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Old 11-10-2019, 07:54 PM   #1
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Default HOW TO GET A GREEN CARD 2019-2020



Lawful permanent residents (LPRs), also known as “Green Card” holders, are non-citizens of the United States who are lawfully authorized to live permanently within the U.S. LPRs may accept an offer of employment without special restrictions, own property, receive financial assistance at public colleges and universities, and join the Armed Forces. They also may apply to become U.S. citizens if they meet certain eligibility requirements.

The United States offers several ways to become a Lawful Permanent Resident (Green Card holder). Most individuals are sponsored by a family member or employer in the United States. Other individuals may become permanent residents through refugee or asylee status or other humanitarian programs. In some cases, you may be eligible to file for yourself.
The steps to become a permanent resident are different for each category and will depend on if you are currently living inside or outside the United States. The main categories are: Green card through family, green card through a job and green card through refugee or asylum status.

Note: The U.S. agency in charge of approving green card petitions and applications used to be called the Immigration and Naturalization Service or INS. However, in 2003, in the wake of the September 11, 2001 (“9-11”) terrorist attack, all INS enforcement and service functions and responsibilities were consolidated into a new government department named the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the INS was eliminated. DHS has a separate divisions for its various functions such as green card and other benefits applications, customs and border protection, and criminal and civil enforcement of federal immigration laws. The division in charge of benefits adjudications is named U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS.


Let's start with the basics. In terms of whether you're allowed to live in the U.S. or not, there are four legal statuses that you can have:
You can just be an outright foreigner with no right to come to this country.
You can obtain a visa that allows you to spend a finite amount of time here, usually for a discrete purpose.

You can become a permanent resident, which allows you to live here indefinitely with many, but not all, of the rights of a U.S. citizen.
You can be a U.S. citizen.

If you think you may fall into the fourth category (U.S. citizen) but are unsure, we applaud your cautiousness. U.S. citizenship is not always as simple a question to answer as people assume. For more information about the different pathways to U.S. citizenship, see

If you fall into the first category, you'll need to get a*visa*before you start worrying about anything else. There are two types of visa to the U.S.: temporary (or nonimmigrant) and permanent (or immigrant). Often, a foreign national enters on a temporary visa and later decides to pursue a permanent status.

This piece is focused on those foreigners who are in the second category - here on a temporary visa - who are hoping to get promoted to the third category: permanent residents. The "green card" is the importantly-titled government document that certifies your status as a permanent resident.

If your concern is that you want to get promoted from the third category to the fourth (i.e., you're a permanent resident who wants to become a U.S. citizen), this piece isn't for you. You've already got it good, with the main distinctions between green card holders and citizenship being that only citizens can vote, collect certain government benefits, spend long periods outside of the U.S., and never be deported. These benefits are worthwhile, but if you don't even have the green card yet, that should be your first priority.

There are a variety of ways to obtain a green card, but this piece will focus only on three of the most common: getting an employer to sponsor you, entering the diversity visa lottery, and marrying a U.S. citizen. Some of the methods that we do not cover include investing capital in a U.S. business and being a world-class performer. Please check elsewhere on this site.

Of the three ways to get a green card that we do discuss, getting your employer to sponsor you is perhaps the most involved and complex. That's why we'll start with it – the other processes are easier. But if you're already married or never win lotteries, this may be the best option for you. We should warn you though, you're going to need an employer who is willing to sponsor you.

The employer-sponsored green card process involves three separate steps: (1) obtaining an approved ETA-9089 application from the U.S. Department of Labor under the new PERM system; (2) obtaining approval of an I-140 petition; and (3) obtaining approval of the alien's (i.e., your) I-485 application (as well as I-485 applications for any of your dependents).
Each step serves a different purpose. Step 1 is designed to establish that the employer has recently recruited for the position on which your green card is being based and has been unable to find a qualified U.S. worker. It also establishes that the employer is offering the job at the required prevailing wage.

