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The 11 Ways to get a Green Card

Updated on November 28, 2018
PaulGoodman67 profile image

Paul writes a blog about visa issues and is a dual citizen of the US and UK..

Examples of Green Cards.  The cards give the holders the right to live and work in the USA.  They demonstrate "permanent residency" status.  You generally have to meet certain criterion to get one, however, and pay for the processing costs.
Examples of Green Cards. The cards give the holders the right to live and work in the USA. They demonstrate "permanent residency" status. You generally have to meet certain criterion to get one, however, and pay for the processing costs. | Source

If you want to live and work in the USA indefinitely, the best first step is usually to achieve permanent residence status. I moved to Florida by applying for a fiance visa, so that I could marry my American girlfriend.

Applying for visas and a green card normally involves filing applications with the USCIS and it can take up a lot of time and money. If successful, you will be issued with special I.D., commonly known as a "green card" to show that you are a "resident alien".

It took me nearly two years from my initial application for permanent residence through to obtaining a green card, plus a lot of effort and expense, but it was worth it.

Permanent residency status allows allow you to live and work in the USA legally, and your green card will typically be valid for ten years, after which time you will need to renew it.

There are various methods of obtaining green cards, some of them more difficult and obscure than others. Below are 11 ways to get green card permanent residence status.

Often your eligibility depends upon who you are and your situation, as much as what your intentions and needs are.

Permanent residence status is something that many non US citizens around the world aspire to, especially in poorer countries where life is harsh and the idea of working and living in the USA seems to be a dream worth striving for.

11 Ways to Get Permanent Residence

Below is a list of the 11 methods. I go into more detail below.

  1. Have Exceptional Skills
  2. Be a Refugee
  3. Be a Relative of a US Citizen
  4. Be an Asylum Seeker
  5. Win the Green Card Lottery
  6. Be a Special Immigrant
  7. Be an Investor
  8. Be a Diplomat
  9. Be Adopted
  10. Be a Continuous Resident
  11. Through a Private Bill

1. Have Exceptional Skills

You might be an exceptional researcher or professor, or an executive, or the CEO of a multinational company, or just have specific skills that the USA is short of. You need to be someone that the USA really needs or wants for economic or prestige reasons.

Possessing exceptional skills in a specific area is one way that someone can get a green card, especially if it is in an area that the USA currently suffers a skill shortage.
Possessing exceptional skills in a specific area is one way that someone can get a green card, especially if it is in an area that the USA currently suffers a skill shortage. | Source

2. Be a Refugee

You may be able to gain permanent residence status if you are a foreign national who has suffered persecution in your home country, or is fleeing famine, war or civil unrest.

3. Be a Relative of a US Citizen

For instance, if you are a son or daughter, adopted child, parent, stepparent, brother or sister of a US citizen, you can apply for a green card. Alternatively, you may be able to gain permanent residence through marrying a US citizen.

4. Be an Asylum Seeker

You can apply if you are a foreign national who cannot return to your home country because of a well-founded fear that you might suffer religious, racial, political, or nationalistic persecution.

5. Win the Green Card Lottery

This is run by the US Department of State. 50,000 immigrant visas are made available each year. They are drawn from a random selection. Entries come from individuals who live in countries with low rates of immigration to the USA.

Your chances of obtaining green card permanent residence status with this method are pretty low, however, zero if you live in a country with high US immigration rates.

The WSJ Interviews Green Card Lottery Winners

6. Be a Special Immigrant

Examples of some of the people who may fit into this category and apply for permanent residence are foreign medical graduates, former employees of the US Armed Forces, religious workers, employees of international broadcasting companies.

7. Be an Investor

If you are prepared to invest in a commercial enterprise and create jobs in the US, you may be able to apply for a green card. At the time of writing, the rules state that you need to invest at least $500,000 to be considered for eligibility ($1000,000 if you are not investing in a targeted employment area).

US Embassy in London.  The old embassy in Grosvener Square will soon be moved to a specially built, state-of-the-art building in another part of London.  The move is partly due to modernization and partly because of the threat of terrorism.
US Embassy in London. The old embassy in Grosvener Square will soon be moved to a specially built, state-of-the-art building in another part of London. The move is partly due to modernization and partly because of the threat of terrorism. | Source

8. Be a Diplomat

If you are a diplomat who fears returning to his or her home country because of the threat of persecution, then you might be eligible to apply for a green card.

9. Be Adopted

If you are a child aged under 16 and you are adopted by a US citizen or green card holder, you can apply for permanent residence status.

10. Be a Continuous Resident

If you are a foreign national who has resided in the USA continuously since January, 1972, then you might be able to obtain a green card.

The western front of the U.S. Capitol, meeting place for the Congress. The building was designated a  National Historic Landmark in 1960 and is located in Washington, D.C.
The western front of the U.S. Capitol, meeting place for the Congress. The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and is located in Washington, D.C. | Source

11. Through a Private Bill

If you are a foreign national and the USCIS cannot grant you permanent residence status, then congress can pass a private bill, if they believe that there are strong humanitarian reasons to do so.

“The truth is, immigrants tend to be more American than people born here.”

— Chuck Palahniuk, Choke

Why is it called a "Green Card"?

The identification card attesting the holder to be an alien with permanent residency status in the United States became known informally as a green card because it was green in color from 1946 until 1964.

It changed color for a time in the second half of the twentieth century, but then went back to being green on May 11, 2010.

© 2011 Paul Goodman

Comments

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    • profile image

      massa 

      5 weeks ago

      I need green card

    • profile image

      susan 

      4 years ago

      How can I help my boyfriend/ baby's father a visa to live here in the USA with me and our daughter in South Carolina?

    • PaulGoodman67 profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Goodman 

      6 years ago from Florida USA

      I have actually been through the K1 Fiancé Visa process myself and wrote a blog about getting the visa and then the Adjustment of Status (link below).

      http://myk1fiancevisaexperience.blogspot.com/

    • profile image

      Danjenell 

      6 years ago

      Hi,

      do you know what are the requiremets for adjustment of status of a k1 and k2 holder?

    • profile image

      francis5k 

      7 years ago

      interesting blog!

    • PaulGoodman67 profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Goodman 

      7 years ago from Florida USA

      Diplomats can apply under Section 13 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The conditions of eigibility are here: http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.eb...

    • profile image

      Mirmen 

      7 years ago

      Hi. i wanted to ask if it was possible for a diplomat to get a permanent resident card.

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