A Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) Card, or Form I-551, is often called a “Green Card.” These Cards are granted to those who have authorization to permanently live and work in the United States. Obtaining a Green Card is often the first step to becoming a Citizen of the United States. Click here to learn more about Citizenship. There are several ways you can become a Green Card holder, including: through family, through work, as an asylee or refugee, or other programs. Here, we will focus on how to obtain a Green Card through family.
Getting a Green card Through Family.
If you are related to someone who is a US Citizen or LPR, they may be able to file a petition for you called a Form I-130 with the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). The I-130 simply establishes that you are indeed a qualifying relative of a US Citizen or LPR – this is generally the first step towards becoming a Green Card holder.
Qualifying family members generally include spouses, unmarried children, parents, and siblings. Depending on your relationship, your preference category for when a Visa is available for you will vary. However, if you are an immediate relative of a US Citizen, a Visa will be immediately available for you. These immediate relatives include: spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents of US Citizens over the age of 21.
Depending on your circumstances, you will generally either have to go through Consular Processing (if you are living abroad), or file for an Adjustment of Status (if you are already in the United States). If you think that you or a relative might qualify for a Green Card based on a family relationship, contact us for a free consultation so we can discuss the specifics of your case.
Getting a Green card Through a Fiancé(e).
The fiancé(e) of a US Citizen can also obtain their Green Card by filing a Form I-129F – not a Form I-130. The process is similar to Consular Processing, but has some very specific and strict requirements. Among them, is that you must intend to marry within 90 days of the fiancé(e) entering the United States. The fiancé(e) will enter on a K1 nonimmigrant visa, and after marriage, you must adjust status within those 90 days for the fiancé(e) to receive their Green Card.
Adjustment of Status
Generally, when someone wants to “adjust” their status, it simply means that they are changing (adjusting) their immigration status from someone who does not intent to stay in the Untied States forever (like a F1 Student, or B1/B2 Visitor) to that of someone who wants to immigrate and live and work in the United States permanently.
EXAMPLE: Belle is a citizen of France, but came to the United States on an F1 Visa to study in college. When she first moved to the States, she had a nonimmigrant status, because she had no intention of staying in the States except to complete her studies. While in college, Belle falls in love with Peter the Petitioner, a United States Citizen. They date, and they get married. Now Belle wants to stay in the United States with the love of her life, Peter. Belle must now adjust her status, because now, she wants to immigrate to the United States. They file the appropriate forms with the USCIS, and Belle receives her Green Card.
Conditional Green Cards and Removing the Conditions
If you received your Green Card through marriage, like Belle and Peter, you probably received a Conditional Green Card that is valid for only 2 years. If you received a Conditional Green Card, you were probably married for less than two years. The USCIS does as kind of a test to see if your marriage was based on a real relationship, or if it was a sham just to get a Green Card.
In the 90 days before the Card expires, you must petition to remove those conditions by filing a Form I-751 and demonstrate to the USCIS that your marriage was the real deal. You cannot renew Conditional Green Cards; if you do not, you will lose your permanent resident status. After you remove the conditions, you will receive an Unconditional Green Card that is valid for 10 years. You may renew your Unconditional Green Card as many times as you want.
“But what if I got divorced from my US Citizen spouse?” Even if you get a divorce and are no longer married to a US Citizen, you can still petition to remove the conditions on your residence. The USCIS understands that life can be complicated, and is only interested in whether your original marriage was real or a fraud. If you can demonstrate that your marriage was not fraudulent, you can still remove the conditions and be granted an Unconditional Green Card.
Renewing Your Green Card
Once you receive your Unconditional Green Card, you must renew it every 10 years by filing a Form I-90. You can file within 6 months of the expiration date. And even if your Card is expired, you can still apply for a new card. Remember: if you still have a Conditional Green Card, you must file a petition to Remove the Conditions – you cannot renew it. Also, if you have an Unconditional Green Card, you may be eligible for Citizenship before you have to renew. Click here for more information on Citizenship.
Green Cards 101
The following is an introduction to Green Cards, what they are, and how you may be able to obtain one. This is not legal advice, but is intented to be an easy-to-read resource for you as you begin to explore what you may or may not be eligible for. If you believe you qualify for a Green Card, or have any questions regarding what you read, you should consult with an experienced immigration attorney. Please call or email us for a free consultation so we can assess how to best move forward on your matter according to your specific needs and circumstances.