More specifically, Step 1 consists of the employer applying to the U.S. Department of Labor ("DOL") for a labor certification, which is an official finding that (1) no U.S. workers can be found, at the time of filing the application and in the geographic area where the job exists, who are available, willing, and able to fill the position; and (2) that your employment will not "adversely affect" the wages and working conditions of similarly situated U.S. workers. Obviously, the government isn't interested in giving you a green card if it's going to put Americans out of a job. Or if your employer is paying you half of what American citizens are getting - that's bad for business.

Step 2 establishes that you are qualified for the job being offered under one of the employment-based immigrant visa categories (EB-3 and EB-2 being the most common ones) and that the employer has the financial ability to pay the offered salary. Finally, Step 3 reviews the personal health, criminal history, immigration history, and other background information pertaining to you and each of the other green card applicants. Its purpose is to make sure each individual alien meets all legal requirements to obtain lawful permanent residence in the U.S.

Steps 1 and 2 are filed by the employer. Step 3 is filed by you and by each of your qualifying dependents. In terms of processing, steps 2 and 3 can be filed concurrently with the USCIS provided that an immigrant visa is available at that time to the alien under the U.S. visa quota system which restricts the number of employment-based visas given out each federal fiscal year. The visa availability changes each month and is reported in the Department of State's Visa Bulletin.
In terms of procedure, PERM requires a period of recruitment prior to filing of the application. The period can be as long as six months or as short as three months. For professional positions, PERM requires certain recruitment actions to be taken and documented within that time. These include: posting of the position for 10 consecutive business days on the employer's employee bulletin board and also in "any and all in-house media, whether electronic or printed, in accordance with the normal procedures used for the recruitment of similar positions in the employer's organization"; placing a job order for 30 days; placing an ad for the job on two different Sundays in the major newspaper serving the area; and, taking at least three of the following additional recruitment steps (only one of which may consist solely of activity that takes place within 30 days of the filing of the PERM application):
Posting the job on the employer's web site;
Advertising the job on a job search web site other than the employer's. (This can include a web site posting obtained in conjunction with a Sunday newspaper ad);
On-campus recruiting;
Advertising the job with trade or professional organizations;
Using private employment firms or placement agencies;
Employee referral program with incentives;
Campus placement offices;
Advertising the job in local and ethnic newspapers; and
Advertising the job on radio or TV.

Whatever the three steps chosen, the employer must carefully document each step according to DOL requirements. This means documenting the recruitment activity as it occurs - which is something most employers would not normally do.

PERM also requires a DOL prevailing wage determination for the job offered. The employer must now request the determination using DOL’s new FLAG system. See

Once the recruitment has been completed and the prevailing wage determination has been issued, the employer must timely submit its ETA-9089 PERM application to DOL electronically using the PERM portal at Use of the system requires prior registration by the employer.

DOL is supposed to adjudicate the PERM application within the processing times posted online at – at this writing, running about three months. However, PERM processing times change regularly and should be checked monthly.

Once the PERM application is approved, the employer can move on to the next step - Step 2 - of filing the I-140 petition with USCIS. As mentioned above, I-485 applications can also be concurrently filed for the alien and qualifying dependents if an employment-based visa is then currently available to the alien. There is a designated address to which concurrent filings should be sent. See
Also, Premium Processing Service is available for certain I-140 petitions whereby USCIS, for an additional filing fee payment, will provide a response to the petition within 15 calendar days of its receipt of the filing. Premium Processing is currently available for PERM-based I-140 petitions. For more information, see Unfortunately, however, Premium Processing is not available for any I-485 applications, even applications concurrently filed with a Premium Processed I-140 petition.

USCIS processing times for I-140 petitions and for I-485 applications vary month-to-month depending on where they are filed. These can be found at For example, at this writing, processing time for an I-140 petition filed with the Nebraska Service Center is 5.5 to 7.5 months, and for a concurrently filed I-485 application there, 19.5 to 38 months.


