To apply for a Green Card, you have to meet eligibility requirements, and some are harder to meet than others. With that said, there are dozens of legitimate ways to get a Green Card, with the most common methods belonging to the family, employer, and diversity visa categories.
How to Get a Green Card via Family Sponsorship
The fastest way to qualify for a Green Card is through a preferred family sponsorship.
If you’re a parent of a U.S. citizen over the age of 21, an unmarried child under 21, or a spouse of a U.S. citizen, you’re considered an “immediate relative.” That means you’re immediately eligible for an immigrant visa, which doesn’t come with a waiting period or annual card limit.
However, marrying someone for the purpose of obtaining a Green Card is a fraudulent act. If caught, both the immigrant and U.S. citizen could be charged with a fine and face jail time.
Immigrants can apply for the following family-sponsored visas:
- F1: Unmarried children of U.S. citizens
- F2: Spouses and children and unmarried children of permanent residents
- F3: Married children of U.S. citizens
- F4: Direct relatives (i.e., brothers and sisters) of adult U.S. citizens
Extended family members (i.e., cousins and grandparents) can’t apply for a family-sponsored visa. Preference relatives (F1 and F2) typically receive citizenship before other categories.
How to Get a Green Card via Employment Preference
To become eligible for an employment-based preference category Green Card, an employer has to sponsor a foreign national. Wait times are extended or shortened based on education and job difficulty unless the sponsored employee is getting an EB-4 or going through the EB-5 program.
Although wait times are typically short in this category, employees often have to undergo a lengthy application process. Eligibility requirements can also be especially demanding.
Immigrants can apply for the following employment preference visas:
- EB-1: Priority workers, award-winners, executives, and outstanding workers
- EB-2: Candidates that hold master’s degrees or PhDs or are very skilled
- EB-3: Persons who have a bachelor’s degree or a high school diploma
- EB-4: Religious workers or juveniles joining a foster family
- EB-5: Foreign nationals who invest a lot of foreign capital into the U.S.
If you have an employer who’s willing to sponsor you, EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 visas are your best options. If you have a lot of money to invest in the U.S., consider joining the EB-5 program.
How to Get a Green Card via Diversity Visa
It’s essential to learn everything you need to know about moving to the U.S. before you actually apply for a visa, as you may be eligible for the visa lottery. The Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) program randomly selects 55,000 foreign nationals from an underrepresented country yearly.
While obtaining a Green Card via the lottery is one of the easiest and fastest ways to become a U.S. citizen, your chances of success are up to luck and your personal circumstances.
With that said, if you meet the minimum education requirements, can financially support yourself, and don’t have a criminal record, there’s no reason not to try. Even people who come from overrepresented countries can apply, but it’s unlikely your name will be pulled.
How to Get a Green Card via Refugee or Victim Status
In the U.S., a refugee, asylee, crime victim, human trafficking victim, and abuse victim can apply for a Green Card. Eligibility requirements vary based on your status. While some require a separate visa, others only need proof that you’ve lived in the U.S. under your status for a year.
There are 8 ways a person could receive a Green Card in this category:
- Asylee: Granted asylum over 1 year ago
- Refugee: Admitted as a refugee over 1 year ago
- Human Trafficking Victim: Must have a T nonimmigrant visa
- Crime Victim: Must have a U nonimmigrant visa
- Victim of Battery or Cruelty: Abused spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen.
- Under the Cuban Adjustment Act: Abused child, spouse, or parent of a Cuban native or citizen
- Under the Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act: Abused child, spouse, or parent of a permanent resident who received their Green Card based on the Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act
- Special Immigrant Juvenile: Abused, abandoned, or neglected child of a parent
If you become eligible under these conditions, you won’t be subjected to long wait times.