Everything You Need to Know About Green Card Categories


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Discover the different green card categories. The Law Office of Tatiane M. Silva, P.A. can guide you through the entire process. Get in touch for expert legal advice today.

Becoming a U.S. Permanent Resident

Are you a foreign national who wants to permanently live in the United States as a lawful permanent resident? You may be eligible for a green card based on your family relationship with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, employment, or other special circumstances.

Every year, the U.S. grants nearly a million green cards to foreign nationals from around the world. While the majority are family-based green cards, employment, diversity visa lottery, humanitarian, and other green card categories are also common paths to obtaining permanent residency in the U.S.

If you are planning on moving to the U.S., this guide will explain everything you need to know about the available green card categories and how you can apply for one. If you have more questions, our attorneys at The Law Office of Tatiane M. Silva, P.A. are happy to help.

Types of Green Card Categories

There are many types of green card categories, but the most common are:

Family-Based Green Cards:

1. Immediate Relatives

Immediate family members of U.S. citizens, namely spouses, minor children under 21, and parents, can apply for the following visas:

  • IR-1: Spouses of U.S citizens
  • IR-2: Unmarried children under 21 years old of U.S citizens
  • IR-3: Children adopted abroad by U.S citizens
  • IR-4: Children adopted within the U.S by U.S citizens
  • IR-5: Parents of U.S citizens who are at least 21 years old

2. Family preference

Other family members of U.S. citizens and spouses and unmarried children of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) are eligible for the following family preference visas:

  • F1: Unmarried children 21 years old and above of U.S. citizens

  • F2A: Spouses and unmarried children under 21 of LPRs

  • F2B: Unmarried children 21 years of age and above of LPRs

  • F3: Married children of U.S. citizens

  • F4: Siblings of adult U.S. citizens

Employment-Based Green Cards

Qualified foreign nationals can become LPRs by applying for the following employment-based immigrant visas:

  • EB-1: Priority workers, including

    • Foreigners with exceptional ability in arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics

    • Outstanding professors and researchers

    • Multinational managers and executives

  • EB-2: Foreign professionals with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities

  • EB-3: Skilled workers, professionals, and other workers

  • EB-4: Special immigrants, such as religious workers

  • EB-5: Foreign investors

Diversity Green Cards

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program or Visa Lottery is an immigration initiative that randomly awards up to 55,000 green cards to foreign nationals from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the U.S.

Here’s how the DV lottery program differs from other green card paths:

  • It does not require an immediate relative or employment sponsor

  • You don’t need to meet extraordinary work/study requirements, although you must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent or a two-year work experience.

  • It doesn’t require any investment, humanitarian reasons, or special circumstances.

  • It does not have a country-based annual limit or quota, although a regional limit of 7% for each continent applies.

Refugee and Asylum Green Cards

Foreigners who have been granted asylee or refugee status in the U.S. can apply for a green card through adjustment of status after one year. To qualify for a humanitarian green card, you need to meet the following requirements:

  • You must not have abandoned your refugee or asylum status by returning to your home country or acquiring another nationality.

  • You must not have had your refugee or asylum status terminated by the U.S. government for any reason.

  • You must not be inadmissible to the U.S. on any grounds. These include criminal history, health issues, or immigration violations. If you are inadmissible, you may need to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility.

  • You must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, along with the required documents and fees.

Returning-Resident Green Cards

Returning resident immigrant visas (SB1) are available for green card holders who have stayed outside the U.S. for more than one year or were unable to return within the two-year validity period of re-entry permits.

How to Apply for a Green Card

The green card process is fairly straightforward, but it’s lengthy and requires plenty of preparation. Here’s a step-by-step guide to applying for a green card and obtaining lawful permanent resident status:

  1. Determine eligibility: Find out if you meet the requirements for a green card you are applying for.
  2. File an immigrant petition (if applicable): If you are applying for a family or employment-based green card, your sponsor must file an immigrant petition on your behalf with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A citizen or LPR relative must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, whereas an employer must file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. Some green card categories allow you to file for yourself.
  3. Wait for visa availability (if applicable): Depending on your green card category and preference level, you may need to wait for an immigrant visa number to be available before you can apply for a green card through consular processing or adjustment of status.
  4. Go through consular processing (if you are outside the U.S.): Green card applicants who are currently abroad must submit their visa applications with the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country.
  5. File Form I-485 (if you are in the U.S.): File Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, with the USCIS by mail to the appropriate Direct Filing Address.
  6. Attend the biometrics appointment: The USCIS will send you a notice to attend a biometrics appointment at a local office. They will take your fingerprints and photographs to verify your identity and conduct background checks.
  7. Attend the interview (if applicable): The USCIS will schedule you for an interview to confirm your eligibility and review the information you included in your application and supporting documents. You should bring all the required documents and evidence with you to the interview.
  8. Receive a decision: If your green card application is approved, you will receive a notice of approval and your green card will be mailed within a few weeks. If denied, you will receive a notice explaining the reasons for denial and your options to appeal or reapply.

The Law Office of Tatiane M. Silva, P.A. Are Here for You

The green card application process is challenging and overwhelming, but becoming a green card holder is definitely worth it. Consider working with an immigration attorney to get all the help you need for a successful application.

Dedicated and passionate attorneys at The Law Office of Tatiane M. Silva, P.A. have been helping foreign nationals become green card holders for years and can help you, too. No matter your situation, we can work with you to find workable solutions and get you the favorable results you anticipate. We assist you throughout the process, from determining eligibility to your USCIS interview. We can also help you appeal an unfavorable decision or replace your green card if it contains errors.

Contact us today to schedule your free consultation!


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