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Qualifying for a Permanent Visa

Permanent Residency Status in the United States

Qualifying for a Permanent VisaForeign national who want to move permanently to the United States must apply for and be granted permanent residency status, known popularly as a “green card.” A green card is a permanent visa, a document that provides lawful evidence of your permanent residence in America. The card is similar in size and shape to a credit card, and may be machine-readable. It includes all relevant information about you, including a picture, your name, date of birth, fingerprint, country of birth, and the date you became a permanent resident.

The Ways You Can Obtain a Permanent Visa

The two most common ways to obtain a green card are through family-based immigration procedures and employment-based immigration rules. U.S. immigration laws allow lawful permanent residents to sponsor certain family members, including spouses, parents, children and siblings. In addition, an employer may file documentation supporting the issuance of a green card to certain employees. The employment-based immigration process can be complex, requiring a test of the local labor market for qualified American workers. Once this is done, the employer must submit a labor-certification application with the U.S. Department of Labor.

The U.S. State Department also conducts an annual “Diversity Visa Lottery,” granting approximately 50,000 permanent visas every year.

Individuals who are willing to invest money in a business in America may also obtain permanent residency status. To qualify, an individual must invest at least $1 million and must create a minimum of 10 new jobs.

Individuals who have been granted refugee or political asylum status also qualify to file for lawful permanent residence.

Eligibility for Admission to the U.S.

To apply for permanent residency status, an applicant must be eligible for admission to the U.S. Certain medical conditions, criminal convictions, previous deportations from the U.S., past U.S. immigration violations or a record of immigration fraud may render an applicant ineligible. An attorney who practices immigration law can explain any waivers and exceptions.

The Application Process

A green card may be issued in the U.S. or at a designated U.S. Consulate in the applicant’s country of citizenship.

Inside the United States

If you are already a legal resident of the United States when you apply for a green care, the process is called an adjustment of status. First, you must submit a completed Form I-485 to USCIS. An appointment will then be scheduled, where you will be interviewed, and will have your picture and fingerprints taken. If you are approved, you will receive your green card in the mail.

Outside the United States

If you are living in a foreign country at the time you apply for a green card, you must go through consular processing. Consular processing involves the USCIS, the National Visa Center and the embassy or consulate in the applicant’s country of citizenship. The process begins with payment of the immigrant visa fee bill sent by the National Visa Center, which also collects the required fees and an Affidavit of Support that establishes the sponsor’s ability to financially sponsor the applicant.

The center will send an instruction packet after receiving the fees. The packet contains information on what forms and documents must be submitted for the immigrant visa. The contents will vary according to the particulars of the applicant’s case, but typical documents required are birth certificates, marriage certificates and copies of passports.

An immigrant visa interview then is scheduled in the country’s U.S. Consulate. If the immigrant visa is approved at the interview, the person receives a stamp in his or her passport as proof of permanent-resident status until the green card arrives in the mail. Once the visa is issued, the person will have six months to enter the U.S.

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