Gaining permanent residency, also known as getting a green card, in the United States is not always easy. Yet, it is the dream many immigrants have when they enter U.S. borders. Permanent residency status offers a person the right to live and work in the U.S. permanently, so long as they obey certain rules and requirements. Getting a green card can come in many ways. Let's see how a person can get started with the process.
Are You Green Card Eligible?
The first step in obtaining a green card is eligibility. There are four general criteria:
- Fall into an applicant category. This category can come from being related to a citizen or permanent resident. It can come due to a job. It can be based on refugee status. It can be based on a number of other factors.
- Have an immigrant petition filed and approved. The petition identifies what immigrant status the person is claiming.
- Have an immigrant visa. Visas for spouses, parents, and minor children of U.S. citizens are generally available immediately. Other immigrants must wait for a visa to become available based on priority, immigrant status and country of origin.
- Be admissible to the U.S. Some people are not allowed to enter the U.S. and thus cannot seek a green card. The reasons include issues with security, criminal history, and health problems, and with past immigration violations.
What If You Are Eligible?
If you believe you are eligible to apply for permanent residency, what needs to happen next? Once your I-130 or I-140 petition is approved, you would need to file Form I-485, the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This application can sometimes be filed concurrently with an I-130 petition.
Filing this form is the last application before gaining permanent residency. The Form must be accompanied by appropriate documentation and evidence. This information contained in this form is the basis on which USCIS (a government agency) determines if you are eligible or not.
You will also need to appear to provide a picture and your signature, as well as your fingerprints. This information is used to perform security checks to ensure you are eligible for entry to the U.S. and for permanent residency.
In many cases, the person seeking a green card will have to go through an interview process. This interview can happen several weeks or months after submitting the green card application. The questions asked in the interview will vary based on the particular situation. Answering in a straightforward, honest manner is the best option, as evasive or incorrect answers will lead to a denial of your application.
Most likely, you will receive the application approval or denial at the interview. However, if background checks are not completed or if evidence is missing, it may take a bit longer. Sometimes the interviewing officer will mail the decision if supervisor approval is needed.
The best approach to filing for a green card is to have an expert on hand to help with the application and interview. Call on immigration attorney Cindy Goodman at Stockard, Johnston, Brown & Netardus, P.C. in Amarillo, Texas.