The 11 Ways to get a Green Card
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.
- Have Exceptional Skills
- Be a Refugee
- Be a Relative of a US Citizen
- Be an Asylum Seeker
- Win the Green Card Lottery
- Be a Special Immigrant
- Be an Investor
- Be a Diplomat
- Be Adopted
- Be a Continuous Resident
- 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.
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).
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.
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.
- "New Design: The Green Card Goes Green". USCIS official blog. 2010-05-11.
- "Employment-Based Visas". US Department of State.
- "USCIS – Our History". Uscis.gov.
- I am a Permanent Resident. How Do I Help My Relative Become a U.S. Permanent Resident? USCIS
- "Annual Green Card Winner Stats"
© 2011 Paul Goodman