Moving from the most complex procedure to the easiest, let's go over the diversity visa lottery. Each federal fiscal year, the U.S. Department of State ("DOS") operates a program known as the Diversity Immigrant Lottery (or, the DV). Under this program, 55,000 green cards are issued to individuals from countries with historically low rates of U.S. immigration chosen randomly from a computer program. Each fall, the DOS announces a one-month registration period and the countries that are eligible to participate. If you are a native of one of these, you may send in your application for the lottery; at the conclusion of that period, the applications are logged into a computer and then names are pulled from the hat. If your name is chosen, congratulations, you get the lightening track to green card status. But don't start packing your bags yet because literally millions of people apply for those 55,000 spots.

The U.S. government does limit this lottery to a rather broad applicant pool. To be eligible, you must (1) be a native of a country that qualifies for the lottery, (2) have a high school education or its equivalent, defined by the government as "successful completion of a 12-year course of elementary and secondary education”; or (3) have two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience to perform. That's it.

Note that even if you were not born in an eligible country, there are two other ways you might be able to qualify:
Was your spouse born in a country whose natives are eligible? If yes, you can claim your spouse’s country of birth – provided that both you and your spouse are named on the selected entry, are found eligible and issued diversity visas, and enter the United States simultaneously.

Were you born in a country whose natives are ineligible, but in which neither of your parents was born or legally resident at the time of your birth? If yes, you may claim the country of birth of one of your parents if it is a country whose natives are eligible for the DV-2021 program.
Application Process

Now, if you're eligible, let's go over how to apply. You must submit your entry electronically at during the one-month registration period. Thereafter, you must check online to see if you have been selected (you will not be notified if you have not been selected).
You must provide all of the following information to complete your entry. Failure to accurately include all the required information will result in mandatory disqualification of your entry:

Name – last/family name, first name, middle name – exactly as it appears on your passport. If you have only one name, it must be entered in the last/family name field.
Gender – male or female.
Birth date – day, month, year.
City where you were born.
Country where you were born – Use the name of the country currently used for the place where you were born.
Country of eligibility for the DV program – Your country of eligibility will normally be the same as your country of birth. Your country of eligibility is not related to where you live or your nationality, if it is different from your country of birth. If you were born in a country that is not eligible, please review the Frequently Asked Questions to see if there is another way you may be eligible.

NEW FOR DV-2021: The passport number, country of issuance, and expiration date for the principal entrant’s valid, unexpired international travel passport. This requirement applies to the principal entrant only, not to dependents. You must enter valid international travel passport information unless you are stateless, a national of a Communist-controlled country and unable to obtain a passport from the government of the Communist-controlled country, or the beneficiary of an individual waiver approved by the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State.

Entrant photograph(s) – Recent photographs (taken within the last six months) of yourself, your spouse, and all your children. See Submitting a Digital Photograph for compositional and technical specifications: You do not need to include a photograph for a spouse or child who is already a U.S. citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident, but you will not be penalized if you do. DV entry photographs must meet the same standards as U.S. visa photos.

Two final points. First, there is just a one-month window in which to submit your online application, usually the month of October, but it could vary, so be sure to check out the DOS web site for each year's lottery. Second, your entry will also be disqualified or your visa application refused if the entry photographs for you and your family members do not fully meet the above photo specifications or have been manipulated in any way. Submitting the same photograph that was submitted with a prior year’s entry will result in disqualification.


If you are lucky enough to have fallen in love with and married a U.S. citizen (which includes same-sex marriages), your spouse can sponsor you for a green card as their “immediate relative”. Compared to employer sponsorship based on an offer of employment, the process is far simpler and faster. But do not fall into the trap of immigration fraud.

The first step is for your spouse to file a*Form I-130, "Petition for Alien Relative," with USCIS to demonstrate that you are eligible for an "immediate relative or family" sponsored immigrant visa classification. By way of background, U.S. immigration law favors close family relationships over more distant ones and therefore defines two groups of family-based immigrant visa categories: immediate relatives on the one hand and the family preference categories on the other.

