An American Green Card is proof that a foreign national was granted permanent residency in the United States. The green card holders have the right to live, work and study in the US on permanent basis.
In order to get an American green card, a person has to meet certain conditions. There are several categories by which a foreign national may qualify for a green card, with the first three being the most common. The broad categories are as follows:
1. The family based green card
2. The employment based green card.
3. Via the diversity lottery.
4. As a refugee or asylum seeker.
5. Because of large financial investment which creates American jobs.
6. Through the ‘registry’, this confers legal residency on people who have been in the country for a long time.
For most of these categories, an initial visa is needed to enable you to enter the country. Some people are legally allowed to travel to the USA on the visa waiver program (using the I94 form) but adjustment of status to permanent legal resident using this program is frowned upon.
Once you are settled in the country and have met any other requirements for your class of visa, you must then petition for the adjustment of your status to that of legal permanent resident. This will grant you the green card either temporarily or long term depending upon your criteria.
The family based green card is the easiest to obtain, as there is no limit on the number that can be awarded to immediate family members. That includes spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21 and parents. For visas for other family members there is an annual limit to the number awarded, meaning that a visa may not be available until you’ve been on a waiting list for some time.
The diversity lottery is probably the easiest way to gain permanent residency but is also not very likely to succeed. There are 50,000 visas offered each year, but for each one there are approximately 160 applicants. Applicants need only to apply following the guidelines that are issued, and be resident in an eligible country. The eligible countries are those which otherwise have low levels of applications for the permanent resident card.
A work based visa is issued on the basis of your employer needing your services in the USA. For it to be issued, your skills must be unique and not able to be filled by an American worker in the local area. The Department of Labor may investigate the labor situation and will only issue the certification once they are sure that there is no one else available to do the job, and that your pay scale will not undercut or damage local comparable pay conditions.
The remaining categories for granting a person an American green card have more stringent and restrictive requirements. It may mean that they remain on a waiting list for ten or more years but the visa are granted annually according to the limits set.