Who Can Apply for a Green Card

There are eight main categories of people who qualify for permanent residency.  No matter what avenue you take,  you need to be eligible for a green card under the law, known as the Immigration and Nationality Act, and moreover you need to be “admissible” to the United States of America.

Remember: if you don’t see that you easily fit into one of these categories, it’s worth contacting a top immigration lawyer who may have access to ways to help you that aren’t listed here.

The eight main categories of people who can apply for a green card are:

1) People who are sponsored by a relative, or family-based immigration

2) People who are sponsored through their work, or employment-based immigration.

3) Refugees, winners of political asylum status can apply.

4) People selected for the visa lottery are candidates for green cards.

5) Victims of Violence such as VAWA and U Visa holders

6) Religious workers

7) Since the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, people who need protection from human trafficking may apply and be protected . For more information read my blog post on the T Visa

8)A handful of other, rarer options including Cuban Adjustment Act as well as investment based green cards.

The first three categories are the most common.

Family immigration

Certain relatives of United States citizens – called immediate relatives – are not placed on waiting lists with annual limits on how many green cards are available. Immediate relatives include:

  • Parents of a United States citizen over age 21
  • Husbands and wives of United States citizens
  • Unmarried children under age 21 of United States citizens

Other relatives of United States citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents are placed in categories which require them to wait for a green card, sometimes for very lengthy periods.

Employment-based immigration    

If you seek a green card through an employment offer, you can either be eligible immediately if you are in the most elite categories of skill and accomplishments in your field, or wait longer periods of time in other job classifications.

Refugees and Political Asylum                    

Those people who apply for green cards in this area – in which the United States affords protection from persecution in other countries – typically wait one year to file for green cards after a grant of such protection.

Remember that getting a green card is never guaranteed, no matter what category you fall into. Contacting a top immigration lawyer is the best way to ensure your success in applying for permanent residency in the US.


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.

Do you have a question about Immigration in General?

Call us anytime at 973.642.1111 or email us using the form below.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.