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Obtaining a Green Card

What is a green card?

A green card gives you the right to live and work anywhere in the U.S., leave and re-enter the U.S. at any time, and the opportunity to become a U.S. citizen.

What are the different ways to obtain a green card?

There are several ways for an alien to obtain a green card or become a permanent resident: through family, work, making significant investments, or qualifying under one of the special immigrant classifications.


Congress has made it somewhat easier for family members to be reunited with their relatives who are American citizens or lawful permanent residents through the following means:

  1. If you are the spouse, child, brother or sister, parent, or fiancé of an American citizen, you can become a lawful permanent resident if the person to whom you're related or engaged files a petition with the USCIS or the American embassy of your country of residence.

  2. If you are the spouse or unmarried child of a lawful permanent resident, you can obtain a green card if the relative who has the Green Card files a petition with the USCIS or American embassy of your country of residence.

However, other relatives are not eligible for these benefits.  If you are the aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, cousin, grandmother, or grandfather of an American citizen; or if you are the brother, sister, parent, or fiancé of someone who holds a Green Card; you DO NOT qualify for a Green Card based on a "family relationship".

You may visit our on-line library entry about family-based immigration for more information.


If you are not eligible for family-based sponsorship (or even if you are), you may still be able to obtain a Green Card on the basis of your work, either as a priority or non-priority worker.

  1. Priority Workers

Priority workers (also known as EB-1) are people who possess skills that are considered in short supply or especially needed in the U.S. Priority workers include people with extraordinary ability, outstanding researchers and professors, and multinational executives and managers. These highly skilled workers are exempt from undergoing the Labor Certification Process, which is a lengthy process that tests the local U.S. job market and protects U.S. workers' interests.

You may visit our on-line library entry about priority workers/EB-1 for more information.

  1. Non-Priority Workers

This is a broad classification that includes individuals with graduate degrees, professionals without graduate degrees, as well as skilled and unskilled workers. Generally, non-priority workers are required to complete the Labor Certification Process to ensure that the vacant position cannot be satisfactorily filled by a U.S. worker. The exception to this rule involves National Interest Waivers (NIWs).

You may visit our on-line library entry about NIWs for more information.

You may visit our on-line library entry about Labor Certifications for more information.

You may visit our on-line library entry about employment-based immigration for more information.


An alien entrepreneur from any country who invests from $500K to $1 Million USD in a new business and employs at least ten (10) American citizens or lawful permanent residents is eligible for a Green Card. This category allows for 10,000 immigrant visas per year to be issued and was designed to stimulate overseas investment and employment.

You may visit our on-line library entry about investment-based immigration for more information.

Special Immigrant-Based

Certain immigrants qualify as designated special immigrants, including: religious workers, medical doctors, certain former government and military officials, and retired international organization officials. In addition, certain groups are granted the right to immigrate to the U.S. or are given amnesty.


Individuals who have suffered past persecution and/or have a well-founded fear of future persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group in his/her home country, are eligible to apply for a Green Card. For more information about Asylum, please click here.

For more information, please browse the other sections of our Immigration Library.

For more information about attorney's fees, please click here.

(Updated 10/10/12 by NT)

For more information about Road to Green Card, please click the following topics: