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Applying for an immigrant visa is (lawful permanent resident status) is for many people the most important step to living permanently and or being able to work in the U.S.

Immigrant visas, which are known as Green Cards or immigrant visas, give the foreign citizen the unlimited right to live permanently and work in the United States without being restricted to a specific employer. You receive all of the same rights and obligations as a U.S. citizen except for the right to vote, to serve on a jury in court, or to stand for elective or government offices.

There are different ways to obtain a Green Card. You can obtain a Green Card under these categories;

Employment-Based Categories

One of the three major immigrant groups in the U.S. are those who enter the country for job- or investment-related reasons. Foreign workers can permanently immigrate to the United States with an Employment-Based Immigrant Visa (EB Visa). Approximately 140,000 employment based visas are made available to immigrant workers each year by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The individual qualifications of green card applicants are of crucial importance to whether an application is approved.Unlike non-immigrant visas, employment-based immigrant visas give applicants the basis to apply for lawful permanent residency in the United States. After five years of being a lawful permanent resident, foreign nationals may apply for U.S. citizenship. Therefore, foreign workers, their children, and their spouses may be eligible to permanently live and work in the United States if they qualify for one of five employment based visa categories.

The five EB visa categories are Employment First Preference (EB-1 visa), Employment Second Preference (EB-2 visa), Employment Third Preference (EB-3 visa), Employment Fourth Preference (EB-4 visa), and Employment Fifth Preference (EB-5 visa). The processing times for each of these categories vary on a case-by-case basis.

Thematically, we can divide this area into five Green Card categories:


    For individuals that advance the national interest of the United States
    • EB-1A visas are for those with extraordinary ability in athletics, education, business, arts, or science. EB-1A applicants must have ample evidence demonstrating that they have attained widespread acclaim for their achievements and expertise.
    • EB-1B visas are for outstanding researchers and professors. EB-1B visa applicants must have international recognition and at least three years of research or training. They must be coming to the United States to pursue tenure.
    • EB-1C visas are for multinational executives or managers. EB-1C applicants must have been employed by the overseas parent, branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of the prospective U.S. employer in a managerial or executive role for at least one of the prior three years.

    EB-1 priority worker visas account for 28. 6 percent of all employment based visas each year. EB-1 visas rarely exceed their allotted amount and, as a result, the category rarely becomes backlogged.


    For individuals with special qualifications/skills
    • Professionals holding an advanced degree or a baccalaureate degree and at least five years of progressive experience are eligible for the EB-2 visa.
    • Professionals with exceptional ability must have a degree of expertise significantly above the ordinary.
    • Aliens seeking a national interest waiver must demonstrate that his/her immigration to the U.S. will prospectively benefit the economy, cultural or educational interests, or welfare of the United States because of his/her exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business.

    Approximately 28.6 percent of employment- based visas are reserved for EB-2 visa applicants. Applicants from China and India are backlogged in the EB-2 category because of oversubscription.


    For academics as well as skilled professionals and other employees
    • Professionals are persons whose occupations require at least a four year college or university degree
    • Skilled workers are persons who have two years of job training or work experience
    • Unskilled workers are persons who will fill non-seasonal occupations that require less than two years of job training or work experience.

    All EB-3 applicants must obtain Labor Certification with the U.S. Department of Labor (PERM). As with EB-1 and EB-2 visas, 28.6 percent of all employment based visas are reserved for the EB-3 visa category. There is a considerable backlog of visas for EB-3 applicants.


  5. For special immigrants and employees of churches/religious communities. Employment Fourth Preference visas (EB-4 visas) are designated for special immigrants. Most of these visas are allocated towards religious workers. However, EB-4 visas are also designated for broadcasters, Iraqi or Afghan translators, physicians, military members, international organization workers, Panama Canal Zone employees, Iraqis who have assisted the United States, and retired NATO employees. Approximately 7.1 percent of all worldwide employment based visas are reserved for EB-4 special immigrants. EB-4 visas are underutilized and the EB-4 quota is rarely met. In fact, many EB-4 visas are distributed among the other employment-based visa categories near the end of the fiscal year so that they are not lost.


  7. Employment Fifth Preferences visas (EB-5) are designated for foreign investors. EB-5 visa applicants must make either a $900,000 or $1.8 million capital investment in a U.S. business entity that creates at least 10 full-time jobs. The mandatorydepends on where the U.S. company receiving the investment is located. EB-5 investors have the option to invest in business entities called regional centres which receive USCIS designation to manage EB-5 investment projects. The USCIS reserves 10,000 visas for EB-5 applicants each year. Of these visas, 3,000 are reserved for foreigners who invest in EB-5 religion category.

Family-Based Categories

U.S. immigration law allows certain noncitizens who are family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to become lawful permanent residents (get a Green Card) based on specific family relationships. If you are the spouse, minor child or parent of a U.S. citizen, please see the Green Card for Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizen page for information on how to apply for a Green Card.

Other family members eligible to apply for a Green Card are described in the following family "preference immigrant" categories:

  • First preference (F1) - unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age and older) of U.S. citizens;
  • Second preference (F2A) - spouses and children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of lawful permanent residents;
  • Second preference (F2B) - unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age and older) of lawful permanent residents;
  • Third preference (F3) - married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; and
  • Fourth preference (F4) - brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age and older).

The reunification of families through the Green Card process is one of the most traditional reasons for immigration to the United States. In addition to the close relatives of U.S. citizens and Green Card holders, even spouses have the opportunity to qualify for an immigration category by marriage.

The respective procedures are subject to more or less serious limitations and are distinguished by greatly varying waiting times before the applicant is granted a Green Card.

1) RELATIVES / SPOUSES OF U.S. CITIZENS U.S. citizens can apply for the entry of their close relatives under certain conditions. These applications can generally be divided into two categories.

2) RELATIVES / SPOUSES OF GREEN CARD HOLDERS Close family members of Green Card holders are entitled to immigrate to the United States.

Diversity Visa Program

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program) makes up to 50,000 immigrant visas available annually, drawn from random selection among all entries to individuals who are from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The DV Program is administered by the U.S. Department of State (DOS).

Most lottery winners reside outside the United States and immigrate through consular processing and issuance of an immigrant visa. To learn more, visit the U.S. Department of State's website.

It is the easiest way to obtain a Green Card is through the Green Card Lottery. The U.S. government allocates 55,000 Green Cards every year as part of the Diversity Visa Program. Although, of course, a good deal of luck is required, nevertheless for many people this option is still the only way to realize their dreams of living in the United States. Several thousand Green Cards have been awarded in this way alone to participants from German speaking countries.

Eligibility Criteria

For an applicant to adjust status under the DV Program, you must establish that you:

  • Have been selected for a diversity visa by DOS's lottery;
  • Have an immigrant visa immediately available at the time of filing an adjustment application (Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status); and
  • Are admissible to the United States.

Application Process and Supporting Evidence

To obtain a Green Card, you must file Form I-485.

Supporting Evidence for Form I-485;

  • Submit the following evidence with your Form I-485:
  • Two passport-style photos
  • Copy of birth certificate
  • Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record
  • Copy of passport page with nonimmigrant visa (if applicable)
  • Copy of passport page with admission (entry) or parole stamp (if applicable)
  • Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record
  • Certified copies of court records (if the individual has been arrested)
  • Copy of the principal applicant's selection letter for the diversity visa lottery from DOS
  • Copy of the receipt from DOS for the diversity visa lottery processing fee
  • Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (if applicable)
  • Applicable fees

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