Getting a Green Card in the U.S.: An Overview
Who needs a green card? What is the process for getting a green card? What green card laws do I need to know? We answer all of these questions related to getting a green card in the United States in this blog post.
Who Needs a Green Card?
The best way to answer the question of “who needs a Green Card in the United States” is to look at what a Green Card does. A Green Card is officially called a “Lawful Permanent Resident Card” or “Form I-551,” and was named long ago for its color. It grants the holder the unrestricted right to live and work in the U.S., along with other rights.
Green Card holders are “Lawful Permanent Residents” or “LPRs” of the United States, so designated by the federal U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). No state can take away this status, and an LPR may live, work, study, travel in and out of freely, and apply for full U.S. citizenship after three to five years of having a Green Card.
Green Card Application Process
There are several pathways to obtaining a Green Card in the United States. These include:
- Having a relative or relatives in the United States
- Possessing skills that could be a valuable addition to a United States employer
- Eligibility for the “Green Card Lottery”
Green Cards can be granted for family reunifications, particularly for nuclear families of at least one U.S. citizen. Anyone who is a spouse, unmarried child under the age of 21, or parent of a U.S. citizen at least 21 years old belongs to an “Immediate Category” of the relative. This individual may be eligible to receive a Green Card within three to eighteen months, depending on the applicant’s age. For family members of Lawful Permanent Residents or LPRs (rather than U.S. citizens), the processing time for a Green Card varies widely, from as little as several months to as long as fifteen years.
Another possibility for a Green Card is through the workplace, in one of the following categories:
- Extraordinary ability (EB-1A)
- Outstanding professors and researchers, managers and executives (EB-1B)
- Advanced degree, exceptional ability (EB-2)
- Skilled workers, professionals and other workers (EB-3)
- Special immigrant and religious workers (EB-4)
- Investors (EB-5)
The pathway of investor in a U.S. company is a fast-tracked but pricey one, requiring an investment of $900,000 in a rural economy or underserved market or a $1.8 million investment in all other cases.
The Green Card Lottery, officially titled the Diversity Visa Program, is a Congressionally-mandated program allowing up to 55,000 immigrants per year from historically under-represented countries to migrate to the United States. The U.S. Congress created the program to diversify the inflow of immigrants to the U.S. This purpose necessarily subjects the program to changing conditions, based upon which countries of origin send greater numbers of immigrants at different times in history. An applicant for the Green Card Lottery must have a minimum of a high school education equivalency and two years of work experience. The paperwork process can be lengthy, so the Lottery is best entered with the help of a qualified immigration attorney.
Texas Green Card Laws
As legal immigration status is within the purview of the federal Congress, Texas as a state has no specific Green Card laws. However, while Texas does not create or issue Green Cards, the state may require proof of a Green Card by law enforcement under various circumstances. In fact, once a person obtains a Green Card, they are required to carry the card at all times or face up to thirty days of imprisonment and a $100 fine for failing to do so, in addition to any other penalties associated with the alleged crime or offense.
To help immigrants living and working in Texas better understand the state’s role in Green Card laws, the Texas State Law Library maintains a website of information located here.
Finding the Best Immigration Attorney for Green Cards in Houston, Texas
Whether you or a loved one needs help regarding a Green Card, you will need a Houston immigration attorney with specific experience with immigration law and who has the right knowledge and resources to help you. Contact the attorneys at Lamb & Turner PLLC today through our website or phone at (713)-529-5025 to discuss your concerns. Se habla español.