While the intent of a green card is always the same (establishing permanent residency in the U.S.), the routes to obtain a green card are multiple and varied. The type of green card available to a specific immigrant is determined by which of the many avenues that person takes to come to live in the U.S. Let's look at the main categories in more detail.
The most immediate avenue for entry to the U.S. and obtaining a green card is being related to a citizen of the United States. Immediate relative visas are granted to the spouses, unmarried children under age 21, and the parents of a U.S. citizen who is over the age of 21.
Another avenue is being part of a "family preference category." This covers other family members of U.S. citizens, such as unmarried children over 21, married children of any age as well as brothers and sisters. Lawful permanent residents (green card holders) can petition for some family members, but not married adult children or siblings, etc. Typically a lawful permanent resident can bring spouses and minor children to the United States. Congress limits the number of people who immigrate under this category and there can be a substantial waiting period before entry.
An employer can make a job offer to a foreign national and petition the U.S. government to grant permanent residency status. Another avenue is for a foreign national to make a substantial investment in an enterprise that creates U.S. jobs.
Certain job categories qualify certain individuals for a green card for past or current employment. There are jobs that require specialized training to come to the United States and there are also opportunities for individuals with little education but a strong background in a particular field. These categories are based on need in the American economy.
Refugee or Asylum Status
Refugees and asylees are both eligible to petition for a green card.
Refugees are people who come from outside the U.S. and who present a particular humanitarian concern. They may have been persecuted because of race, religion, nationality, or political opinion. They may not have settled permanently in another country and must be eligible for admission to the U.S. Refugees must petition for a green card after one year of being in the country.
Asylees are a sub-category of refugee. They meet all the refugee criteria except for one. Asylees are people already in the U.S. They must petition for asylum within one year of arrival. If asylum status is approved, the asylee can petition for a green card after one year.
These are just the main categories for someone to gain permanent residency in the U.S. If you are seeking a green card, you need to speak with someone who knows immigration law intimately. Attorney Cindy Goodman at Stockard, Johnston, Brown & Netardus, P.C. in Amarillo, Texas can help.