Immediate relative (IR) visas are based on a close family relationship with a U.S. citizen and include, among others, the spouse of a U.S. citizen (IR-1), the unmarried minor child of a U.S. citizen (IR-2), and the parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old (IR-5). There are no annual quotas on the number of IR visas that can be issued.

The family preference visa types are for specific, more distant, family relationships with a U.S. citizen and some specified relationships with a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). There are annual fiscal year numerical limitations on the family preference immigrants as well as per-country restrictions for certain countries. If a visa cannot be issued immediately because the demand is greater than the supply of visas - which it frequently is - then your name is placed on a waiting list. For siblings or more distant relations, this list is years long. Note, too, that grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins cannot sponsor a relative for immigration.

If you are in the U.S. at the time your spouse files the I-130 petition to classify you as an immediate relative, you may also be able to concurrently apply for an adjustment of status - from nonimmigrant alien to lawful permanent resident - by filing*Form I-485, "Application for Status as Permanent Resident," with the appropriate USCIS office. That way, you can obtain a green card (i.e., adjust status) in the U.S. without having to be processed for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate abroad.

However, if you are outside of the U.S. or ineligible to file Form I-485 in the U.S. at the time the I-130 petition is filed, you will have to wait until the I-130 petition is approved and then submit a DS-260 immigrant visa application to the U.S. consulate having jurisdiction over your case. If your application is approved, the consulate will issue you an immigrant visa to use in entering the United States. Upon entry, you will hold the status of a lawful permanent resident and the green card itself will come to you a few weeks later in the mail.

Note that if you have been married to the U.S. citizen petitioner for less than two years at the time your I-485 or DS-260 application is approved, you will be issued a “conditional” green card valid for a period of two years. Ninety days prior to its expiration, you and your spouse will be required to file another form, called the I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, to update USCIS on the status of your marriage and to remove the conditions on your green card. Do not worry, though, if your marriage encounters legitimate problems and falls apart. You may still file Form I-751 without your spouse if they are deceased, you are divorced, or you and/or your conditional resident child were battered or subjected to extreme cruelty.

Finally, beware of marriage fraud. Given the complexity of employer green card sponsorship, the longshot odds of the diversity visa program, and the long waits in the family preference immigrant categories under U.S. immigration law, it comes as no surprise that fraudulent marriage to a U.S. citizen for the purpose of obtaining a green card remains a persistent practice and a continuing problem.

If you file an adjustment of status application, you and your spouse will be interviewed under oath by a USCIS examiner to determine the bona fides of your marriage. If you file an immigrant visa application, you will be interviewed under oath by a consular officer. Either way, these government personnel are expert at sniffing out marriage fraud of every kind – whether it be a U.S. citizen marrying you as a favor to you or as the quid pro quo for a cash payment, or a “gigolo” marriage where you use your U.S. citizen spouse to get a green card and then file for divorce.

Even if you and your spouse “practice being married” for weeks ahead of your interview, be forewarned. These government officials do hundreds of marriage interviews a year and know what to look for, what questions to ask, what to listen for in your answer and your tone of voice, and how to get you to break. In select cases, USCIS personnel may even do a “bed check” and physically visit the property where you and your spouse claim to be living. They are not dumb, so they'll be looking to make sure that you’re actually married and living with each other. Watch, for instance, the 1990 movie “Green Card” with Gerard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell to get some idea of how this works. But keep in mind that this pleasant, humorous Hollywood version of the green card interview and vetting process does not represent current-day, real-life USCIS practices, which are sophisticated, thorough, and very effective in rooting out fraud.

Aside from resulting in the denial of your green card, in your deportation, and in a permanent bar against your ever entering the United States, marriage fraud is a federal crime punishable by fines and imprisonment. Therefore, do not be tempted.
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