The US Green Card program is a unique one. They are also considered to be a type of immigrant visas and thus are often confused with visas. There is a marked difference between the two. Visas are issued to immigrants for a specific time period.
Depending on the type of visa they hold, immigrants can travel, study and hold certain job positions in the United States. With a Green Card, they will be recognized as permanent citizens of the USA. This allows them to enjoy all the benefits of US citizenship without giving up their native citizenship.
Here is everything you ever wanted to know about the US Green Card program:
Benefits of US Green Card Program
As mentioned above, Green Card holders are considered permanent residents of the USA and can enjoy all the benefits of US citizenship. This includes:
- The ability to sponsor family-based Green Cards for their spouse, unmarried children and parents
- The ability to sponsor the cards for their married children and siblings in the preference family category
- Easier traveling in and out of America
- Visa-free travel to certain countries including Canada, Mexico, Cayman Islands and Costa Rica
- Considerably lower college and university tuition fees as compared to fees for visa holders
- The ability to claim ‘in-state’ status while applying for children’s education
- Eligibility for financial aid
- More job opportunities
- Lesser paperwork for renewal of Green Cards
- Eligibility for Social Security after having worked for a certain time period
The green card is also an important step towards US citizenship.
The US Green Card Program – Types and How to Apply
There are many different ways in which one may apply. The best route for you depends on a number of factors including your native country, relation to relatives in America, disposable income, employment status etc. The different categories under which an individual can apply for are:
Immigrants married to US citizens are given first preference for family-based Green Cards. If you are not yet married but engaged to a US citizen, you may enter the country on a K-1 visa and later adjust status to become a Green Card holder. US citizens may also sponsor Green Cards for their married and unmarried children, parents and siblings.
Similarly, if you are married to a Green Card holder or have a child who holds a Green Card, you may also apply for a family-based Green Card. However, it is important to remember that the number of applicants in this category is usually much higher than the number of Green Cards awarded.
You can work in the USA on a work visa but having a Green Card opens up a wider job market. If you have a full-time job offer from a US employer, your employer may sponsor your Green Card application. Each year, up to 1,40,000 Green Cards are issued in this category.
Not all applicants are given equal preference. Individuals with extraordinary abilities, managers or executives of US companies and distinguished researchers/ professors get first priority. If you have an advanced degree, you will get second priority. Skilled and unskilled workers get third preference.
The country you belong to can also play a deciding role in how to apply for a Green Card. If your country is underrepresented in the United States, i.e.it has sent less than 50,000 people to the USA in the last 5 years, you can apply for a Green Card through the diversity lottery system.
Each year a list is drawn up of the countries that are eligible for this lottery. The 2018 list excludes 18 countries including India, Pakistan, China, Canada, Bangladesh, and Brazil. The other qualifying condition for this lottery is the completion of the equivalent of a US high school education or 2 years work experience in certain job categories.
Investment Green Cards
Entrepreneurs who can invest $5,00,000 in backward segments of the US economy of $10,00,000 in any new or restructured US company are eligible for the EB-5 Visa category. Investors do not need to have active control of the company but should have an active role in it and should have obtained the investment money through legal means.
For high net worth individuals, this is the best way to apply for a Green Card as the number of applicants is always lower than the number of Green Cards issued.
Green Cards for Refugees
If you fear being persecuted in your home country on account of your religious beliefs, nationality, political views or race, you may apply for refugee status or asylum in the US. Such individuals may then apply for a Green Card after staying in the US for a year.
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