Green Cards

At the Immigration Law Offices of Noelle Sharp we work with our clients to develop the most efficient path to permanent residence.  The permanent residence process generally consists of three general stages: (i) labor certification; (ii) immigrant petition on behalf of the foreign national worker; and (iii) adjustment of status. Depending upon the job and the foreign national’s credentials, some mix of these three stages will form the backbone of the process for a particular foreign national worker.  In the meantime, we help obtain and maintain temporary status and interim work and travel authorization, and seek expedited processing where needed.  We apply for waivers and other relief when needed. Our immigration attorney will defend permanent residents in removal and other proceedings.

Categories of people who can apply for a green card, to make their home in the U.S.

A green card identifies its holder as a U.S. permanent resident, with rights to enter, exit, work, and live here for their entire life. But before you think about applying, make sure you're eligible under one of the following categories.

1. Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens

 Immediate relatives include:

  • spouses of U.S. citizens, including recent widows and widowers

  • unmarried people under age 21 with at least one U.S. citizen parent

  • parents of U.S. citizens, if the U.S. citizen child is at least age 21

  • stepchildren and stepparents of U.S. citizens, if the marriage creating the stepparent/stepchild relationship took place before the child's 18th birthday, and

  • adopted children of U.S, if the adoption took place before the child reached age 16.

 An unlimited number of green cards are available for immediate relatives whose U.S. citizen relatives petition for them -- applicants can get a green card as soon as they get through the paperwork and application process.

2. Other Family Members

 Certain family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents are also eligible for green cards -- but not right away. They fall into the "preference categories" listed below, meaning that only a certain number of them will receive green cards each year (480,000). The system is first come, first served -- the earlier the U.S. citizen or permanent resident turns in a visa petition, the sooner the immigrant can apply for a green card. The waits range from approximately three to 24 years in the family preference categories, which include:

  • Family First Preference. Unmarried adults, age 21 or older, who have at least one U.S. citizen parent.

  • Family Second Preference. Section 2A: Spouses and unmarried children of a green card holder, so long as the children are younger than age 21. Section 2B: Unmarried children age 21 or older of a green card holder. 

  • Family Third Preference. Married people, any age, who have at least one U.S. citizen parent. 

  • Family Fourth Preference. Sisters and brothers of U.S. citizens, where the citizen is age 21 or older.

3. Preferred Employees and Workers

 A total of 140,000 green cards are offered each year to people whose job skills are needed in the U.S. market. In most cases, a job offer is also required, and the employer must prove that it has recruited for the job and not found any willing, able, qualified U.S. citizens or residents to hire instead of the immigrant. Because of annual limits, this is a "preference category," and applicants often wait years for an available green card. Here are the subcategories:

 Employment First Preference. Priority workers, including:

  • persons of extraordinary ability in the arts, the sciences, education, business, or athletics

  • outstanding professors and researchers, and

  • managers and executives of multinational companies.

 Employment Second Preference. Professionals with advanced degrees or exceptional ability.

 Employment Third Preference. Professionals and skilled or unskilled

 The law allows certain people who have lived illegally in the United States for more than ten years to request permanent residence, usually as a defense in immigration court proceedings. You must also show that your spouse, parent, or children -- who must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents -- would face "extraordinary and exceptionally unusual hardship" if you were forced to leave. Consult a lawyer if you think you qualify. Do not go straight to USCIS -- you could cause your own deportation.

 Another remedy called "registry" allows people who have lived in the United States continuously since January 1, 1972 to apply for a green card. You'll need to show that you have good moral character and are not inadmissible. Your stay in the United States need not have been illegal -- time spent on a visa counts.

 9. Special Cases

 Individual members of the U.S. Congress have, on occasion, intervened for humanitarian reasons in extraordinary cases, helping someone get permanent residence even if the law would not allow it.