this works. In the Visa Bulletin for March 2013, the table lists a Priority Date of February 15, 2006 for all worldwide areas (except the specific countries listed) for the First Preference family-based category. As the Bulletin states, the First Preference is for “unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens.” This means that for foreign nationals who are 21 or older, are not married, and are being sponsored for a green card by their US citizen parent, US immigration authorities are now processing petitions that were filed on February 15, 2006 or earlier. Stated differently, a US citizen who files an immigrant petition for her 21-or-older, unmarried son or daughter in March 2013 will have a wait of approximately seven years before an immigrant visa number becomes available for the son or daughter. The wait time is the difference between the date the immigrant petition is filed and the published priority date.

As you might have guessed, the preference category under which a foreign national family member might qualify for an immigrant visa number, and eventual permanent residence, has a huge bearing on the time that foreign national must wait. Also, because of the high demand for immigrant visas from nationals of China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines, foreign nationals from those nations have separate, and usually more delayed, Priority Dates.

In terms of the “easiest” path to a green card through the family-based immigration route, immediate relatives (children under 21, spouses, and parents) of US citizens have the least difficult path. Immigrant visa numbers are immediately available to them.Next, spouses and under-21 children of US permanent residents have the next-shortest wait time, approximately two and a half years as of the date of this article.

As you can see, immediate relatives have the shortest route to attaining permanent residence. If you are a foreign national seeking permanent residence and are lucky enough to have an immediate relative relationship with a US citizen, you will have access to the path of least resistance.

Immigration law is an ever-shifting field, however. With the US Congress continually deliberating on and revising immigrant visa availability, you will want to pay close attention to the Visa Bulletin and any new laws if you are considering seeking a green card or sponsoring a family member for a green card. You should contact a licensed immigration attorney should you have questions about your case.
Employment-Based Preference Categories

The overall concept for the employment-based preference categories is not too different from the family-based categories. TheVisa Bulletin breaks down the specific employment-based immigrant visa categories available under the laws and specifies priority dates for each category.

However, unlike family-based preferences, an employer in the US is usually the entity sponsoring a foreign national for permanent residence eligibility. In addition, the employment-based categories are generally delineated by the difficulty and educational requirements of the employment that the foreign national is to undertake. Two prominent exceptions are the Fourth and Fifth employment-based preference categories. More on these later.

In general the Priority Dates and wait times for employment-based immigrant visas are more favorable, but the tradeoff is that the underlying employment-based petitions require a high level of work and documentation from both you and a sponsoring employer. The First Preference category, reserved for “priority workers,” is available only to workers who are considered outstanding in their field, such as internationally recognized artists, award-winning scientists, or the like, or executives or CEOs of multinational companies.

The Second and Third Preference categories are available mainly to persons whose proposed employment in the US will require at least a Bachelor's degree-level education in some specialized field. The Second and Third Preferences usually also require that an employer sponsoring the foreign national conduct a “market test” of the job market, to ensure that no US citizens or permanent residents already in the US will be displaced from an available job. As you might infer, these requirements are feasible to satisfy but are by no means “easy.”

The Fourth Preference is reserved for “special” immigrants, including certain kinds of religious workers as well as certain juveniles seeking to join foster families in the US The requirements for this category are highly technical and beyond the scope of this piece.

The Fifth Preference, known colloquially as the “Job Creation Visa,” is for foreign nationals who can invest between $500,000 to $1 million US dollars of their own personal assets into a venture in the US that can employ at least ten US citizens or permanent residents on a full-time basis. Aside from the high monetary requirements of the Fifth Preference, US immigration authorities give high-level scrutinize to petitions under this category because of the high likelihood of fraud.

Overall, if you have an employer willing to sponsor you under the First, Second, or Third Preference categories, or if you have the financial resources to invest under the Fifth Preference program, you will have a shorter wait time to attaining permanent residence. However, the underlying requirements and procedures for employment-based immigration are nothing to sneeze at.Speak with your potential employer, as well as a licensed immigration attorney, if you are considering the employment-based immigration path.

Diversity Visa Immigration

You may have heard about the Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) program as a “lottery” for green cards. This is not far off the mark. US immigration law makes available 55,000 immigrant visa numbers for foreign nationals from countries that have low numbers of permanent residence applications to the United States. Provided you meet the minimum educational requirements and do not have issues in terms of past criminal activity, immigration violations, or other problems, you can apply under the DV program for a chance to be randomly selected and assigned an immigrant visa number right away.

Unfortunately as with all lotteries, your chances of success through the DV program are highly dependent upon luck. Making an application under the DV program is akin to rolling a dice. Further, if you come from a country with already-high numbers of permanent resident applicants, your chances for being selected for a DV immigrant visa lessen dramatically.

However, if you hail from a country that traditionally has had low numbers of US permanent residence applicants, consider the DV program as a relatively easy way to apply for a green card. As of this article, DV availability was highest for applicants from countries in Africa and Europe. If you are selected under the DV program, you will have an immediately-available immigrant visa number and a short path to a green card.

Permanent residence in the United States is not easily acquired, but there are certain paths which make the time you need to wait for a green card much shorter. Speak with a licensed immigration attorney about the potential routes you might take to acquiring a green card.

How do I apply for the Green Card Lottery?

As a service to the public, workpermit.com provides an easy way to enter the Green Card Lottery twenty four hours a day seven days a week.

You must submit a green card application electronically using the Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form. You can no longer submit the entry by post.

You can only submit one application per person. If more than one application is received for any reason it will be automatically disqualified.

The US Department of State will send an electronic confirmation notice to you or your representative once your green card application is received.

You must submit recent individual photographs of all family members including your spouse and each child under 21 years of age. You should include all stepchildren and legally adopted children. These must also be submitted electronically with your DV lottery application.

You will have to submit your images electronically. You must either take a digital photograph or create an electronic copy of a traditional, paper photograph using a scanner .