The green card application process can be complex, and at times frustratingly slow. You may have questions about which forms you need to submit and where to find more information about your status. We can help.
Our experienced immigration team at Nesbit Law Office have helped clients understand how to obtain a green card and appeal negative outcomes. You don’t have to do this alone. We can handle the legal issues that come with obtaining your green card while you focus on creating a successful life in America. Call us today at (614) 586-1310.
What Is a Green Card?
A green card, formally known as a permanent resident card, is a document that allows a foreign national to live and work permanently in the United States. You may obtain a green card after being in the United States on a qualifying visa. Often, you may be sponsored by a spouse, family member, or employer. But you may also receive a green card after having refugee status or seeking asylum, winning the ethnic diversity visa lottery, or various other qualifying statuses.
A green card holder may reside in the United States permanently; however, they do not have full U.S. citizenship. For example, you may live and work in the United States, travel and return to the country, and petition for family members to receive green cards. However, you may not vote. And you must wait a period of time before you are eligible for certain federal assistance programs. Green card holders may also be deported if they violate certain laws or commit fraud in obtaining their permanent resident cards.
Green Card Application Process
Before submitting a green card application, you must determine whether you are eligible to apply. In most cases, you must receive a visa and be sponsored. Certain visas do not require sponsorship. You must complete two forms to begin the application process – an immigrant petition and a green card application (Form I-485). Your immigrant petition is typically filed on your behalf by your sponsor.
If you are in the United States with a visa, then you must seek an Adjustment of Status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If you are living outside of the United States, you must complete Consular Processing with the U.S. Department of State.
After filing your immigrant petition and green card application, you must attend a biometrics appointment to provide the U.S. government with fingerprints, photos, and a signature. You must also complete an interview. After the interview, you will receive a determination regarding your green card.
Green Card Eligibility
There are many ways that a foreign national may become eligible for a green card. When seeking to become a permanent resident of the United States, you should work with a green card lawyer who can help you determine eligibility. Common paths to obtaining a green card include the following:
If you have a work visa, your employer may be able to sponsor you as you obtain a green card. You may seek approval under labor certification if your employer files form I-140, an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. Once the I-140 is completed by your employer to validate your employment status, you may obtain a passport by completing form I-485, an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
Whether your immediate family member is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, they may sponsor you for a green card. Your family member must complete a form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. If your relative lives outside of the United States, they may have to complete necessary forms at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy.
If you have been granted asylum or refugee status in the United States, you are eligible for apply for a green card. You must wait one year after entry into the country and complete a form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. A green card lawyer can help you complete necessary paperwork within the restrictive deadlines.
The Department of State holds a visa lottery each year to give diversity visas to individuals. As many as 50,000 visas are available. However, you must be otherwise eligible for admission to the United States in order to qualify for a visa, even if you are chosen through the lottery.
The U.S. Congress may selectively grant groups of people eligible to apply for green cards. If such an act occurs, it is important to quickly file necessary documentation to obtain a visa or green card. A green card lawyer can help you complete all forms and submit them on time.
Determining your eligibility for a green card can be complex. While you may not be currently eligible, a simple act by Congress can change everything. If you have questions about your status and qualifications for permanent residency, contact a green card lawyer today.
How Long Will It Take to Get a Green Card?
It can take months or even years to work through the green card application process with the USCIS. Even if you already have a visa and live in the United States, there are many issues that can delay the processing of your green card.
Once you are contacted by a USCIS office or U.S. consulate in your home country, you may be given an interview date. Your green card may be approved or denied on the date of your interview. However, if officials have additional questions or are awaiting any paperwork.
Checking Your Case Status for a Green Card
When you submit your green card application, you will be assigned a case number with the USCIS. You can use that number to check your case status online. In order to check your case status, you must know your receipt number. You may also sign up for an account, which will allow you to see your entire case history.
You may also call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-709-5797. Or you can request an appointment with the USCIS office that is closest to you. If you feel your application processing time is outside of the normal processing times, you may submit a case inquiry or service request for your case via USCIS online.
Preserving Your Green Card
After receiving a green card, you become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. However, you must uphold the law and comply with federal regulations in order to retain your green card.
One of the conditions of retaining a green card is permanent residency. Extended absences from the United States may indicate that you have abandoned residency. If you spend more than one year abroad, your reentry into the United States may be denied, even if you have a green card. At that point, you would be required to apply for a reentry permit, which is valid for two years. If you plan on leaving the United States for an extended period of time, you should consider obtaining a reentry permit prior to leaving. This will ensure that your status as a permanent resident is maintained.
Certain criminal offenses and violations of immigration laws may also result in deportation or invalidation of a green card. If you are convicted of a violent crime, a felony, or many other types of crimes, you may be deported and returned to your country of origin. Immigration rules, such as filing necessary paperwork, attending interviews, and meeting deadlines are also important. If you violate an immigration law, your residency status may be challenged.
If you have a green card and are concerned about your status, a green card lawyer can help you understand your rights and responsibilities. It’s important to know what steps to take to maintain your residency status and retain your green card.
An Immigration Attorney Can Help You With the Green Card Application Process
The green card application process can be intimidating without the help of an experienced immigration attorney. Making sure you have all the right paperwork, submitting the correct forms, and developing strategies to ensure nothing goes wrong while you wait – these are difficult waters to navigate alone. Call Nesbit Law Office today at (614) 586-1310 to find out how we can help you through this process.