6 Ways to Get a Green Card

People always want to know, when they call, email and ultimately consult with our immigration firm:

“Mr. York, how do I get a green card?”

So let’s look at some numbers.

For example, in 2011, a little more than 1 million people became Green Card holders, also known as permanent residents.

Here’s a rough breakdown of how it happens.

1 Family. About 750 000 annually, based on a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office. The latest development in this area is the addition of same sex marriages between US citizens and immigrants.  Green cards through marriage are very common, of course.

2 Employment. The same report says 143 000 per year. At one time – not that long ago – we did more of these cases for manual and domestic workers. Today most labor based green cards involve immigration based on highly skilled occupations.

3 Diversity Visa Lottery.
Apply. Win. Meet criteria.
50,000 maximum allowed per year.
Many nations are excluded.
We have several such cases in progress as I write this blog post.

4 Asylum. There used to be a limit but not anymore. Still, it is not easy. When I started out in the mid 90s, almost nine out of ten of the asylum requests in the US Immigration Courts were denied. Fast forward to the current era and about half of the requests are winners nationwide. In our office we do significantly better. But most folks are not candidates for this relief.

5 Cancellation of Removal. Only 4000 grants are allowed annually, which must be in Immigration Court, when fighting deportation. This area is reserved for immigrants with ten years’ physical presence, good moral character, and exceptional and unusual hardship to US citizen or green card holder children, parents and/or spouses.

6 Self Petitions. Victims of violence such as U visa holders and battered spouses can apply for green cards. Additionally beneficiaries of self-petitions such as widows and widowers of US citizens, as well as Special Immigrant Juveniles and Amerasians, are eligible to ask for permanent residence.

The above six categories are not exhaustive.

See EB-5 for example – as many as 10,000 investors of half a million or one million dollars in American businesses (with certain other conditions) acquire their green cards this way.

When I appeared on the CBS National TV News, I discussed the EB-5 program and the issue of needing a great deal of capital to qualify.

In the near future, Immigration Reform may pass.

That would be a very nice 7th category to add to the above list.

Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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