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How Do I Get a Green Card in the U.S.?

Whether you’re already living in the United States or seeking to emigrate here, you may be eligible to get a green card. A “green card” is a photo ID that proves your legal right to live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis. It’s officially called a “Permanent Resident Card,” and it’s an important first step towards applying for full citizenship.

Once you begin the green card application process, you may feel incredibly overwhelmed by all the questions, forms, and requirements. With the help of our Tampa green card attorney, you may be able to increase your chances of securing this crucial documentation and becoming a permanent U.S. resident.

What Is a Green Card?

Green Card vs. Permanent Resident

A green card holder is the same thing as a permanent resident. In order to become a permanent resident, you must simply meet the qualifications as defined by U.S. Customs and Immigration Services. Once you have your green card ID, you will need to carry that document on your person at all times, or you can be charged with a misdemeanor offense.

Green Card vs. Citizenship

Although your green card status will give you many benefits, full U.S. citizenship comes with far more rights and privileges. Unlike a green card holder, U.S. citizens are allowed to vote in national, state, and local elections, apply for government funding and educational assistance, and pay reduced taxes. In order to become a U.S. citizen, you will need to live in the U.S. and hold a valid green card for at least 5 more years.

Green Card vs. Visa

The main difference between a green card and a visa is that the latter is temporary. When you’re approved for a visa of any type, there will be a definitive time limit to your stay. However, a green card holder can stay in the U.S. for as long as desired after getting approved. Green card holders can only be forced to leave if they violate the terms of their residency, or receive a criminal conviction.

How to Get a Green Card

In order to receive a green card, you must apply to your local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office using the correct form, called Form I-485. You will also need to meet a series of specific legal requirements. Of course, these requirements differ dramatically depending on your current legal status in the country, your reason for application, and the method by which you will apply.

Here are the main methods of obtaining a green card in the U.S.:

  • Family relationships. If you are a relative of a current U.S. citizen, such as a parent, spouse, or older child, you may be able to apply for a green card. Fiancé(e)s may also be eligible to apply, depending on immigration status.
  • Employment. Many people apply for a green card by means of their employment. There are several different categories of workers who may be eligible, with first preference given to those with “exceptional abilities” in an academic or business setting, and last preference to unskilled workers needing less than two years of training.
  • Abuse, human trafficking, or crime victims. Provided that you meet the immigration requirements listed on the USCIS website, victims of human trafficking, domestic violence under VAWA (Violence Against Women Act), and other crimes can apply for a green card.
  • Refugee or asylee status. If you were admitted as either a refugee or an asylum seeker at least one year ago, you could be eligible for a green card.

There are many other scenarios where you could be considered eligible for a green card, ranging from religious work for a nonprofit, to selection from the “Green Card Lottery,” or Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. To confirm that you’re really eligible, it’s recommended that you work with a skilled immigration lawyer who can help you decipher all the rules and requirements.

Plantation Green Card Lawyers with 20+ Years Experience

Do you believe that you qualify for a green card? At Gardiner Immigration, P.A, our Tampa green card attorney Grace Gardiner focuses almost exclusively on immigration cases and has a deep understanding of the legal requirements for residency. When you secure her help, she can help you navigate the immigration system and ensure that your application runs smoothly.

Contact us at (813) 750-0779 to get started on your green card application!